Wednesday, 31 October 2012

π. Ανδρέας Κονάνος-Η πρακτική της Αγάπης

Από την εκπομπή της Ελίτας στην Κύπρο.

Π.ΑΝΔΡΕΑΣ ΚΟΝΑΝΟΣ-ΓΙΝΕ ΑΣΚΗΤΗΣ ΣΤΟΝ ΚΟΣΜΟ

Oμιλία του π.Αντρέα Κονάνου.Η ασκητική ζωή των λαικών μέσα στον κόσμο.

St. Seraphim of Sarov -On Grace and Works



The true goal of our Christian life consists of acquiring God’s Holy Spirit. Fasting and vigil, prayer, mercy, and every other good deed performed for Christ — are means for acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. Only deeds performed for Christ give us the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
 
Some say that the foolish virgins lacking enough oil in their lamps is meant to be understood as a lack of good deeds (see Mt. 25:1-12). Such an understanding is not completely correct. How could there have been a lack of good deeds when they, though foolish, are still called virgins? For virginity is the highest virtue, as a state equal to the angels, and could by itself serve in place of all other virtues. I, the wretched, think that they did not have enough of the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God. These virgins, because of their spiritual injudiciousness, supposed in performing good deeds that it is only necessary to do good works to be a Christian: “We performed a good deed and thus did God’s will.” Whether or not they had received the grace of the Holy Spirit, whether they had attained it, they did not even bother to find out … But, this acquiring of the Holy Spirit is in fact that oil which the foolish virgins lacked. They are called foolish because they forgot about the essential fruit of virtue — the grace of the Holy Spirit — without which there is no salvation for anyone and cannot be.

For “through the Holy Spirit every soul is quickened, and through its purification, it is exalted and illumined by the Triune Unity in a Holy mystery.” The Holy Spirit Himself settles in our souls, and this occupation of our souls by Him, the All-Ruling, and this coexistence of our spirit with His One Trinity, is granted only through the diligent acquiring, on our part, of the Holy Spirit, which prepares, in our soul and body, the throne for the coexistence of God the All-Creator with our spirit, by the immutable word of God: “And I will walk among you and will be your God, and ye shall be my people” (Lev. 26:12).
This is the very oil in the lamps of the wise virgins, which burned brightly and steadily; the virgins with these burning lamps could await the Groom coming at midnight, and enter the chamber of joy with him. The foolish ones, seeing their lamps going out, though they went to the market to buy oil, did not manage to return in time, for the doors were already locked. The market is our life; the doors of the bridal chamber — locked and not permitting entrance to the Groom — human death, the virgins wise and foolish, Christian souls; the oil, not deeds, but the grace of the All Holy Spirit of God received through them, transforming from decay to incorruption, from emotional death into spiritual life, from darkness to light, from the manger of our existence, where our passions are tied like beasts and animals, into a church of God, into the all-lighted chamber of eternal joy in Jesus Christ.”
 St. Seraphim of Sarov

Elder Ephraim of Arizona-Know Thyself


This is the knowledge of the perfect saints: (it is not as some people explain it, but it has its own special power) to put it simply, one must confess that even when one is at the heavenly height of virtue, it is possible– if God abandons him– for him to fall into the abyss of corruption and debauchery! It is not a matter of just saying this with empty words, but one must really feel this way. But one cannot say this with conviction if one does not first pass through the Babylonian furnace of temptations, and if one’s human nature does not slip by God’s permission, so that he realizes his weak constitution. He then sees with whom he has to wrestle, what the wickedness and malice of his adversary (the devil) is, and how difficult it is to rise after a fall! In brief, this is what “know thyself” means.
 
- Elder Ephraim of Philotheou, (Counsels from the Holy Mountain)

St. Gregory Palamas-On Deification


When you hear speak of the deifying energy of God and theurgic(theourgia)grace of the Spirit, do not busy yourself or seek to know why it is this or that and not something else; for without it you cannot be united to God, according to those Fathers who have spoken about it. Attend rather to those works which will allow you to attain to it, for thus you will know it according to your capacities; for, as St. Basil tells us, he alone knows the energies of the Spirit who has learnt of them through experience. As for the man who seeks knowledge before works, if  he trusts in those who have had the experience, he obtains a certain image of truth. But if he tries to conceive of it by himself, he finds himself deprived even of the image of truth. He then puffs himself up with pride as if he discovered it, and breathes forth his anger against the men of experience as if they were in error. Do not be overcurious threrefore, but follow the men of experience in your works, or at least in your words, remaining content in the exterior manifestations of grace.
Deification is in fact beyond every name. This is why we, who have written much about hesychia (sometimes at the urging of fathers, sometimes in response to the questions of the brothers) have never dared hitherto to write about deification. But now, since there is a necessity to speak, we will speak words of piety (by the grace of the Lord), but words inadequate to describe it. For even when spoken about, deification remains ineffable, and (as the Fathers teach us) can be given a name only by those who have received it. (The Triads E. The Uncreated Glory 32)

On Correctness and Self-Esteem

New Martyr St. Barlaam 1878-1942
 
We are not justified by correcting ourselves, not by good deeds; all this is undermined by our common sinfulness, and in any case we are obliged to do it by our God-like nature. But we are justified by humility and repentance: A sacrifice to God is a broken spirit; a hear that is contrite and humble God will not despise. You will find this somewhere in the letters of Optina Elder Macarius. Therefore, it is good that you have failings and weaknesses; with repentance and contrition they will lead you into Paradise. But if you do not have any, then a trust in your own correctness can hinder you greatly through secret self-esteem and a pharasaical trust in the labors and virtues you have borne: “I have earned it — pay me!”
We are all insane over self-esteem, and therefore when we correct ourselves a little in some way or other, we at once give value to ourselves and unnoticeably become refined pharisees: we praise ourselves for what grace has done, according to God’s mercy, and not because of our achievements. Therefore, in spiritual matters correctness can do us more harm than incorrectness with a feeling of repentance. You will say: “With correctness one can also repent.” Repent of what, if we see ourselves as correct? It is just a step away from deception. True correctness cannot exist. Therefore, the Holy Fathers teach that deeds do not justify us, even if we are obliged to do good deeds (by the power of God), as a bird is obliged to sing, for that is why it is created. We are created to do good deeds; such is our nature. It would be silly to become proud that we have to arms and two legs — such is our nature. And if we do not do good deeds, then we err severely against our nature and God’s will. Therefore, it is good to the deeds, but not in order to boast in our struggles and achievements, but in order to acquire a greater degree of humility and repentance. He who fasts and prays not to acquire humility and repentance, but for pleasing God and self-justification — is quite mistaken.

 (Russia’s Catacomb Saints pp. 277, 280-281)

ELDER PAISIOS-Let us mirror ourselves in others


A person can see himself better when he mirrors himself in others.God has granted each and everyone of us the virtue or gift that we each need for our particular progress,regardless whether it is actually used or not.If the gift is used,one can achieve perfection.The failings and defects also are ours; whether we acquire them from our own neglect or inherit them from our parents,each one of us must undertake the necessary struggle to be released from them.
Until we uproot our defects,we should mirror ourselves in the defects of others and examine where we stand.For other people are a mirror in which we see ourselves.For example,if we see a certain failing in another person,we should immediately say,"Let me see,could I possibly have this same defect also?"And when we see that we have it,then we can struggle to cast it out.

-But,Elder,if my thought tells me that I don't have this same defect,what should I say to myself?
 
-You should say,"I have other more serious defects;this failing is very small compared to my own."For even if your failings and defects are sometimes smaller,you may bear greater responsibility for them.By examining ourselves in this manner,we can see that we have greater defects than the next person.Then we can also take notice of the virtues of others."Let me see,do I have this virtue?No,I don't.Look at how far I still am from where I should be!"One who works this way stands to benefit from all things,changes for the better and achieves perfection.Such a person benefits from the Saints,from those who struggle,even from worldly people.On seeing a worldly person who is selfless and sacrifices himself,one can be motivated to say,"do I have such philotimo?No,I don't,and I'm supposed to be a spiritual person!"And so he tries to imitate even the worldly person in whatever he sees in him.Each one of us has a great deal of spiritual work to do.Our Benevolent God wisely provides everything for our good.

Taken from ELDER PAISIOS OF MOUNT ATHOS ,Spiritual Counsels Vol 3 "SPIRITUAL STRUGGLE".

Να μάθεις να μην εμπιστεύεσαι τον εαυτό σου

Ομιλία Γέροντος Νεκταρίου Μουλατσιώτη με θέμα: "4 ΤΡΟΠΟΙ ΓΙΑ ΝΑ ΜΑΘΕΙΣ ΝΑ ΜΗΝ ΕΜΠΙΣΤΕΥΕΣΑΙ ΤΟΝ ΕΑΥΤΟ ΣΟΥ" Η ομιλία πραγματοποιήθηκε στην Ιερά Μονή Αγίων Αυγουστίνου Ιππώνος και Σεραφείμ του Σαρώφ την Τετάρτη 24 Οκτωβρίου 2012.

Άγιος Τύχων του Ζαντόνσκ- Mετάνοια, o δρόμος της επιστροφής

                                               Άγιος Τύχων του Ζαντόνσκ

“Για όποιον αμάρτησε μετά το Βάπτισμα, απέμεινε μοναδική ελπίδα η ειλικρινής μετάνοια.
Δόξα τω Θεό γι΄αυτό! Δόξα τω Θεό, που δεν χαθήκαμε εντελώς εμείς οι αμαρτωλοί!

Μας έμεινε ακόμα η ελπίδα.

Δεν εξαντλήθηκαν ακόμα οι οικτιρμοί του Θεού.

Ακόμα κηρύσσεται η μετάνοια στους αμαρτωλούς.

Ακόμα ευαγγελίζεται στους φτωχούς.

Ακόμα σκορπίζονται παντού τα ελέη του Ουράνιου Βασιλιά.

Δεν κλείστηκαν ακόμα οι πόρτες της φιλανθρωπίας, η χάρη του Θεού προσφέρεται σ΄όλους.

Ακόμα κηρύσσονται το Ευαγγέλιο και “ο αμνός του Θεού ο αίρων την αμαρτίαν του κόσμου”.

Ακόμα αναγγέλλεται η βασιλεία του Θεού.

Ακόμα σώζονται οι μετανοημένοι χριστιανοί, εισέρχονται στη βασιλεία του Θεού τελώνες και μοιχοί καθαρισμένοι με τη μετάνοια.

Ακόμα ο φιλάνθρωπος Θεός καλεί και περιμένει κοντά Του όλους τους αποστάτες, που τους υπόσχεται το έλεος.
Ακόμα ο φιλότεκνος Πατέρας δέχεται τα άσωτα παιδιά του, που επιστρέφουν από τη μακρινή χώρα, και τις πόρτες του σπιτιού Του ανοίγει και την επίσημη στολή τους φοράει και δαχτυλίδι δίνει στο χέρι τους και παπούτσια στα πόδια τους, ενώ παρακινεί όλους τους Αγίους να χαρούν:
- Χαρείτε Άγγελοι κι όλοι οι εκλεκτοί μου! Οι αμαρτωλοί, οι άνθρωποι, τα πλάσματά μου, που πλάστηκαν “κατ΄εικόνα και ομοίωσίν” μου σώζονται, οι χαμένοι βρίσκονται, οι νεκροί ανασταίνονται και οι άσωτοι επιστρέφουν.
Δόξα στην αγαθότητά Του! Δόξα στη φιλανθρωπία Του! Δόξα στη φιλευσπλαχνία Του! Δόξα στους οικτιρμούς Του!
Φτωχοί αμαρτωλοί, γιατί καθυστερούμε κι εμείς στη μακρινή χώρα και δεν γυρίζουμε στον Πατέρα μας; Γιατί “λιμώ απολλύμεθα;” Γιατί προσπαθούμε να χορτάσουμε με τις παρανομίες - τα ξυλοκέρατα; Στο σπίτι του Πατέρα μας υπάρχουν όλα τ΄αγαθά. Εκεί και οι δούλοι χορταίνουν!
Με λαχτάρα και πόθο μας περιμένει ο Πατέρας μας. Αν επιστρέψουμε κοντά Του, θα μας δει από μακριά με αγάπη, θα μας αντικρύσει με μάτια φιλεύσπλαχνα, και γεμάτος χαρά, τρέχοντας, θα πέσει στον τράχηλό μας, θα μας αγκαλιάσει, θα μας ασπαστεί με αγάπη και θα μας παρηγορήσει, χωρίς να θυμηθεί τις αμαρτίες μας. Τότε θ΄αρχίσουν γύρω μας να χαίρονται και να ευφραίνονται όλοι οι άγιοι άγγελοι και οι εκλεκτοί Του.
Ας συνέλθουμε λοιπόν και, “αναστάντες”, ας σπεύσουμε πρός τον Πατέρα μας και ας Του πούμε με ταπείνωση και πόνο:
“Πάτερ, ήμαρτον είς τον ουρανόν και ενώπιόν σου, καί ουκέτι ειμί άξιος κληθήναι υιός σου, ποίησόν με ώς ένα των μισθίων σου” (Λουκ.15, 18-19).
Ας βιαστούμε, ας βιαστούμε, οι αμαρτωλοί, τώρα, που δεν πέρασε ακόμα ο καιρός, τώρα, που περιμένει ακόμα ο Πατέρας, τώρα, που δεν κλείστηκαν ακόμα οι πόρτες...
* * *
Για όσες αμαρτίες έκανες μετά το Βάπτισμα σου, αν έχεις ειλικρινά μετανοήσει, μήν απελπίζεσαι. Στηρίξου στο έλεος του Θεού. Όσο πολλές και σοβαρές κι αν είναι, το έλεος του Θεού είναι μεγαλύτερο: Όση είναι η μεγαλοσύνη Του, τόσο είναι και το έλεός Του.
Αλλά πρόσεχε στο εξής να μην αμαρτάνεις, και βάδιζε σύμφωνα με τον Θείο νόμο.
Αν δεν πρόσεξες κάπου, σαν άνθρωπος, καί αμάρτησες, μήν αποθαρρύνεσαι. Αναγνώρισε αμέσως την πτώση σου, γονάτισε με ταπείνωση μπροστά στο σπλαχνικό βλέμμα του Θεού, ζήτησε τα ελέη Του με τη φωνή του Τελώνη - “ο Θεός, ιλάσθητί μοι τω αμαρτωλώ!” - και το αμάρτημά σου θα συγχωρηθεί.
Ας μετανοήσουμε τώρα, που ενεργεί ακόμα η ευσπλαχνία του Θεού, για να μην προκαλέσουμε εναντίον μας το έργο της Θείας δικαιοσύνης, την αιώνια καταδίκη.
 
Από το βιβλίο “ΠΟΡΕΙΑ ΠΡΟΣ ΤΟΝ ΟΥΡΑΝΟ”, Αγίου Τύχωνος του Ζαντόνσκ

ΤΑ ΤΡΙΑ ΔΕΝΤΡΑ...


Είναι μια φαινομενικά απλοϊκή ιστορία. Ένα παραμύθι.  Έχει όμως ένα βαθύ και μεγάλο δίδαγμα.
+++++++++++++++++
Ήταν μια φορά σ' ένα δάσος τρία δέντρα.
Το καθένα από αυτά είχε για τον εαυτό του έναν οραματισμό - μια προοπτική.

Το πρώτο επιθυμούσε να αξιωθεί να γίνει κάποια στιγμή ένα πολύτιμο μπαούλο ξυλόγλυπτο όμορφα σκαλισμένο, που μέσα του θα φυλάσσεται ένας πολύτιμος θησαυρός. Αυτό ήταν το όραμα του και η προοπτική

Το δεύτερο δένδρο ήθελε να αξιωνόταν να γίνει στα χέρια ενός κάλου ναυπηγού ένα μεγάλο καράβι γερό σκαρί' όμορφο, μεγαλόπρεπο- που θα μετέφερε βασιλιάδες και επίσημα πρόσωπα που θα έκανε ταξίδια υψηλών προσώπων.

Το τρίτο δένδρο έλεγε ότι το μόνο που θα ήθελε ήταν να είχε γίνει το πιο ψηλό και πιο δυνατό δένδρο του δάσους έτσι ώστε οι άνθρωποι, που θα βλέπουν το ύψος του στην κορυφή του λόφου, να σκέπτονται τον Ουρανό και τον θεό.

Όμως πέρασαν τα χρόνια. Και τα πράγματα εξελίχθηκαν κάπως αλλιώς.

Πήγαν υλοτόμοι.

Και έκοψαν το πρώτο δένδρο. Και ενώ σχεδίαζε και ποθούσε να γίνει όμορφο ξυλόγλυπτο μπαούλο για θησαυρούς, ο ξυλουργός το έκαμε δοχείο για την τροφή των ζώων παχνί για τα άχυρα των ζώων.

Το δεύτερο δένδρο, που ήθελε να γίνει ωραίο καράβι, για να μεταφέρει βασιλιάδες, έγινε ένα μικρό ψαροκάικο, που το είχαν φτωχοί ψαράδες να ψαρεύουν.

Το τρίτο δένδρο, που ήθελε να μείνει το ψηλότερο του δάσους το έκοψε κάποιος ξυλοκόπος και το έβαλε στην αποθήκη του.

Περνούσαν χρόνια. Και τα δέντρα, απογοητευμένα από την εξέλιξη των πραγμάτων, ξέχασαν ακόμα και τα όνειρά τους.

Όμως κάποια μέρα ένας άνδρας και μια γυναίκα ήλθαν στον στάβλο, που ήταν εκείνο το ξύλινο παχνί με τα άχυρα και εκεί η γυναίκα γέννησε ένα αγοράκι και το τοποθέτησαν στο παχνί που είχε φτιαχτεί από το πρώτο δένδρο. Ήταν ο Ιωσήφ και η Παναγία Θεοτόκος. Και απόθεσαν σ' εκείνο το ξύλινο παχνί όχι απλώς διαμάντια και χρυσάφια, αλλά τον ίδιο τον θεό, που είχε γίνει άνθρωπος για μας.
Έτσι αξιώθηκε αυτό το παχνί, η φάτνη, να δεχτή μέσα της το θησαυρό των θησαυρών, τον ίδιο τον Θεό.

Στο μικρό ψαροκάικο -που είχε γίνει από το δεύτερο δένδρο- μετά από χρόνια μπήκαν κάτι ψαράδες ένας απ' αυτούς κουρασμένος ξάπλωσε να κοιμηθεί. Είχαν ανοιχθεί στη θάλασσα. Και ξέσπασε μια μεγάλη τρικυμία. Και το ψαροκάικο δεν ήταν αρκετά δυνατό για να κρατήσει. Οι άλλοι τότε ξύπνησαν εκείνον που κοιμόταν. Και εκείνος τότε σηκώθηκε. Και διέταξε την φουρτουνιασμένη θάλασσα: «Σιώπα πεφίμωσο». Και η θάλασσα ειρήνεψε αμέσως. Ήταν ο Χριστός μαζί με τους μαθητές του στη λίμνη Γεννησαρέτ. Έτσι και το δεύτερο δένδρο, που είχε φιλοδοξήσει να γίνει μεγάλο πλοίο, που θα μετέφερε υψηλά πρόσωπα και βασιλιάδες,
αξιώθηκε να μεταφέρει τον βασιλέα των βασιλέων, τον ίδιο τον Χριστό με τους μαθητές Του!

Και το τρίτο δένδρο, που ήταν στην αποθήκη του ξυλουργού, μια μέρα το πήραν και έκαναν ένα σταυρό' Και σ' αυτόν τον σταυρό σταύρωσαν τον Χριστό. Έτσι το δένδρο αυτό έγινε πιω ψηλό από ότι είχε επιθυμήσει.
Έφθασε στον ουρανό και στον θεό! Έγινε, όπως λέμε σε ένα τροπάριο, ουρανού Ισοστάσιο.

Τελικά, το κάθε ένα από τα δένδρα της ιστορίας μας απόκτησε όχι μόνο αυτό που ήθελε και ποθούσε, αλλά ασυγκρίτως περισσότερα όχι όμως με τον τρόπο που φανταζόταν και σχεδίαζε.


Η ιστορία αυτή μας λέει:
Δεν γνωρίζουμε ποιο είναι το θέλημα του θεού για μας. Πρέπει όμως να μην ξεχνάμε ποτέ, ότι εκείνο που μας ετοιμάζει ο Θεός, είναι πάντα προτιμότερο και ωφελιμότερο για μας.

Εμείς πρέπει να κάνουμε όνειρα. Για το καλό. Πρέπει όμως να μην ξεχνάμε και ότι τα πράγματα δεν εξελίσσονται όπως εμείς θα θέλαμε. Και ότι ο Θεός οικονομεί και γίνονται καλύτερα από ότι εμείς φανταζόμαστε.

ΣΥΜΠΕΡΑΣΜΑ: Ας έχουμε πίστη, Πίστη και εμπιστοσύνη στον Θεό 

Οι δυο πόλοι της πνευματικής ζωής

                                                
                              ΓΕΡΩΝ ΙΩΣΗΦ ΒΑΤΟΠΑΙΔΙΝΟΣ

Δυο είναι οι πόλοι στους οποίους κινείται ο άνθρωπος σαν ένα τέλειο και λογικό όν. Ο μέν ένας είναι το να αγαπήση τον Θεό «εξ όλης ψυχής, εξ όλης ισχύος, εξ όλης καρδίας» και ο δεύτερος να αγαπήση «τόν πλησίον ως εαυτόν». Εάν επιτύχη το πρώτο, οπωσδήποτε θα επιτύχη και το δεύτερο.
Πώς θα κινηθή ο άνθρωπος για να αγαπήση «Κύριον τον Θεόν του»;
Για να αγαπήση κανείς τον Θεό και να Τον λατρεύση, πρέπει να Τον πιστεύση σωστά. Για να Τον πιστεύση σωστά, πρέπει να Τον γνωρίση. Προηγείται εδώ η εισαγωγική γνώσι. Η εισαγωγική γνώσι, γεννά την εισαγωγική πίστι. Αν η εισαγωγική γνώσι δεν διαφθαρή από επιδράσεις ξένων θεωριών, αυτομάτως γεννά την πίστι. Διότι η πίστι είναι υπόστασι ψυχική. Δεν είναι επινόησι, όπως προσπαθούν να μάς αποπλανήσουν οι διάφοροι υλιστές σήμερα. Η πίστι είναι υπόστασι του πνευματικού κόσμου. Είναι συμφυής της πνευματικότητος των λογικών όντων.
Όταν ο νους είναι υγιής, ο άνθρωπος δεν ημπορεί παρά να πιστεύση, να παραδεχθή, ότι δεν είναι δυνατό να υπάρχει αυτή η αρμονία στο σύμπαν, χωρίς να υπάρχει κάποια δύναμι, κάποια εξουσία, η οποία έχει βάλει στην γραμμή όλα αυτά και τα προνοεί. Σύμφωνα με τους κανόνες της φυσικής, τίποτε δεν είναι αυθύπαρκτο. Παρά τις τόσες έρευνες και παρά το πείσμα της απιστίας, δεν απεδείχθη το αντίθετο.
Με την εισαγωγική πίστι αρχίζει κανείς να πιστεύη, ότι πραγματικά υπάρχει Θεός. Το θέμα της πραγματικής πίστεως λύνεται με την αποκάλυψι. Εμείς σήμερα, δεν έχομε ανάγκη να ψηλαφίσωμε, να ανακαλύψωμε τον Θεό. Με την «κένωσι» του Θεού Λόγου, με την παρουσία του ενός προσώπου της Μακαρίας Τριάδος, εισερχόμεθα μέσα στην πίστι αυτή πού παραδίδει η Εκκλησία μας, το κέντρο της Αποκαλύψεως. Διότι εμείς δεν ενδιαφερόμεθα να μάθωμε εάν υπάρχη Θεός, αλλά αποβλέπομε στο να ρυθμίσωμε τις σχέσεις μας μαζί Του.
Εμείς, ως μεταπτωτικοί άνθρωποι, δεν ημπορούμε να υπάρξωμε χωρίς την παρουσία του Θεού. Υποκείμενοι τώρα μέσα στον θάνατο, τη φθορά, την ροή, τον πόνο και τον όλεθρο, πρέπει να ελευθερωθούμε από αυτά. Καμμία δύναμι δεν ημπορεί να μάς ελευθέρωση εκτός από τον Θεό. Χωρίς την μυστηριώδη παρουσία της προνοίας Του, δεν ημπορούμε να υπάρξωμε, ούτε εμείς, ούτε κανένα στοιχείο. Έχομε ανάγκη της προσωπικής μας σωτηρίας, διότι το φάσμα του θανάτου επικρεμμάται επάνω μας. Δεν ημπορούμε να απαλλαγούμε από αυτό. Αγόμεθα μέσα στον μύλο του θανάτου προς καταστροφή και απώλεια. Πρέπει οπωσδήποτε να απαλλαγούμε. Για να γίνη αυτό, πρέπει να έχωμε σχέσεις με Αυτόν, πού είναι η απόλυτη Αυτοζωία. Μόνο η απόλυτη αυτοζωία ημπορεί να καταργή τον θάνατο και να ελευθερώνη δυναμικά όσους καταφεύγουν εις Αυτόν. Τότε, μεταφερόμεθα από την εισαγωγική πίστι στην πίστι της θεωρίας. Στην πραγματική πίστι πού σημαίνει υποταγή στο Θείο θέλημα. Εμείς είμεθα έτοιμοι να προσφέρωμε ό,τι θέλει ο Θεός. Αυτή η υποταγή στο Θείο θέλημα, είναι αυτό πού περικλείεται στην εντολή «αγαπήσεις Κύριον τον Θεόν σου εξ όλης ψυχής, εξ όλης καρδίας, εξ όλης διανοίας».
Με την υποταγή στον Θεό, εφαρμόζομε την αγάπη μας πρακτικά. Η υποταγή είναι το όργανο της αγάπης. Αγάπη αφηρημένη δεν είναι δυνατό να υπάρξη. Η αγάπη είναι συγκεκριμένη. Πώς θα μεταδώσης πρακτική αγάπη εάν δεν κινηθής να υπηρέτησης αυτόν πού λέγεις ότι αγαπάς; Αφού λοιπόν πιστεύσης στον Θεό θα εφαρμόσης και αυτά πού ζητά από σένα, με όλη σου την ψυχή. Όχι «κατ  οφθαλμό-δουλεία» αλλά εκ προθέσεως ολοκλήρου. Αποδεικνύοντας ότι εξ ολοκλήρου αγαπάμε τον Θεό και προτιμούμε Αυτόν και το θέλημά Του, περισσότερο και από την ιδική μας ζωή, πείθομε τον Θεό και έρχεται και ενώνεται μαζί μας. Γίνεται η πραγματική ένωσι Θεού και ανθρώπου, αυτό πού ονομάζομε «Θεανθρωπισμό», πού με την παρουσία Του ο Θεός Λόγος μάς εδίδαξε πρακτικά. Και όταν εμείς δώσωμε στον Θεό ό,τι υπάρχει μέσα στο περιθώριο της αγάπης μας, τότε και Αυτός δίδει ό,τι έχει προς εμάς. Την ιδική Του αγάπη, τις ιδικές Του υποσχέσεις. Εφαρμόζεται αυτό πού λέγει ο Ιησούς μας. «Εκείνος εστίν ο αγαπών με, ο έχων τάς εντολάς μου και τηρών αυτάς» και τότε «ο αγαπών με αγαπηθήσεται υπό του Πατρός μου και εγώ και ο Πατήρ ελευσόμεθα και μονήν παρ  αυτώ ποιήσομεν». Ο άνθρωπος μετέχει, όταν φθάση εις αυτή την θέσι, στις Θείες ιδιότητες. Συμβαίνει ό,τι και με το σίδερο πού το βάζομε μέσα στην φωτιά. Γίνεται και αυτό φωτιά. Κοκκινίζει και παίρνει όλες τις ιδιότητες της φωτιάς, χωρίς να αλλάζη. Μένει σίδερο, αλλά καίει και φωτίζει όπως η φωτιά. Το ίδιο συμβαίνει με τον άνθρωπο πού επήρε τις Θείες ιδιότητες. Γίνεται όλος αγάπη και τότε αγαπά «τόν πλησίον ως εαυτόν». Δεν ζή για τον εαυτό του. Γίνεται ακριβώς αυτό πού λέγει ο Απόστολος Παύλος. «Έκαστος τώ πλησίω αρεσκέτω εις το αγαθόν προς οικοδομήν». Και ο Ιωάννης λέγει ένα τολμηρότερο. «Τάς ψυχάς ημών οφείλομεν υπέρ των αδελφών ημών τιθέναι». Εις αυτή την θέσι, εις αυτή την κληρονομιά έφθασαν οι Πατέρες μας και αφού κατά μόνας κατόρθωσαν να αγαπήσουν τον Θεό, εξ όλης ψυχής, εξ όλης καρδίας, εξ όλης διανοίας και εδέχθησαν τις Θείες ενέργειες, εστράφησαν ύστερα σε μάς τους ασθενείς και αδυνάτους, μεταδίδοντας όλη την συμπάθεια και αγάπη πού τους έδωσε ο Θεός. Ο Άγιος Ιωάννης ο Ελεήμων είναι ένας εξ αυτών των τόσων πολλών πού η Εκκλησία μας πλουτεί. Με τις πρεσβείες του εύχομαι να ξεκινήσωμε με καλή πρόθεσι, αγαπώντες πρώτα τον Θεό και μετά τον πλησίον μας. Αμήν.

 (ΔΙΔΑΧΕΣ ΑΠΟ ΤΟΝ ΑΘΩΝΑ)

Άγ. Νικόδημος ο Αγιορείτης-Πῶς πρέπει νὰ ἐκπαιδεύουμε τὸ νοῦ μας, γιὰ νὰ τὸν φυλᾶμε ἀπὸ τὴν ἀμάθεια.

                       
                             ΚΕΦΑΛΑΙΟ Ζ´.
 
 
Πῶς πρέπει νὰ ἐκπαιδεύουμε τὸ νοῦ μας, γιὰ νὰ τὸν φυλᾶμε ἀπὸ τὴν ἀμάθεια.
 

Ἂν ἡ δυσπιστία στὸν ἑαυτό μας καὶ ἡ ἐλπίδα στὸν Θεό, οἱ τόσο ἀπαραίτητες σ᾿ αὐτὸν τὸν πόλεμον, μείνουν μοναχές, ὄχι μόνον δὲν θὰ νικήσουμε, ἀλλὰ καὶ θὰ γκρεισθοῦμε σὲ πολλὰ κακά. Γι᾿ αὐτὸ τὸ λόγο, κοντὰ σὲ αὐτὲς χρειάζεται καὶ ἡ ἐκγύμνασι, ποὺ εἶναι τὸ τρίτο πρᾶγμα ποὺ εἴπαμε στὴν ἀρχή, ἡ ὁποία πρέπει νὰ γίνεται πρῶτα μὲ τὸ νοῦ καὶ μὲ τὴ θέλησι. Καὶ τὸν μὲν νοῦ πρέπει νὰ φυλᾶμε ἀπὸ τὴν ἀγνωσία, ἡ ὁποία εἶναι σὲ αὐτὸν πολὺ ἀντίθετη, ἐπειδὴ τὸν σκοτίζει καὶ τοῦ ἐμποδίζει στὴν γνῶσι τῆς ἀλήθειας, ἡ ὁποία εἶναι τὸ δικό του ἀντικείμενο. 
Γι᾿ αὐτὸ εἶναι ἀνάγκη νὰ τὸν γυμνάζουμε, ὥστε νὰ γίνῃ λαμπρὸς καὶ καθαρός, γιὰ νὰ μπορῇ νὰ διακρίνῃ καλὰ ἐκεῖνο ποὺ μᾶς χρειάζεται γιὰ νὰ καθαρίσουμε τὴν ψυχή μας ἀπὸ τὰ πάθη καὶ νὰ τὴν στολίσουμε μὲ τὶς ἀρετές.

Αὐτὴ λοιπὸν τὴν λαμπρότητα τοῦ νοῦ μποροῦμε νὰ τὴν ἀποκτήσουμε μὲ δυὸ τρόπους· ὁ πρῶτος καὶ πλέον ἀναγκαῖος, εἶναι ἡ προσευχή, μὲ τὴν ὁποία παρακαλοῦμε τὸ Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα νὰ καταδεχθῆ νὰ σκορπίσῃ τὸ θεῖο του φῶς μέσα στὶς καρδιές μας, τὸ ὁποῖο, βέβαια, θὰ τὸ κάνῃ ἂν ζητήσουμε πραγματικὰ μόνο τὸν Θεό, ἂν κάνουμε τὸ θέλημά του τὸ ἅγιο καὶ ἂν ὑποτάξουμε κάθε τί μας στὴ συμβουλὴ καὶ ἐρώτησι τῶν ἐμπείρων καὶ πνευματικῶν μας Πατέρων.

Ὁ δεύτερος τρόπος εἶναι, μία παντοτεινὴ ἐκγύμνασις βαθειᾶς σκέψεως καὶ μελέτης τῶν πραγμάτων, γιὰ νὰ γνωρίσουμε μὲ αὐτή, ποιὰ πράγματα εἶναι καλά, ποιὰ κακά, ὄχι ὅπως τὰ κρίνει λανθασμένα ἡ αἴσθησις καὶ ὁ κόσμος, ἀλλὰ καθὼς τὰ κρίνει ὁ ὀρθὸς λόγος καὶ τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιο, δηλαδή, ἡ ἀλήθεια τῶν θεοπνεύστων Γραφῶν καὶ τῶν πνευματοφόρων Πατέρων καὶ Διδασκάλων τῆς Ἐκκλησίας μας. 
Γιατὶ,ὅταν αὐτὴ ἡ σκέψις καὶ μελέτη γίνῃ σωστὴ καὶ ὅπως πρέπει, μᾶς κάνει νὰ γνωρίσουμε καθαρὰ ὅτι πρέπει νὰ θεωροῦμε μηδὲν καὶ μάταια καὶ ψεύτικα ὅλα ἐκεῖνα ποὺ ἀγαπᾷ καὶ μὲ διαφόρους τρόπους ζητάει ὁ τυφλὸς καὶ διεφθαρμένος κόσμος.
Δηλαδή, ὅτι οἱ τιμὲς καὶ οἱ ἡδονὲς καὶ ὁ πλοῦτος τοῦ κόσμου δὲν εἶναι τίποτα ἄλλο, παρὰ ματαιότητα καὶ θάνατος τῆς ψυχῆς· ὅτι οἱ βρισιὲς καὶ οἱ δυσφημίσεις ποὺ μᾶς κάνει ὁ κόσμος, προξενοῦν σὲ μᾶς ἀληθινὴ δόξα καὶ οἱ θλίψεις χαρά· μὲ τὸ νὰ συγχωρᾶμε τοὺς ἐχθρούς μας καὶ νὰ τοὺς κάνουμε καλά, εἶναι μεγαλοψυχία καὶ μία ἀπὸ τὶς μεγαλύτερες ὁμοιότητες μὲ τὸν Θεό· ὅτι περισσότερο ἰσχύει τὸ νὰ καταφρονήσῃ κάποιος τὸν κόσμο, παρὰ νὰ εἶναι ἐξουσιαστὴς ὅλου τοῦ κόσμου· ὅτι τὸ νὰ ὑπακούῃ κάποιος πρόθυμος, εἶναι μία πρᾶξις μᾶλλον μεγαλόψυχη καὶ γενναία, παρὰ τὸ νὰ ὑποτάση καὶ νὰ προστάζει μεγάλους βασιλεῖς.

Ὅτι ἡ ταπεινὴ γνῶσι τοῦ ἑαυτοῦ μας, πρέπει νὰ τιμᾶται περισσότερο ἀπὸ τὸ ὕψος ὅλων τῶν ἐπιστημῶν,ὅτι τὸ νὰ νικήσουμε καὶ νὰ νεκρώσουμε τὰ θελήματά μας καὶ τὶς ὀρέξεις μας, ὅσο καὶ ἂν εἶναι μικρές, εἶναι ἄξιο μεγαλυτέρου ἐπαίνου, παρὰ τὸ νὰ καταπολεμήσουμε πολλὰ κάστρα, νὰ κατατροπώσουμε δυνατὰ στρατόπεδα μὲ τὰ ὅπλα στὰ χέρια καὶ τὸ νὰ κάνουμε θαύματα ἢ νὰ ἀναστήσουμε νεκρούς.

ΟΣΙΟΥ ΝΙΚΟΔΗΜΟΥ ΤΟΥ ΑΓΙΟΡΕΙΤΟΥ
           "ΑΟΡΑΤΟΣ ΠΟΛΕΜΟΣ"
Ἀπόδοση στὴ νέα Ἑλληνική: Ἱερομόναχος Βενέδικτος
Ἔκδοση Συνοδείας Σπυρίδωνος Ἱερομονάχου, Νέα Σκήτη, Ἅγιον Ὄρος

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

St. John of Kronstadt-On Struggling

 
Do not fear the conflict, and do not flee from it: where there is no struggle, there is no virtue; where there are no temptations for faithfulness and love, it is uncertain whether there is really any faithfulness and love for the Lord. Our faith, trust, and love are proved and revealed in adversities, that is, in difficult and grievous outward and inward circumstances, during sickness, sorrow, and privations.
                           From The Diary Of St.John Of Kronstadt

                   The Spiritual Struggle
 You cannot conquer any passion, any sin without gracious help; therefore, always ask the help of Christ, your Saviour. It was for this that He came into the world, for this that He suffered, died, and rose from the dead, in order to help us in everything, to save us from sin, and from the violence of the passions, to cleanse us from our sins, to bestow upon us power in Holy Spirit to do good works, to enlighten us, to strengthen us, to give us peace. You ask how you can save yourself when sin stands at every step, and you sin at every moment? There is a simple answer to this: at every step, at every moment, call upon the Saviour, remember the Saviour, and you will save yourself and others.

Now we stand up and fall (in faith and virtue), but we hope for a time and condition when we shall no longer be able to fall, when we shall reach such a state of perfect safety from falling, as the angels have attained to, who are now inaccessible to evil, and when we shall become strengthened in holiness. In the meantime fight against sin, and hope that the time will at last come of perfect victory over sin and over death, which is its offspring. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."[1160]

Everything is possible unto those who believe and trust. We must struggle and conquer.

Struggle against your infirmity, pray as much as you have strength to, and the Lord will not despise the infirmity of your flesh and spirit.

The more the outward prosperity of a pious man increases the more furiously Satan rages against him, and fights against him by temptations (wiles), as he did against Job. Therefore, you who love God, when the prosperity of your house increases you must expect to meet with violent attacks from Satan; he will fall upon one or the other member of your family and torment him.

During prayer, do not allow the flesh and the enemy, acting through it, to conquer you; speak the truth from your heart, and use no deceit in your tongue. [1373] Think and feel what you say in the prayer, and do not let there be honey on your tongue and ice in your heart. Once you are conquered by the enemy, you will have to defend yourself and your freedom against him, as a piece of ground already conquered by the enemy, and your heart will withdraw itself from the Lord. Do not neglect anything in the spiritual life; do not consider anything unimportant, unworthy of great attention: it is through little sins that the Devil leads us to great ones. Above all, endeavour to be always truthful in your heart. When it is most difficult to fight against the flesh, then is the time to show your firmness, then is the time not to grow weak in the conflict, but to fight like a good soldier of Christ.

The sin, to which you do not consent, is not "imputed" to you, as, for instance: involuntary distraction during prayer, impure and blasphemous thoughts, involuntary malice, against which we zealously struggle, avarice, which we resist — all such are attacks of the spirit of evil. Our duty is to endure, to pray, to humble ourselves, and to love.

Let the following conviction be inherent in your heart: all we men are one (brethren), and God, the Most merciful, Almighty, Inexhaustible Source of all things, is everything to us all. But in all of us the Devil also can and does act, the enemy of mankind, whose wickedness, worked in men, must be conquered by good, patience, meekness, indulgence.

Here is another subject for hope. The passions assault your heart, their attack is violent, it is difficult to withstand them, not to succumb to them; but have hope in Christ, and you shall conquer them. Say: "From my youth up many passions have afflicted me; but Thou, my Saviour, Thyself deliver me and save me."[1202]

During times of slothfulness and hardness of heart, men, sometimes through their faintheartedness and impatience, become too familiar with God, and allow themselves various eccentricities in their voice and movements signifying impatience, dissatisfaction, murmuring, and even insolence towards God. Guard against this by every means, and endeavour to overcome your slothfulness. You must conquer the enemy and your passions.

The Devil takes captive and conquers man in this world by excessively exciting his natural spiritual and bodily needs, such as: the need of food and drink (and as everything has to be bought with money, therefore of money, too), the need of clothing, the need of pleasures, the need of honours or fame, and of a good name. All these and other similar requirements of man, which God has put into the very nature of man, are continually perverted by the Devil, who carries them to extremes, sometimes quite needlessly (for instance, with eating and drinking), and thus ruins both soul and body, and diverts the soul from God through its attachment to material things, and through its falling into sensuality and into the passions of malice, pride, envy, despondency, slothfulness, gluttony, fornication, drunkenness, covetousness, ambition, and so forth. And therefore fasting, chastity, disinterestedness, kindness, meekness, humility, faith, hope and love, prayer and meditation, are necessary.

What is our life? The burning of a candle; He Who gave it has but to blow — and it goes out. What is our life? The journey of a traveller; as soon as it reaches a certain limit, the gates are opened to him, he lays aside his travelling dress (the body) and his staff, and enters into his house. What is our life? A prolonged bloody war for the possession of the true country and true freedom. When the war is over, we shall be either conquerors or conquered; we shall be called from the place of combat to the place of reward, and obtain from the Recompenser either eternal reward, eternal glory, or eternal punishment, eternal shame.

I love to gaze upon the image of the risen Life-giver with the banner in His hand, with that symbol of victory over death and Him who has the power of death: " O death, where is Thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"[945] What a glorious Victor! What a cruel, most wicked enemy He has conquered! An enemy who gloried in his victories during thousands of years! "To Thee, Conqueror of death, we cry: Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord."[946] "We glorify Thee, Life-giving Christ, Who descended into hell for our sakes, and didst raise all with Thyself."[947] "In rising from the tomb, Christ, Thou didst raise all the race of Adam with Thyself."[948]

You see very clearly that it is extremely difficult, and without God's grace and your own fervent prayer and abstinence, impossible, for you to change for the better. You feel within yourself the action of a multitude of passions: of pride, malice, envy, greediness, the love of money, despondency, slothfulness, fornication, impatience, and disobedience; and yet you remain in them, are often bound by them, whilst the long-suffering Lord bears with you, awaiting your return and amendment; and still bestows upon you all the gifts of His mercy. Be then indulgent, patient, and loving to those who live with you, and who also suffer from many passions; conquer every evil by good, and, above all, pray to God for them, that He may correct them — that He may turn their hearts to Himself, the source of holiness. Do not help the Devil to spread his kingdom. Hallow the name of your Heavenly Father by your actions; help Him to spread His Kingdom on earth. " For we are labourers together with God."[742] Be zealous of the fulfilment of His will on earth, as it is in heaven. Forgive them that trespass against you with joy, as a good son rejoices when he has a chance of fulfilling the will of his beloved father.

How good it is to conquer the passions! After the victory one feels such lightness of heart, such peace and greatness of spirit!

Nothing is more changeable than matter; it changes into millions of forms, by natural means according to the laws of the Creator: not to speak of the wonderful changes, for instance, of fire into dew, of water into blood, of water into wine, of the rod into the serpent; even man sometimes changes matter into a thousand different forms. What can therefore be said of God, Who has created everything? The nature of matter is its changeableness. God does not act thus, and does not desire to act thus with a reasonable spirit: the nature of the spirit is its unchangeableness. But to strive to become perfect in good works is the act of a reasonable created spirit. It is the triumph of the spirit over matter that the spirit changes it into thousands of forms. Notice, for instance, how this spirit changes matter in the vegetable kingdom, how endlessly varying are the forms of plants, all growing out of the same soil, with the help of the same light of the sun, the same air, and the same water. And the bodies of animals, how varied they are! Thus the nature of matter is changeableness; upon this condition the world was created in all its variety. Glory to the only eternally, unchangeable God, the All-powerful Creator! Had matter been unchangeable, then God would not have been All-powerful. Glory to the spiritual nature! May it ever conquer the material nature! Ask God to give you unchangeableness in all that is good.

The spirit is powerful, mighty, and therefore it easily bears a heavy substance; whilst the flesh is inert, feeble, and is therefore easily overwhelmed by its own natural substance. This is why God by the word of His power upholds all things. [104] Similarly the spirit of a man blessed with grace, by God's help, easily conquers his own flesh, and even the flesh of others (as we see in the saints), easily masters during prayer the meaning of the words, filling them with his spirit; whilst the carnal man is in constant subjection to his flesh, is oppressed by the words of the prayer, which he is unable to endue with the spirit, being flesh himself, or is unable to penetrate into its pure, holy spirit with his own impure, carnal spirit.

In order not to be in daily bondage to the passions and the Devil, you must set yourself an object to aim at, have this object constantly in view, and endeavour to attain it, conquering all obstacles by the name of the Lord. What is this object? The Kingdom of God, the Divine palace of glory, prepared for believers from the creation of the world. But as this object can only be attained by certain means, it also is necessary to have such means at one's disposal. And what are these means? Faith, hope, and love, especially the last. Believe, hope, and love, especially love, disregarding all obstacles; love God above everything and your neighbour as yourself. If you have not sufficient strength to preserve in your heart these inestimable treasures, fall down oftener at the feet of the God of Love. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you"[94] — for He Who has promised is true. Walking, sitting, lying down, conversing, or working, at every time, pray with your whole heart that faith and love may be given to you. You have not yet asked for them as you should ask — fervently and instantly, with the firm purpose of obtaining them. Say now, "I will begin to do so henceforth."

The Devil, as a spirit, as an incomplex being, can hinder and wound the soul by a single instantaneous movement of the thought of wickedness, of doubt, blasphemy, impatience, irritation, malice, by an instantaneous movement of any attachment of the heart to anything earthly, by a movement of intuitive sight, adultery and other passions — he can fan the spark of sin, with the cunning and malice peculiar to him, into a flame, raging with infernal strength within the man. We must stand fast and strengthen ourselves by every means in God's truth, rejecting the lies, illusions, and malice of the Devil, at their very beginning. In such cases, the man should be all watchfulness, all eyes, hard as adamant, invincible in every part, firm and invulnerable. O, Glory, glory to Thy victory, Lord! Thus may I conquer, by the power of Thy might, the invisible and visible enemies, all the days of my life, until my last breath. Amen. O, simplicity of faith, do not leave me.

"Behold, thou art made whole; sin no more."[281] Experience proves that sins and passions destroy the health of the soul and the body, whilst victory over the passions affords heavenly tranquillity and health both to the soul and the body. Conquer the many-headed hydra of sin — and you will be made whole. Preserve tranquillity of spirit; do not be disturbed, do not be irritated by any opposition, offences, negligences, injustices — and then you will always enjoy spiritual and bodily health. Emotions, disturbance, and the fire of various passions produce in us a multitude of maladies both of mind and body.

When the enemy does not succeed in hindering the Christian upon the path of salvation by means of afflictions, oppression, poverty and various other privations, maladies, misfortunes, then he rushes to the other extreme: he fights against him by his own health, tranquillity, softness, the weakness of his heart, the insensibility of his soul to spiritual blessings, or by the opulence of his outer life. O, how dangerous is this last condition! It is more dangerous than the first state — the state of affliction, oppression, of sickness, and so forth. In such a state we easily forget God; we cease to feel His mercies; we slumber and spiritually sleep. "While the Bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made: Behold, the Bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet Him."[408] But in affliction we involuntarily turn to God to be saved; we constantly feel that God is the God of our salvation — "the God Who saves" — that He is our life, our breath, our light, our strength. Thus, it is better for the Christian to live in some or other kind of affliction.

Good is always stronger than evil, and therefore always conquers.

A Christian must always be kind, gracious, and wise in order to conquer evil by good.

Do not grow despondent and enfeebled in spirit, seeing the constant struggle within you of evil against good, but like a good and valiant soldier of Jesus Christ, our great Founder, struggle courageously against evil, looking at the crown, prepared by the Lord for all who conquer evil in this world and in their flesh. "To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne."[439]

Bring your heart in sacrifice to God, give it wholly to the Almighty, renounce yourself, and all sinful inclinations: malice, hatred, pride, disobedience, and self-will, envy, malevolence, malignancy, avarice, covetousness, gluttony, fornication, uncleanness, stealing, deceit, fulness, slothfulness, and others; and continually force yourself to be kind when others exasperate and offend you, to pray for your enemies, for meekness, humility, gentleness, truer benevolence, generosity, disinterestedness, abstinence, chastity, alms-giving, truth and righteousness, industry, obedience, and others. It is difficult to conquer the passions, which become as though our natural members ("Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth"[553]), but by being continually watchful over yourself, by constant fervent prayer and abstinence, with the help of God you will be able to conquer and eradicate them. "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them."[554] I reverence even two or three praying together, for in accordance with the Lord's promise He Himself is in the midst of them. I reverence still more a numerous congregation. Collective prayer is speedily fulfilled, and bears much fruit when it is united, unanimous ("gathered together in My name"). The assiduous prayer of the Church for the Apostle Peter immediately ascended before the throne of the Lord, and the Lord sent his angel to miraculously deliver Peter from the prison, whom Herod wished to destroy. The unanimous prayer of the Apostles Paul and Silas brought down upon them wonderful heavenly help from the Holy Spirit. [555]

Do not give way to the dark evil inclinations in your heart against your neighbour, but conquer them and uproot them by the power of faith, by the light of a sound mind, and you will become kind and gentle. "I have walked innocently."[149] Such inclinations frequently arise in the depths of the heart. He who has not learned to subdue them will be often gloomy, melancholy, a burden to himself and to others. When they come to you, force yourself to be cordially disposed; to mirth and innocent jests; and the evil inclinations will be dispersed like smoke. This is from experience.

In our body, during all our lifetime, a war goes on between the principles of life and death, of good and evil, of sickness and health. The principles of death, being for a long time conquered by the principles of life (vitality), at last overpower the principles of life, because our body, being elementary and sinful, does not in itself contain any principles of life, but borrows them from the soul, which, through sin, also bears in itself many of the principles of death, and is too weak to be able to resist the principles of mortality existing in the soul itself. Besides this, the inner man is renewed at the expense of the corruption of his outward parts. The vigilant, ever-active spirit, by the exertion of this very activity, finally destroys the weak frail body. Besides this, hereditary bodily diseases in course of time increase more and more, and also destroy the bodily organism. Thus the life of man on earth is a gradual daily dying. And our passions? How much of our health they too bear away! And intemperance, excesses in eating, drinking, sleeping, and pleasures? How all these impair the health! Therefore, if our body is continually wasted, and visibly approaches its end, let us despise it as transient, and care with all our strength for the immortal soul. The body is a faithless, fleeting friend.

The greatest continual error of our heart against which we ought unceasingly to struggle during our whole lifetime — at night, in the morning, and during the day — is the secret thought that we can be anywhere and at any time without God and outside Him even for a single moment. We must unceasingly strengthen our heart in God, from Whom it continually mentally turns away; and great progress in the Christian life would be attained by him who could sincerely exclaim with Hannah, the mother of Samuel, "My heart is strengthened [rejoiceth] in the Lord; mine horn is exalted in the Lord; my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in Thy salvation."[1088]

Christian hope may be thus characterised: pray and hope, struggle and hope, strive to enter in at the strait gate. [1193] "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving."[1194]

Unite your soul to God by means of hearty faith and you will be able to accomplish everything. Do powerful, invisible, ever-watchful enemies wage war against you? You will conquer them. Are these enemies visible, outward? You will conquer them also. Do passions rend you? You will overcome them. Are you crushed with sorrows? You will get over them. Have you fallen into despondency? You will obtain courage. With faith you will be able to conquer everything, and even the Kingdom of Heaven will be yours. Faith is the greatest blessing of the earthly life; it unites the man to God, and makes him strong and victorious through Him. "He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit."[92]

Those who are trying to lead a spiritual life have to carry on a most skilful and difficult warfare, through their thoughts, every moment of their life — that is, a spiritual warfare; it is necessary that our whole soul should be every moment a clear eye, able to watch and notice the thoughts entering our heart from the evil one and repel them; the hearts of such men should be always burning with faith, humility and love; otherwise the subtlety of the Devil finds an easy access to them, followed by a diminution of faith, or entire unbelief, and then by every possible evil, which it will be difficult to wash away even by tears. Do not, therefore, allow your heart to be cold, especially during prayer, and avoid in every way cold indifference.

You have seen that on the icons of the saints, the Lord Jesus Christ is represented above, with the imperial globe in one hand and with the other extended in blessing. This is taken from reality. From heaven the Lord ever watches over those who combat for His sake upon earth, He helps them actively, as the almighty King, in their struggle with the enemies of salvation, blesses His wrestlers with "peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,"[1107] and bestows the crown of life upon them after they have finished their earthly exploits. Thus, Christians, all of you strengthen yourselves in faith and hope, looking unto Jesus, "the author and finisher of our faith,"[1108] Who ever watches over you and sees all your acts from the heavenly heights, as He looked down upon the proto-martyr, Stephen, opening unto him heaven and His glory; as He looked upon Saul, afterwards Paul, and also revealed Himself to him in the heavens, enlightening him with His light, and calling him with His voice. [1109]

We notice in ourselves the struggle between faith and unbelief, between the good power and the evil one; and in the world, between the spirit of the Church and the spirit of the world. There, through the spirit, you will distinguish two clearly antagonistic sides: the side of light and the side of darkness; of good and evil; the spirit of the Church and of religion, and the spirit of worldliness and unbelief. Do you know why it is so? It is owing to the struggle of two antagonistic forces: of the power of God and the power of the Devil. The Lord works in the sons who are obedient to Him, and the Devil in the sons of disobedience (" the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience"[119] ). And I, too, often feel within me the struggle of the same two antagonistic forces. When I stand up to pray, the evil force sometimes painfully oppresses and weighs down my heart, so that it cannot raise itself to God.

As all my misfortunes arise in my invisible mind and my invisible heart, therefore I require the invisible Saviour, Who directs our hearts. O my strength, Jesus, Son of God! O Light of my mind! the peace, the joy of my heart — glory to Thee! Glory to Thee, Deliverer from my invisible enemies, that fight against my mind and my heart, slaying me in the very source of my life, in my most sensitive part!

Sometimes, just when we begin to delight in the Lord, the enemy soon after, either himself or through men, brings the greatest sorrow upon us. Such is the lot of those who are labouring in this life for the Lord. For instance, you have just received peace and joy in the cup of the Lord, and sometimes immediately after the service a fiery temptation assails you, and with it the affliction connected with it; even at the very Cup the enemy sets his snares for you and disturbs you by various thoughts, against which you must fight, or else, knowing that you have wished for a long, long time to find rest in God, the enemy will not allow it. As long as the passions still work in us, as long as the old man lives and is not dead within us, until then much sorrow must befall us from various temptations in life and from the struggles between the old man and the new.

We, who are free, and at the same time fallen beings — although we were re-established by the Son of God, and have become free through this grace, by faith, love to God, and by good works — ought, by continual prayer to God, to guard ourselves from the antagonistic forces fighting against our soul, wishing to make us their prisoners, and similar to them in spirit. We must be watchful to the utmost so as not to become like unto the sub-celestial spirits of evil by our spirit and acts, lest they should become the breathing of our soul instead of God — lest the evil constituting their nature should become our evil. We must also ever bear in mind that greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world, [217] and that the Lord keeps them too in His full power, and only permits them — as much as His goodness, mercy, and omnipotence allow — to act in the world, to teach and correct men. But there are men who have the Devil for their garment, food and drink, in the same manner as true Christians clothe themselves in Christ, and feed upon His Body and Blood. Throughout the world everything is double — one against the other; the spirit and the flesh, good and evil. Satan has his agents and helpers to spread his dominion amongst men; God has the angels, whom He gives to every Christian to guard him and guide him into Christ's blessed kingdom.

Do not be despondent when fighting against the incorporeal enemy, but even in the midst of your afflictions and oppression praise the Lord, Who has found you worthy to suffer for Him, by struggling against the subtilty of the serpent, and to be wounded for Him at every hour; for had you not lived piously, and endeavoured to become united to God, the enemy would not have attacked and tormented you.

"The Kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force."[576] If we do daily strive to conquer the passions, which fight against us, and to gain the Kingdom of God in our heart, then the passions will tyrannically, forcibly take possession of us, will invade our soul like robbers; our attachments to earthly things will increase in proportion as our faith in heavenly blessings and love for them grows weaker and weaker; our love for God and our neighbour — will also grow weaker and weaker; we shall enjoy rest of conscience and peace of heart more and more seldom. We must struggle in the matter of the salvation of the soul, which is more precious than anything in the world; we must count everything earthly as dross, or as a phantom, a vision, and everything heavenly, above all, the Lord Himself — as truth itself, eternal, most-blessed, and unchangeable.

Work out your own salvation, each one of you; struggle, vanquish, but do not think yourself most wise; do not accuse the Creator of being unmerciful and unwise; do not blaspheme the all-merciful God. Raise yourself through love; ascend higher and higher, step by step, to spiritual perfection, which it is impossible to obtain without freedom. "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."[142]

All the saints who are in heaven were cleansed by the blood of the Son of God, through the Holy Spirit, and have not a shadow of sin in them. It was for this that they struggled in this life, that they mortified their flesh in order to cleanse themselves "from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God,"[531] in order to become eternally united with that most glorious Being...

Do not be despondent and do not fall into despair when you feel within your soul the deadly breath and ferment of malice and evil, impatience and blasphemy, or any weakness from impure thoughts; but fight against them unremittingly and endure valiantly, calling with all your heart upon the Lord Jesus — the Conqueror of hell. Humble yourself deeply, deeply, acknowledging yourself from the depths of your soul as the first of sinners, unworthy of human fellowship, and the Lord, seeing your humility and your struggle, will help you. Call also to your help the speedy Mediatrix, the Most Holy Virgin, the Mother of God, saying: " Heal, most pure Lady, the many painful wounds of my soul, and strike the enemies constantly fighting against me."[481]

All possible sins and passions are ready to break into the soul, and strive to do so at every moment. But fight against them valiantly and vigilantly unto your last breath, looking upon them as dreams of your imagination, as illusions of the spirits of evil.

The bodiless enemy fights vigorously against us during Divine service, because at this time, by God's grace, through our intermedium, regeneration of our souls is accomplished; therefore, do not let be us be depressed by the calumnies of the Devil, but let us take courage and be strong, looking with our spiritual eyes upon Christ, the Founder of all great deeds, invisibly standing before us, and mysteriously accomplishing the regeneration of our souls.

The crucified flesh reconciles itself with the spirit and with God; whilst the flesh that is cherished, that is abundantly and daintily fed, fights hard against the spirit and against God, and becomes wholly an abomination of sin. It does not want to pray, and, in general, rebels against God by blasphemy, for instance, and estranges itself from God. This is from experience. Therefore, "they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."[652]

What hinders you from fulfilling Christ's commandments The flesh and the world: that is, pleasant food and drink, which men like, in which they delight both in thought and in fact, which make the heart gross and hard — a partiality for elegant dress and adornment, or for distinctions and rewards; if the dress or adornments are made of very beautiful coloured and delicate materials, then care and anxiety arise how to avoid staining or soiling them, or getting them dusty or wet, whilst care and anxiety how to please God in thought, word, and deed vanish and the heart lives for dress and adornment, and becomes entirely engrossed in these things, ceasing to care about God and being united to Him; if such is the case with a priest, then he neglects praying for his people, and becomes not soul-loving, but money-loving and ambitious, seeking not the men themselves, but that which appertains to them, that is, money, food, drink, their favour, their good opinion and good word, and flattering them. Therefore fight against every worldly enticement, against every material enticement that hinders you from fulfilling Christ's commandments, love God with all your heart, and care with all your strength for the salvation of your own soul, and the souls of others, be soul-loving. Remember, that the world, which rose from nothing, is indeed nothingness, and will return to nothing, for heaven and earth shall pass away, but the human soul, the breath of God, the image of the immortal King is itself immortal. Remember all this, and renounce attachments to all earthly things. Besides looking upon corruptible creatures and created things turn your eyes constantly to the Creator, Who is in every creature, and Who constantly looks upon you, constantly proving your heart and your thoughts. Do not cling with your heart to anything, and do not make it the god of your heart; the sole God of our heart must be the Lord-God, Who created it: for our heart is His breath. Do not cleave with your whole heart unto any person, that is to any flesh, for the sole God of our heart must be the Lord-God, and to Him only must we cleave. For attachment to material things, or to flesh, is a lie, an enticement of Satan and the will of the Devil. Amen.

The kingdom of life and the kingdom of death go side by side. I say go, because they are spiritual. The Chief of the first — that is, of the kingdom of life — is Jesus Christ, and those who are with Christ are undoubtedly in the kingdom of life; the chief of the second — that is, of the kingdom of death — is the prince of the powers of the air — the Devil, with the spirits of evil subject to him, of which there are so many that their number far exceeds the number of all men dwelling upon earth. These children of death, the subjects of the prince of the air, are in constant stubborn warfare with the children of life — that is, with faithful Christians — and strive by every crafty means to win them over to their side, through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, because sin and crime are their elements, and through sins, if we do not repent of them, we pass over to their side; whilst those to whom sins form as though an every-day requirement, who drink in iniquity like water, are not disturbed by the spirits of evil, because they already belong to them as long as they live carelessly in regard to their souls. But as soon as they turn to God, acknowledging their sins, both voluntary and involuntary, the war bursts forth, and the hordes of Satan rise up and carry on an unceasing fight. You see by this how necessary it is to seek Christ, as the Chief of the kingdom of life, and the Conqueror of hell and death.

To look unto the Lord during the struggle against any passion, or after having committed any sin and repented of it, gives peace to our doubting hearts, and a wonderful brightness to our countenance." Thou hast put gladness in my heart; Lord, lift Thou up the light of Thy countenance upon us."[443] O, how bright does our countenance become when we look upon the God of our hearts by the exertion of our faith, with our spiritual vision! Truly, then the Lord Himself is with us, as He said: "Call upon Me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee."[444] "I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honour him."[445] O, Thou most-bountiful and long-suffering God, Thou Who art ready to pardon unto seventy times seven the sins and transgressions of all those who heartily repent and ask Thy forgiveness — have mercy upon us, who every hour offend many times against Thee. Amen.

O, how full of misery, of difficulties, and how grievous is this earthly life! From morning till night, daily, we must carry on a grievous warfare against the carnal passions, fighting against our soul, against "principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places,"[441] whose craft and subtlety are immeasurably evil, infernally artful, indefatigable! O, Sweetest Saviour, Thou Who calleth unto Thyself all those who labour and are heavy-laden — to give them rest! Thou seest: our heart and bosom are wasted from this daily struggle and affliction, we are unnerved, weakened, we walk like shadows. Our evil enemies continually vex our souls, and endeavour by every means to draw us into the abyss of despair. Stretch forth, Master, Thy mighty right hand, and deliver us from the snares of the dragon of olden time, the murderer of men. "If any man will come after Me," said the Lord, "let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me."[442] But who is the daily cause of our cross, our afflictions and distresses? The old carnal man, and the Devil with his continual snares.

The corrupted man continually wishes to eat and drink, to continually satisfy his sight, hearing, smell, and feeling; carnal men satisfy themselves with dainty food and drink, fine sights, music, smoking, magnificent edifices, and outward splendour. But the adornment of holy objects raises our souls to God, and is therefore not only sinless, but holy and edifying, as also sacred singing, the fragrance of incense, the magnificence and splendour of the ornaments of the temple and all its vessels. All these, being destined to serve to the glory of God and to arouse pious feelings, are not sinful, but holy. But there, in the world, everything ministers to the carnal, corrupted man, and estranges from God. The corrupt heart seeks impure carnal sensations, and everything there satisfies it. The corrupt mind seeks knowledge corresponding to its corruption, and is there satisfied. The corrupt imagination and memory also seek images corresponding to them, and are there satisfied. But we Christians are "new creatures,"[325] or " a chosen generation,"[326] a new people, "created in righteousness and true holiness"[327] after God. We must divest ourselves of the old man and his works, and must fight against his desires and lusts.

Blessed is he who despises all earthly things, and who is wounded by the love of God, by heavenly love. But how few such men there are amongst the fallen sons of Adam! Who is not wounded and struck by the shafts of the passions, of gain and honours? And, vice versa, in whom are there the shafts of true love for God and his neighbour? The shafts of the passions and of sensual things have driven out the shafts of God's love, and do not leave room for them. For some persons these two elements are daily fighting against each other, and alternately thrust out each other, whilst in others there is not even a struggle; the earthly shafts reign wholly in some, stifling the heavenly ones: such, for instance, is the case with those who are greedy of gain, who are sensual, greedy of honours, drunkards, deceivers, murderers, fornicators, adulterers, and so forth. O, when will our hearts be wholly inflamed with love for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, for the Life-giving God the Trinity, Who has commanded us to keep His commandments?

If you do not fight against your passions, or only do so seldom and feebly, you will find it very difficult to fight against them, you will often be conquered by them; they will give you no rest, and your life will be poisoned by them, if you do not learn how to conquer these evil, inward enemies, that settle in your heart. Therefore labour and activity are indispensable for all. Life without activity is not life, but something monstrous — a sort of phantom of life. This is why it is the duty of every man to fight continually and persistently against the slothfulness of the flesh. God preserve every Christian from indulging it! "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts."[264] "Unto everyone that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that hath not, shall be taken away even that which he hath."[265]

This present life is a life of exile: "The Lord God," it is said, "sent him forth from the garden of Eden;"[395] and we, all of us, must earnestly strive to regain our country through repentance and works meet for repentance. Lord, "the desired fatherland give Thou to me, a citizen of Paradise me making once again."[396] The present life is the narrow way, the way of afflictions, privations, and maladies. The narrower the way, the more convincing, the surer it is, that we are going the right, true way; the wider, the more certain it is that we are nigh to destruction. The present life is a daily, cruel, most bitter struggle against the enemies of our salvation, especially against the invisible, sub-celestial spirits of evil, who do not leave us in peace for a single day, but constantly make use of their craft and subtlety against us, kindling various passions within us, and wounding us in the most acute manner by their shafts. Remember, therefore, that an incessant war is waged against us; that there is not time to rest, to enjoy, and amuse ourselves in this life, which is given us for our preparation for the future one; neither when we are tried by misfortunes; nor even then, when it seems to us we are perfectly easy and happy, as, for instance, when we give ourselves to pleasure at theatres or soirée's, when we display ourselves in festive attire and ornaments, when we give ourselves up to the pleasures of the table, when we turn round in the gay dance, drive in fine equipages, and so forth. Amidst all your worldly pleasures, man, the greatest misfortune hangs over you. You are a sinner; you are God's enemy; you are in great danger of losing eternal life, especially if you live negligently, if you do not do works meet for repentance. The wrath of God hangs over you, especially if you do not appease the God Whom you have offended by your prayers, penitence, and amendment. Thus, this is no time for you for pleasures, but rather for tears; your pleasures should be rare, and principally such as are afforded you by faith - in spiritual festivals.

The Lord allows the enemy to tempt us in order to prove us, in order to strengthen our spiritual powers in our struggle against the enemy, and so that we ourselves may see more clearly towards what our heart inclines, whether it inclines to patience, hope, and love and in general to virtue, or to irritability, incredulity, murmuring, blasphemy, malice, and despair. Therefore we must not be despondent, but must good-humouredly and patiently bear spiritual darkness that descends upon our soul, the fire that weakens and inclines us to impatience and malice, the affliction and oppression, knowing that all these are indispensable in the order of our spiritual life, that by these the Lord is proving us. Do not let us blaspheme against the true way — the way of holy faith and virtue, and do not let us prefer the evil way. We are free, and must strengthen ourselves by every means and with all our power in faith and virtue, unto the laying down of our life [406] for the way of truth; and how can this be if we have no temptations?

Thou teachest "my hands to war and my fingers to fight"[361] against the invisible enemies of my salvation and blessedness; against the enemies of holiness and of the power of Thy glory; against the subcelestial spirits of evil. Thou crownest me with success in my works accomplished in Thy name. For all this I thank, glorify, and bless Thy most gracious, fatherly, almighty power, God, our Saviour, our Benefactor. May the rest of Thy people know Thee as Thou hast revealed Thyself unto me, Lover of men. May they know Thee, Thy grace, Thy providence, Thy wisdom and power, and glorify Thee, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and to ages of ages. Amen.

Why did the Holy Cross appear in the heavens to the Emperor Constantine? In order to show that our Lord Himself, also all the Apostles and all the army of martyrs, entered into glory through the Cross; that the Cross is invincible victory; that as the Devil was vanquished by means of the Cross, so likewise all the enemies of the Cross of Christ or of Christians will be vanquished by the Cross; also that the Devil acts through the persecutors of the Christians, and must be conquered by means of the Cross; and that the persecuted Christians are members of Christ, soldiers of Christ, who are always under the protection of Christ the Lord and His Cross.

Our love for God or for our neighbour will especially show itself, and its purity, strength, and constancy will be revealed when there is a contrary power (of the Devil) struggling and acting like fire in our hearts, and endeavouring to implant aversion, antagonism, contempt, hatred, and enmity in our hearts. Love is strengthened within us when the opposing forces endeavour, so to say, to uproot it, whilst we struggle in every way against these opposing forces, and by our struggle with the enemy purify, raise, and strengthen our love. It is in reward for this constant battle out of love for God and our neighbour, for this firmness, for this fiery, stubborn, constant, invisible war against the sub-celestial spirits of evil, that God weaves the shining heavenly crowns for the wrestlers of love for God and their neighbour. In this respect holy ascetics, known as the Holy Fathers, are worthy of thousands of crowns. They, out of love for God, forsook the world and all that is in the world; they went away into desert, uninhabited places, and there, shut up in their cells, they spent all their life in thinking of God, in prayer, in renouncing their own will, in fasting, watching, labouring, and in doing great deeds for the love of God, enduring during their whole life the assaults of the opposing forces, endeavouring by every means to shake their faith and trust in God, and especially their love for Him. To fight, for the love of God, against our own flesh and the Devil — that crafty, mighty, and evil enemy — not for some hours, days, and months, but for many years, sometimes sixty or seventy — is not this worthy of crowns? And what, in comparison with these ascetics, or Holy Fathers, are men living in the world, falling so often into sin even without being assaulted, and defeated by their own flesh without even being attacked? What in comparison to holy ascetics are worldly men, living in accordance with their own will, in luxury, in the pleasures of every kind, gorgeously apparalled and living delicately, [250] given over to pride, ambition, envy, hatred, avarice, irritability, wrath, revenge, amusements, fornication, drunkenness — to all possible vices, although not all in the same person? They are caught alive, without any resistance, in the power of the Devil, and therefore he does not attack them, but leaves them long entangled in his nets in the peace and self-forgetfulness that precede death.

St.Theophan The Recluse-Particulars for a Person Who Lacks Grace.

Here are the particulars for a person who lacks grace: Once he has turned away from God, the person dwells on himself, and makes self the main goal of his life and activity. This is because at this point, after God, there is for him nothing higher than self, especially because, having previously received every abundance from God and having now forgotten Him, he hurries and takes care to fill himself up with something. 
The emptiness that has formed inside him because of his falling away from God causes an unquenchable thirst inside him that is vague but constant. The person has become a bottomless abyss. He makes every effort to fill this abyss, but he cannot see or feel it getting full. Thus, he spends his entire life in sweat, toil and great labors; he busies himself with various occupations in which he hopes to find a way to quench his unquenchable thirst.

 These occupations take up all his attention, all his time and all his activity. They are the highest good, in which he lives with his whole heart. Thus, it is clear why a person who makes self his exclusive goal is never himself; instead, everything is outside him, in things either created or acquired by vanity. He has fallen away from God, Who is the fullness of everything. He himself is empty; it remains for him to seemingly pour himself out into an endless variety of things and live in them. 
Thus, the sinner thirsts, fusses, and troubles himself with occupations and numerous things outside himself and God. This is why a characteristic trait of sinful life is, in its disregard for salvation, the care and trouble about many things (cf. Lk 10:41).
Taken from "The Path to Salvation" A Manual of Spiritual Transformation By Saint Theophan the Recluse 

St.Ephrem the Syrian, Spiritual Psalter, 'How many times have I promised...'


"How Many Times Have I Promised,
Yet Every Time I Failed to Keep My Word.
But Disregard This According to Thy Grace."

Grant forgiveness, O Lord, send also strength. Convert me, that I might live in sanctity, according to Thy holy will. Sanctify my heart that has become a den and dwelling-place of demons.
I am unworthy to ask forgiveness for myself, O Lord, for many times have I promised to repent and proved myself a liar by not fulfilling my promise. Thou hast picked me up many times already, but every time I freely chose to fall again.
Therefore I condemn myself and admit that I deserve all manner of punishment and torture. How many times hast Thou enlightened my darkened mind; yet every time I return again to base thoughts! My whole body trembles when I contemplate this; yet every time sinful sensuality reconquers me.
How shall I recount all the gifts of Thy grace, O Lord, that I the pitiful one have received? Yet I have reduced them all to nothing by my apathy -- and I continue on in this manner. Thou has bestowed upon me thousands of gifts, yet miserable me, I offer in return things repulsive to Thee.
Yet Thou, O Lord, inasmuch as Thou containest a sea of longsuffering and an abyss of kindness, do not allow me to be felled as a fruitless fig tree; and do not let me be burned without having ripened on the field of life. Snatch me not away unprepared; seize not me who have not yet lit my lamp; take not away me who have no wedding garment; but, because Thou art good and the lover of mankind, have mercy on me. Give me time to repent, and place not my soul stripped naked before Thy terrible and unwavering throne as a pitiful spectacle of infamy.
If a righteous man can barely be saved, then where will I end up, I who am lawless and sinful? If the path that leads to life is strait and narrow, then how can I be vouchsafed such good things, I who live a life of luxury, indulging in my own pleasures and dissipation? But Thou, O Lord, my Saviour, Son of the true God, as Thou knowest and desirest it, by Thy grace alone, freely turn me away from the sin that abides in me and save me from ruin.

From A Spiritual Psalter by our Holy Father St Ephraim of Edessa, the Syrian; excerpted and arranged by Bishop Theophan the Recluse according to the manner of the psalter of the Old Testament.

Elder Paisios-Give Not That Which is Holy Unto The Dogs!


When people bring you a sick person's clothing to place on the holy Relics to be sanctified,be careful to take only an undershirt and not other underclothing;it is inappropriate and impious.The sun, of course,cannot be polluted,nor is God polluted;but we can become possessed by the evil one through our lack of devoutness.

In the past,when people got sick,they would take a little oil from the vigil oil-lamp,rub it on their bodies and they would get well.Now the vigil lamp is kept only as a formality,just to provide some light,and the oil,when they clean the vessel,is poured into the sink!.Once I went to a home,and saw the lady of the house washing the vigil lamp,and I asked her,"Were does the water from the sink go?""Into the sewage system,"she answered.And I had to ask her,"How is it that you take oil from the vigil lamp to bless your child when it is sick,and now you pour the remains of oil into the sewage system in order to clean the lamp?How can you justify this?How can you expect God's blessing to come to your home?"In Today's home there is no place to put a sacred object,eve the little piece of paper in which you may have wrapped the antidoron.

I remember in our home even the water used to wash the dishes did not go into the sewage system;it was disposed of elsewhere,because even the leftover crumbs were considered sacred,since we prayed before and after the meal to bless everything.All of these customs have disappeared today,and for this reason Divine Grace is also missing and people are susceptible to demonic influence.
As much as we can,we must be careful in all things.After Holy Communion or the antidoron or Holy Unction,it is good to wipe our hands with some cotton wet with alcohol and to burn the cotton.When we sweep the Sanctuary,what is gathered should be burned in a clean place or thrown in to the sea,because some pieces of antidoron or even of Holy Communion may have fallen there.Naturally,if the Body and Blood of Holy Communion is dropped on the floor,Christ does not remain there to be stepped upon,but Grace leaves us.Abroad,the Churches don't have separate cisterns for the waters of the proskomide,which go into the drains with the rainwater."We are forbidden to have separate cisterns for such purposes,because they become a breeding ground for bacteria,"they say.While virtually everyone is now filled with bacteria of body and soul,people will still say that bacteria will be formed if a drop of sacred oil is put upon our heads.How then can the blessing of God come upon us?This is where the world's demonism starts from.Fortunately,there are a few devout women,young and old,and the world is saved.

Elder,a lady asked us to paint an Icon of Saint Arsenios to place in her living room.

-Will she have only Icons there?Won't she have other paintings,pictures and so on?Won't they also smoke there?It would be better to put it in another room with the other Icons and go there to pray.I went to a home once where the Icons had been placed below the stairs,even though they had plenty of better places to put them.In another home,the Icons had been placed in front of the waste pipe.And i asked the lady of the house,"how did you ever think of putting the Icons in this spot?"This is where i am at ease with them," she answered.And it was not even the east side of the house,but the north.How then can the Grace of God come to us?Sacred Scripture says,For whosoever hath,to him shall be given,and he shall have more abundance.But whosoever hath not,from him shall be taken away even that which he hath.(Mt.13;12)We imagine that we have something,and whatever little we might have is taken away from us.
Little by little,devoutness is lost altogether,and this is why the evil things we see are occurring.If one is not careful,one can even become possessed by the devil.There was a woman-God grant her forgiveness for she is gone now-who had been possessed,because she poured the Holy water down the drain.She had a small amount of Holy water in a bottle and she thought,"It must  be stale by now;I'll pour it out,and use the bottle for some other need."She poured out the Holy water and washed out the bottle,because a tiny piece of sweet basil had remained in the bottle.After that she became possessed.Grace had abandoned her,for Grace cannot remain with a person who is devoid of any devoutness.

-Elder,what if someone pours out some Holy water by mistake?

-If the same person had put the Holy water in a cabinet, and had forgotten about it and poured it out by mistake,then he bears partial responsibility for the sin.But if another person had placed the Holy Water in the cabinet,and th one who poured it out did not know that it was Holy water,then he bears no responsibility.
If a person has no reverence and does not respect all sacred matters,how can Divine Grace approach him?Grace will go to those who honour it."Do not give what is Holy to the Dogs,"says the Sacred Scripture.If there is no spiritual sensitivity,there cannot be any progress.
On the holy mountain,someone took pews out of a chapel and put them in his.Another took the tiles from the roof of another Chapel and used them for his veranda.When it rained,the water came into the sanctuary and fell on the Holy Altar.I went in once and what did I see?The chapel had been consecrated,and at the center of the Holy Altar there was a Holy Relic, a Vertebra.I picked it up and washed it at the Holy water cistern.Later,I went and talked to them:"What are you doing?The Chapel is consecrated,and you've removed the roof tiles letting the water fall upon the Holy Altar!"They later went with a roofer and somewhat repaired it.

In another place,boards were removed from the Sanctuary to make a boat dock.A Storm came and washed away the boards and the cement.And people do not understand that all these things are so irreverent.I remember in Konitsa there was a grand father who would chase away the children who scratched the walls of the Church;he considered this to be irreverent.And now look at what is happening around us!

Taken from ELDER PAISIOS OF MOUNT ATHOS,Spiritual Counsels vol 2 "Spiritual Awakening"
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