Tuesday, 9 October 2012


Elder Ephraim of Arizona (Philotheou)-On Watchfulness, Prayer and Confession


A Homily by Elder Ephraim of Philotheou

 My beloved children, 

Today we will say a few things about the great virtue of watchfulness.

As you know, watchfulness is a patristic teaching, it is the experience of the great neptic fathers of the Church and of the desert. The word “nepsis” comes from “nepho,” which means to be sleepless, to guard, to inspect, examine, watch over, keep under surveillance. All these things the fathers sum up in one continuous attention to the nous.
Watchfulness is described as the axe which shatters the large trees, hitting their roots. And when the root is struck, it doesn’t spring up again. Thus also when the nous of the man, of the Christian, has heed for the soul, it keeps watch over the heart and the five senses of the soul, the bodily as well as the spiritual. When the nous is awake, when it is attentive, when it keeps watch over the speculations, the thoughts, when it controls the imagination, then the whole man, body and soul, is kept pure. And when the man is rendered pure through watchfulness and spiritual works, his prayers have boldness before God, they cross the sky, they go beyond the stars, they pass through the heavens and draw near to the Divine Throne of Grace, where the blessings of God are granted. And this being the case, the man at prayer is enriched by the grace of God.
The neptic fathers tell us that one of our thoughts may rise to heaven and another may descend to hell. “By our thoughts we are improved or defiled.” In other words, a thought which may inattentively attack us, may pollute us, may pleasure us, and is able to render us worthy of hell. A heavenly thought, a thought of self-denial, a brave thought a thought of prayer and the vision of God, makes us worthy to draw near the Divine throne and to taste of heavenly things. By the thoughts either we will become unclean or we will become better. The beginning of sins starts with the thoughts.
The thoughts come from the five senses, the spiritual as well as the physical. When we allow the sense of sight to be uncontrolled and it carelessly sees anything, this carelessness will become no end of dirty and sinful images. Since these images are placed in the imagination, afterwards they drip the poison of sinful pleasure inside the heart of man. This pleasure is the poison, by which the heart is polluted and then becomes unclean and guilty before the unsleeping eye of God.
Just like the sense of sight, so it is also of touch, and also of taste and hearing and of smell. And so the five senses create analogous sinful images, which render the man unclean before the face of God. Here rests the entire philosophy of the spirit.
All sermons are beneficial, exactly because when a tree which is diseased is pruned, it is cleansed, and thus the word of God helps in the reduction of a passion. However, the teaching of the Fathers concerning watchfulness radically effects the cleansing from the passions. When the mattock, when the axe strikes the root, the entire tree falls down, it withers and is finished. So also when watchfulness takes a place in the life of the Christian, a tree of passion falls, it withers and thus in time, the old man, the man of sin and of passion, the earthly Adam is freed and he becomes “a new man.” For this reason, the neptic work frees us radically from evil. Here then we must give heed to our life. If we want to cleanse ourselves, we should make sure to enrich our nous by the application of watchfulness.
A part of watchfulness is also noetic prayer. The vision of God is another part of watchfulness. Spiritual warfare is also another part. All these parts, when they are united in an effort of man, in time bring about holiness.
Abba Paphnoutios, a great desert father, was going along one day on his way and there he saw two men committing some sin. The thought of his passion said: “Look what great evil they are doing!” The eye saw them and immediately the thought flared up, trying thereby to attack the purity of the Saint’s soul by judging the brother or also by his being tempted. Having watchfulness, however, he was being vigilant, immediately his mind was enlightened and he said to his thought, “They are sinning today, I will sin tomorrow. They will repent, but I know myself to be a hard man, unrepentant, egotistical, and thus, I won’t repent. I will be punished since I am worse than these two. And what do I have to do about these careless sinners, since I am a much greater sinner and more passionate?” And speaking in this manner and putting a lock on the provocation of sin, he was saved and didn’t judge the brothers who were sinning.
He didn’t go very far and an Angel of God appeared before him having a double-edged cutlass dripping blood; in other words, a knife which had cut from both sides and he says to him:
“Paphnoutios, you see this knife? Do you see that it is dripping blood?”
“I see it Angel of God.”
“With this knife I kill by taking the heads of the ones who judge their neighbors. And since you didn’t judge, you didn’t condemn those who were in fact sinning—not imagining or guessing that they were sinners, but seeing them sin with your own eyes—but you condemned yourself more, for this reason your name has been written in the book of eternal life.”
Success. His name is written in eternal life, because he didn’t judge the sinners, he didn’t condemn the sin of his brother. He would have judged if he hadn’t had watchfulness, if he hadn’t been vigilant noetically in guarding his soul. Do you see what good attention he produced? And do you see what harm he would have suffered, if he had been inattentive to the thought and allowed it to work within him! But his thought said that they were in fact sinning, he saw them. In spite of these things, however, even though the thought was spoken to him, the correct thought triumphed and thereby he escaped the shipwreck of his soul.
All of the passions have their own images, their own fantasies and their own pleasures. Murder has one image and another pleasure, gluttony has another and so many other sinful passions have others. All of the pleasures are otherwise poisons which bring about the death of the soul. We must take as our view that, if we want to clean the “inside of the cup,” the interior of the soul, our heart, this center of man, we must strive to keep watchful. We should take care to become better, that is, we should be vigilant to always have our hand on the trigger. With the first appearance of the enemy, we should shoot. As soon as an evil thought comes to us, immediately knock it down. A dirty image comes, immediately spoil it. We shouldn’t allow it to become more vivid in colors and in appearance, because thereby we will come to immediate difficulty. When the evil is struck at the root, it is impossible to sprout and to increase. When this struggle comes about with diligence, we will cleanse our soul and thereby we will be found clean and with boldness before God.
A pagan priest asked some monks:
“Does your God appear to you? Do you see Him? Does he speak to you?
The fathers said:
The pagan says:
“If he doesn’t speak to you and doesn’t appear to you, this means that you don’t have pure thoughts. When I pray, my God answers me.
Naturally, God didn’t answer the pagan, the demons answered him, but nevertheless the fathers took it as an occasion of benefit and said:
“Indeed, the impure thoughts prevent man from communicating with God.”
Watchfulness does nothing less than cleanse the nous and the heart from every impurity. For this reason, with a little ascetical toil, watchfulness brings about the greatest spiritual results. When we strive ascetically and aren’t mindful of our thoughts, we accomplish nothing.
The Sacred Chrysostomos wrote many chapters about prayer and about wakefulness. And in the midst of them he says something very beautiful: “Prayer,” he says, “is enlightenment of the soul, true consciousness of God, a mediator between God and man, a physician of the passions, an antidote against diseases, medicine against every illness, tranquility of the soul, a guide which carries us to heaven, which doesn’t revolve around the earth, which marches towards the apse of heaven. It passes over the buildings, it passes mentally through the air, it walks above the air, it passes over the whole of the stars, it opens the gates of heaven, it surpasses the angels, it transcends the Thrones and Principalities, it passes over the Cherubim and when it has passed through all of the foundation of nature, it comes near to the unapproachable Trinity. There it worships the Divinity. There it is made worthy to become an interlocutor in the Heavenly Kingdom. Through this (the prayer), the soul, which is lifted up in the air to the heavens, embraces the Lord in an inexpressible manner, exactly as the baby embraces its mother and with tears cries loudly, desiring the enjoyment of divine milk. But it seeks the things which are necessary and receives a gift superior to all visible nature.
Prayer is our venerable representative. It gladdens the heart. It gives rest to the soul. It creates within us the fear of the punishment of hell, the desire for the Kingdom of Heaven. It teaches humility, it grants awareness of sin and in general it adorns man with every good thing, like a robe adorned with all the virtues which enfolds the soul. It brought a gift to Anna, Samuel, and it made known that Prophet of the Lord. This prayer also made Elias a zealot of the Lord. And it became a guide for the descent of the heavenly fire for the sacrifice. For while the priest of Baal was calling all day long to the idol, he, after he lifted up his voice which came from his pure heart and cried out through his mouth and his soul, the fire came down from heaven as a sign of the righteousness of his prayer. Since he was standing like an eagle over the altar with his fierce nature, he offered everything as a sacrifice. But the great servant of God, the zealot Elias, did this, as all that happened then, teaching us by the spirit, that we also crying loudly from the depths of our soul to God, should move the ineffable fire of the Holy Spirit to come down to the altar of our heart and to offer ourselves fully as a sacrifice to God.”
All of the great fathers of the Church, especially the fathers of the desert, succeeded in becoming worthy of great gifts exclusively and only with watchfulness and vision of God [theoria]. Keeping vigil all night and coming to the vision of the Light of God.
We have St. Gregory Palamas, the instructor of the desert, the instructor of neptic activity, the teacher of noetic prayer. This saint would remain enclosed in his cell for the entire week. He didn’t go outside at all. There on his knees and with hands upraised, he was vigilant about his nous and his heart and he received heavenly theology [literally “theology from above”—trans.] by the Holy Spirit. The theology which made known the Uncreated Light of the Divine Glory, of the Divine Nature.
The Uncreated Light is the glory of the Divine Nature. There was the goal and the conclusion of asceticism and of prayer. When the saints received this Light, they became all Light. And since the light floods the nous and the heart, how could they know less than the mysteries of the secrets which are known only to the angels? Through watchfulness the fathers attained to the pinnacle of the virtues and of the graces.
And we, if we are watchful, if we pray, even if we are in the world, and even if we don’t attain to similar states, no matter what, we will attain to a condition of purity. When we succeed by watchfulness in not judging our brother, this is no small achievement. We put into practice the commandment of our Christ, which is as follows: “Do not judge, that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you shall be judged, and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-2).
It is the commandment of Christ. It is not the commandment of some Saint. It is God’s. And therefore we have put into practice a Divine commandment. When we do not judge, we will not be judged. Judge, and we will be judged. Sin is widespread. Wherever we turn our eyes and our imagination, we recognize the errors of men. Therefore, if we are inattentive, without watchfulness, we will always be found in the error of violation of this evangelical commandment of not judging our neighbor.
There was a monk in some monastery. The tempter had conquered him in negligence. He didn’t do his canon, he didn’t got to church, he didn’t do his rule of prayer, and thus the fathers didn’t know him and regarded him as negligent. The hour of death came and the fathers drew near him to see something, which perhaps God would show, in order that they may be benefited. Drawing near to the dying negligent monk, the fathers saw that he was very joyful. They were perplexed and they said in their thoughts: “Look, why is he peaceful? The negligence which he had in his life doesn’t worry him? What happened to the debts which have been gathered because of sloth? His conscience doesn’t rebel? It doesn’t make him worry? He doesn’t despair?” He continued to be joyful. They compelled him to answer their question:
“Forgive us, brother, we see you doing so-so. We know and you know that you lived in negligence and sloth in monastic duties. Now you are heading to the judgement of Christ, and you should be somewhat sorry, worried, etc. But we see you otherwise, joyful, peaceful, with hope and we question; what supports this condition of yours?”
He answered them and said:
“You are right, my fathers, that’s how it is. I was negligent and didn’t do what you did, but one thing I guarded in my life: not to judge my brother. I read in the Holy Gospel, where the Lord says that the one who does not judge, will not be judged. Thus I tried, at least, not to judge. And I hope in the mercy of God that I will not be judged. For this reason I am departing with faith that God will apply his word.”
The fathers looked into it among themselves and said that in fact the brother was very clever and masterfully gained his salvation.
If we are watchful, we will not criticize. For with the offense of judging, immediately watchfulness will set up a barrier and the thought of judgement will be prevented from continuing. Then will happen what took place with Abba Paphnutios. And so we will escape from the sin of judging and of criticism of the tongue and our names will be written in eternal life. A man who keeps his tongue pure, both inner and outer, that is to say, the inner thought and the tongue, and does this in the knowledge of God, this is a guarantee that he is saved.
This spiritual attention becomes light and as light, illumines the path. And an illumined path of watchfulness is also a path to sacred confession. The attention illumines it, which urges the man to settle his account with God. And he is guided by the light of watchfulness to this great mystery and there he deposits the entire debt, all the uncleanness of sins. He enters into this bath and he comes out entirely clean. And I say that we must have much joy in our souls when we are accounted worthy to come into this bath. We must celebrate and thank the Lord who allowed this bath on earth, who allowed this authority of “binding and loosing.” Whatever things your spiritual father looses, God also looses. Whatever the representative of God forgives, the Lord also forgives.
And when the man has been judged here below, he is not judged above in the great and fearsome judgement. It is a great occasion if the man arrives as far as that. For this reason, all those who have been accounted worthy of this bath and continuously cleanse every soiling of the soul with this spiritual bath of the mystery of God, should have very great joy, because the door of Paradise will always be open. And even if death follows, there is no anxiety. “He is prepared and not disturbed.” When the man is prepared, he is not disturbed at the approach of death. He knows that it is not possible for the word of God, which gave this authority, to be wrong. We experience it as a mystery of the Church and we see it in action and in application. When the man makes sacred confession with ardent desire, with humility, and with awareness, he feels the happiness within his soul, the lightness and the elation. A vivid proof that his sins have been forgiven. And when sins are forgiven, then every anxious and uncertain fear about the next life is removed.
Our thanks to God must be unceasing. Our thanksgiving must never stop, because we are made worthy every time we want to receive this cleansing, and every time we feel a sin, immediately turn the mind to God. “I have sinned Lord, forgive me.” With this “I have sinned Lord, forgive me,” God answers: “My child, you are forgiven; the power of the law is remitted. Proceed to the application of the law.” And the application is beneath the petraheli (stole). There all the sinfulness of man is ended. Forgiveness is so easy! It is very wrong for man, when this forgiveness is so easy and so free, because of his egoism not to want to receive it, not to want to open the doors of paradise and walk eternally in the glory of God!
Many men say: “Man should call upon God because of one sin?” But this thing is wrong. Where is the love of God? Isn’t God a father?” Yes, he is a father, but when every good moment comes for him to forgive you, why do you turn your back? Why do you not receive His mercy? Why do you refuse His embrace and go far away? Why do you accept the embrace of the devil and not of God? Perhaps your god seeks money or possessions or favors and you don’t have all these things and for this reason you don’t come to let go of your debt? No.
God is very rich, as we see also in the parable of the prodigal. The prodigal wanted to depart far away. He demanded that part of the possessions which belonged to him. And God gave him what he was owed as physical gifts. He didn’t deprive him of them. However, he squandered these gifts, the spiritual possessions, living prodigally. And when he arrived at the wretched end, he came to his senses, he came to himself. For he was not himself when all the prodigality reigned. And when he came to himself he said: “How many serve my father and they enjoy the good things of His possessions, and I His child, par excellence His child, am in such misery that I graze pigs and am allotted husks! I will return; He is a Father, He will receive me. I will ask forgiveness and will say to him, do not receive me as Your child, neither restore me to the first adoption, but I will ask him to become one of His servants. And this will be a great thing.”
When he thought these things, already the Father came out from His house and waited for him with open arms. He accepted him with all his heart and all his soul. He embraced him, he kissed him, he wept from joy, because he was dead and he was restored to life, he was lost and was found. He made him His child again with all of the wealth. He forgave everything. He cleansed him of every filth. He clothed him in the original garments. In the end, he gave him everything.
The Heavenly Father also does this when one who is a sinner returns to Him. He cleanses him, washes him, he gives the original garments of baptism, he gives him sonship and makes him worthy of His Kingdom. Everything free. When the prodigal returned, he didn’t seek an account, neither did he rebuke him nor did he seek to blame him. He begins where he returned; this was sufficient for the Father. Only to say “sinner,” to leave his sins with humility, to understand his mistakes and from then on everything is loosed. But the sinful man doesn’t do this. He doesn’t return, he isn’t humbled. He holds on to his egoism. The important thing is to get to the confessional! It’s two steps. And from then on everything is finished. Yet the tears of egoism hold him. And when he comes to the hour of death and the reality of it, then he will repent and he will be remorseful, but he will be too late. In this, God respects the one who doesn’t want to humble his spirit a little.
As for Lucifer, this great battalion commander, who was in the first place of the angelic hosts, what was the cause of the fall? What was the cause of the collapse, of the transformation from angels to demons? Pride and egoism. The error came from these. And as with the angels, so also with our forebears. The fall of our forebears came about from pride and egoism. Because, before God accomplished the verdict of guilt, he approached the man Adam and said to him: ”Adam, why did you do this?’ Adam didn’t seek forgiveness, he didn’t say: “God forbid, I was wrong.” If he had done this, he wouldn’t have been turned out from Paradise and neither would we have all this banishment and suffering today. By not saying “God forbid” all this mob of evil came about. And thus now man doesn’t say “God forbid” and remains in his evil. But just say it, O God stretch out the arms of forgiveness, and he takes him in.
And again I say that because we have been made worthy to know as Orthodox Christians this mystery of sacred confession, we should have very great joy, because even if any time we fall down in some sin, into something evil, we can run immediately to correct it and to preserve the health of our souls. And when death comes, we will go to meet the Lord, cleansed, repentant, as prodigal sons returned, for our Heavenly Father accepts us and places us in the Paradise of eternal bliss which has no end, which has no conclusion to that bliss, which cannot be compared to anything earthly.
And even the Apostle Paul, who went up to the third heaven and saw the eternal good things, nevertheless was unable with his apostolic and graceful tongue to express with human words, the things of Paradise and the life above! So inexpressible is the happiness of the attainment through sacred confession.
Therefore with much yearning, with much love, with much awareness we should run to be cleansed, to be made ready and when death follows, to depart in peace. Amen.

Translated from the Greek by Fr. Seraphim Bell, pastor of St. Silouan the Athonite Orthodox Church in Walla Walla, WA. This was Homily 12 from The Art of Salvation [in Greek], Vol A.

Αγ. Γρηγόριος ο Θεολόγος-Συμβουλές για έναν πετυχημένο γάμο..

Ο άγιος Γρηγόριος ο Θεολόγος έστειλε σε μια πνευματική του θυγατέρα, (την Ολυμπιάδα), την κατωτέρω επιστολή σα «δώρο» για τον γάμο της, που μόλις τέλεσε.
Η κατωτέρω επιστολή έχει βάθος Θεολογίας και ψυχολογίας. Και πάνω απ’ όλα δίνει στη σύζυγο πολύτιμες συμβουλές για έναν πετυχημένο γάμο. Γράφει (Μετάφραση υπό κ. Αθηνάς Α. Καραμπέτσου, φιλολόγου, βλ. “Ορθόδοξος Τύπος”, φ. 31.3.2000, σελ. 3):
«Κόρη μου, στους γάμους σου εγώ ο πνευματικός σου πατέρας, ο Γρηγόριος, σου κάνω δώρο τούτο το ποίημα. Και είναι ό,τι καλλίτερο η συμβουλή του πατέρα.
Άκου λοιπόν Ολυμπιάδα μου:
1. Ξέρω ότι θέλεις να είσαι πραγματική χριστιανή. Και μια πραγματική χριστιανή πρέπει όχι μόνο να είναι, αλλά και να φαίνεται. Γι αυτό, σε παρακαλώ, να προσέξεις την εξωτερική σου εμφάνιση. Να είσαι απλή. Το χρυσάφι, δεμένο σε πολύτιμες πέτρες, δεν στολίζει γυναίκες σαν και σένα. Πολύ περισσότερο το βάψιμο. Δεν ταιριάζει στο πρόσωπό σου, την εικόνα του Θεού, να την παραποιής και να την αλλάζεις, μόνο και μόνο για να αρέσεις. Ξέρε το ότι αυτό είναι φιλαρέσκεια και να μένεις απλή στην εμφάνιση. Τα βαρύτιμα και πολυτελή φορέματα, ας τα φορούν εκείνες, που δεν επιθυμούν ανώτερη ζωή, που δεν ξέρουν τι θα πει πνευματική ακτινοβολία. Εσύ, όμως έβαλες μεγάλους και υψηλούς στόχους στη ζωή σου. Κι αυτοί οι στόχοι σου ζητούν όλη τη φροντίδα κι όλη την προσοχή. (…)
2. Με το γάμο, η στοργή και η αγάπη σου να είναι φλογερή και αμείωτη για κείνον, που σου δώσε ο Θεός. Για κείνον, πού ‘γινε το μάτι της ζωής σου και σου ευφραίνει την καρδιά. Κι αν κατάλαβες πως ο άνδρας σου σε αγαπάει περισσότερο απ’ όσο τον αγαπάς εσύ, μη κυττάξης να του πάρεις τον αέρα, κράτα πάντα τη θέση που σου ορίζει το Ευαγγέλιο.
3. Εσύ να ξέρεις ότι είσαι γυναίκα, έχεις μεγάλο προορισμό, αλλά διαφορετικό από τον άνδρα, που πρέπει να είναι η κεφαλή. Άσε την ανόητη ισότητα των δύο φύλων και προσπάθησε να καταλάβης τα καθήκοντα του γάμου. Στην εφαρμογή τους θα δεις πόση αντοχή χρειάζεται για ν’ ανταποκριθείς, όπως πρέπει, σ’ αυτά τα καθήκοντα, αλλά και πόση δύναμη κρύβεται στο ασθενές φύλο.
4. Θα ξερής, πόσο εύκολα θυμώνουν οι άνδρες. Είναι ασυγκράτητοι και μοιάζουν με λιοντάρια. Σ’ αυτό το σημείο η γυναίκα πρέπει να είναι δυνατότερη και ανώτερη. Πρέπει να παίζη το ρόλο του θηριοδαμαστή. Τι κάνει ο θηριοδαμαστής όταν βρυχάται το θηρίο; Γίνεται περισσότερο ήρεμος και με την καλωσύνη καταπραΰνει την οργή. Του μιλάει γλυκά και μαλακά, το χαϊδεύει, το περιποιείται και πάλι το χαϊδεύει κι έτσι το καταπραΰνει (…)
5. Ποτέ μη κατηγορήσης και αποπάρης τον άνδρα σου για κάτι που έκανε στραβό. Ούτε πάλι για την αδράνειά του, έστω κι αν το αποτέλεσμα δεν είναι αυτό που ήθελες εσύ. Γιατί ο διάβολος είναι αυτός, που μπαίνει εμπόδιο στην ομοψυχία των συζύγων (…)
6. Να έχετε κοινά τα πάντα και τις χαρές και τις λύπες. Γιατί ο γάμος όλα σας τα έκανε κοινά. Κοινές και οι φροντίδες, γιατί έτσι το σπίτι θα στεριώση. Να συμβάλλης εκφράζοντας τη γνώμη σου, ο άνδρας όμως ας αποφασίζη.
7. Όταν τον βλέπης λυπημένο, συμμερίσου τη λύπη του εκείνη την ώρα. Γιατί είναι μεγάλη ανακούφιση στη λύπη, η λύπη των φίλων. Όμως αμέσως να ξαστεριάζη η όψη σου και νά σαι ήρεμη χωρίς αγωνία. Η γυναίκα είναι το ακύμαντο λιμάνι για το θαλασσοδαρμένο σύζυγο.
8. Να ξέρης ότι η παρουσία σου στο σπίτι σου είναι αναντικατάστατη, γι’ αυτό πρέπει να το αγαπήσης μ’ όλες τις φροντίδες του νοικοκυριού. Να το βλέπης σαν βασίλειό σου,’και να μη συχνοβγαίνης από το κατώφλι σου. Άφησε τις έξω δουλειές για τον άνδρα.
9. Πρόσεχε τις συναναστροφές σου. Πρόσεξε τις συγκεντρώσεις, που πηγαίνεις. Μη πας σε άπρεπες συγκεντρώσεις, γιατί είναι μεγάλος κίνδυνος για την αγνότητά σου. Αυτές οι συναναστροφές αφαιρούν την ντροπή κι απ΄ τις ντροπαλές, σμίγουν μάτια με μάτια, κι όταν φύγη η ντροπή γεννιούνται όλα τα χειρότερα κακά («αιδώς οιχομένη, πάντων γενέτειρα κακίστων»). Τις σοβαρές όμως συγκεντρώσεις με συνετούς φίλους να τις επιζητής, για να εντυπώνεται στο νου σου ένας καλός λόγος, ή κάποιο ελάττωμα να κόψης ή να καλλιεργήσης τους δεσμούς σου με εκλεκτές ψυχές.
Μη εμφανίζεσαι ανεξέλεγκτα σε οποιονδήποτε, αλλά στους σώφρονες συγγενείς σου, στους ιερείς και σε σοβαρούς νεώτερους ή ηλικιωμένους.
Μη συναναστρέφεσαι φαντασμένες γυναίκες, που έχουν στο νου τους στο έξω, για επίδειξη. Ούτε ακόμα άνδρες ευσεβείς, που ο σύζυγός σου δεν θέλει στο σπίτι, αν και συ τόσο πολύ τους εκτιμάς. Υπάρχει για σένα πιο ακριβό πράγμα από τον καλό σου σύζυγο, που τόσο αγαπάς;
10. Επαινώ τις γυναίκες, που δεν τις ξέρουν οι πολλοί άνδρες. Μη τρέχης σε τραπέζια κοσμικά και ας είναι για γάμο ή για γενέθλια. Εκεί ανάβουν άνομοι πόθοι, με τους χορούς, τους πήδους και τα γέλια, την ψεύτικη ευχαρίστηση, που παραπλανεύουν ακόμη και τους αγνούς και σώφρονες. Και η αγνότητα είναι τόσο λεπτό πράγμα! Σαν το κερί στις ακτίνες του ήλιου! Απόφευγε ακόμα και στο σπίτι σου τα κοσμικά τραπέζια. Αν μπορούσαμε να περιορίσουμε τις ορέξεις της κοιλιάς, θα κυριαρχούσαμε στα πάθη μας.
11. Κράτα την μορφή σου γαλήνια και μη την αλλοιώνης ούτε με μορφασμούς, όταν είσαι θυμωμένη. Στολίδια τ’ αυτιά νάχουν όχι μαργαριτάρια, αλλά ν΄ ακούν καλά λόγια και να βάζουν για τα άσχημα λουκέτο στο νου. Έτσι, είτε κλειστά είναι, είτε ανοιχτά, η ακοή θα μένη αγνή.
12. Όσο για τα μάτια, είναι κείνα, που δείχνουν όλο το εσωτερικό της ψυχής. Ας σταλάζη αγνό κοκκίνισμα η παρθενική ντροπή κάτω από τα βλέφαρά σου και ας προκαλή τη σεμνότητα και την αγνή ντροπή σε όσους σε βλέπουν και σ’ αυτόν ακόμα το σύζυγό σου. Είναι πολλές φορές προτιμότερο, για πολλά πράγματα, να κρατάς κλειστά τα μάτια, χαμηλώνοντας το βλέμμα.
13. Και τώρα στη γλώσσα. Θάχης πάντα εχθρό τον άνδρα σου, αν έχης γλώσσα αχαλίνωτη, έστω κι αν έχης χίλια άλλα χαρίσματα. Γλώσσα ανόητη βάζει, πολλές φορές, σε κίνδυνο και τους αθώους. Προτίμα κι όταν ακόμα έχης δίκιο, τη σιωπή. Είναι προτιμότερη για να μη ριχοκινδυνεύσης να πης ένα άτοπο λόγο. Κι αν έχης την επιθυμία να λες πολλά, το καλλίτερο είναι να σωπαίνης.
Πρόσεχε ακόμα και το βάδισμά σου. Μετράει στη σωφροσύνη.
14. Και τούτο πρόσεξε και άκουσε: Μην έχης αδάμαστη σαρκική ορμή. Πείσε και τον άνδρα σου να σέβεται τις ιερές ημέρες. Γιατί οι νόμοι του Θεού είναι ανώτεροι από την εικόνα του Θεού. (…)
15. Αν από μένα τον γέροντα πήρες κάποιο λόγο πνευματικό, σου συνιστώ να τον φυλάξης στα βάθη της ψυχής σου. Έτσι με ότι πήρες από αυτά που άκουσες και με την ηθική σου ανωτερότητα, θα θεραπεύσης τον εξαίρετο σύζυγό σου και περίφημο πολιτικό άνδρα από την υπερηφάνεια.
16. Αυτό τώρα το παρόν δώρο, κειμήλιο σου προσφέρω. Αν θέλης πάλι να σου ευχηθώ και το καλλίτερο, σου εύχομαι να γίνης αμπέλι πολύκαρπο, με τέκνα τέκνων, για να δοξάζεται από περισσότερους ο Θεός, για τον οποίον γεννιόμαστε και προς τον Οποίον πρέπει απ’ αυτή τη ζωή να οδεύουμε».

Άγιος Νικόδημος ο Αγιορείτης- Η απάτη που χρησιμοποιεί ο εχθρός..

       Άγιος Νικόδημος ο Αγιορείτης
Η απάτη που χρησιμοποιεί ο εχθρός, για εκείνους που νομίζουν ότι βαδίζουν στην τελειότητα.
Όταν ο εχθρός δεν μπορή να νικήση ούτε αυτούς που έχουν εξαρτηθή από την αμαρτία, ούτε αυτούς που ζητάνε να ελευθερωθούν από αυτήν, όπως παραπάνω είπαμε, τότε τρέχει ο πονηρός στους ενάρετους και πολεμάει σαν πανούργος να τους κάνη να λησμονήσουν τους εχθρούς, που είναι κοντά τους και έμπρακτα τους πολεμούν και τους βλάπτουν, να επιθυμούν όμως και να φαντάζωνται πάνω από την δύναμί τους τα υψηλά και μεγάλα (67) και πριν από τον κατάλληλο καιρό να έχουν αποφασιστικούς σκοπούς, για να φθάσουν στην τελειότητα. Αυτό έχει ως αποτέλεσμα το να μη φροντίζουν αυτοί για τις πληγές, με τις οποίες είναι πληγωμένοι, αλλά, νομίζοντας αυτές τις επιθυμίες και αποφάσεις της τελειότητας σαν να ήταν έργα και πράγματα, υπερηφανεύονται με διαφόρους τρόπους. Οπότε, μη θέλοντας να υποφέρουν στην πράξι κάτι το αντίθετο, ούτε το παραμικρό εμπόδιο ή ένα μικρό λόγο, χάνουν μετά από αυτό τον καιρό τους σε μεγάλες μελέτες αποφάσεων, αποφασίζοντας δηλαδή με το νού τους, να υποφέρουν μεγάλες δοκιμασίες για την αγάπη του Θεού. Και επειδή, όταν παίρνουν τις φαντασμένες αυτές αποφάσεις, δεν αισθάνονται καμμία θλίψι και αντίθεσι στο σώμα τους, γι αυτό νομίζουν οι ταλαίπωροι ότι βρίσκονται στο ύψος εκείνων των εναρέτων, που υποφέρουν μεγάλες δοκιμασίες έμπρακτα. Και δεν γνωρίζουν, Πως άλλα είναι τα λόγια και οι αποφάσεις και άλλα είναι τα έργα και η πραγματικότητα.

Λοιπόν, αν θέλης να αποφύγης, αδελφέ, αυτή την απάτη, αποφάσισε να πολεμάς με τους εχθρούς, που σε πολεμούν πραγματικά και από κοντά και έτσι θα γνωρίσης φανερά, αν οι αποφάσεις που παίρνεις, είναι αληθινές ή ψεύτικες· δυνατές ή αδύνατες· και έτσι θα βαδίσης στην αρετή και την τελειότητα, μέσα από τον δοκιμασμένο ασφαλή και βασιλικό δρόμο.

Εναντίον των εχθρών εκείνων, που δεν σε ενοχλούν προς το παρόν, δεν σε συμβουλεύω να κάνης πόλεμο, πάρα μόνο όταν πιθανά αντιληφθής ότι με την πάροδο του χρόνου θα σε πολεμήσουν. Γιατί με την πρόγνωσι και την προμελέτη μπορείς να προετοιμασθής με γενναίες αποφάσεις για να αντισταθής· και όταν έρθουν, μένουν άπρακτοι, αφού σε βρίσκουν προετοιμασμένο. Γι αυτό μη νομίσης ποτέ ότι οι αποφάσεις σου Πως να έγιναν και έργα και πράξεις κι αν ακόμη εξασκήθηκες στις αρετές για λίγο χρόνο με τους κατάλληλους τρόπους· αλλά σε αυτά ας είσαι ταπεινός και να φοβάσαι τον εαυτό σου και την αδυναμία σου· και ελπίζοντας στο Θεό, τρέξε σε αυτόν με συχνές δεήσεις για να σε δυναμώνη και να σε φυλάη από τους κινδύνους και μάλιστα από κάθε μικρή υπόληψι και ελπίδα του εαυτού σου. Γιατί αν εσύ είσαι κατά αυτό τον τρόπο ταπεινός στον εαυτό σου, πιθανόν να μην είσαι ελεύθερος τελείως από κάποια μικρά ελαττώματα (στα οποία σε αφήνει ο Θεός καμιά φορά για να σε κάνη να γνωρίσης την αδυναμία του εαυτού σου και για να φυλάξη σε σένα κάποιο καλό που έχεις), παρόλα αυτά, σου επιτρέπεται να επιθυμής και να παίρνης μεγάλες αποφάσεις, για να ανέβης σε ψηλότερο βαθμό τελειότητας.

 Πηγή-Άγιος Νικόδημος ο Αγιορείτης,  "ΑΟΡΑΤΟΣ ΠΟΛΕΜΟΣ"  
 Ἀπόδοση στὴ νέα Ἑλληνική: Ἱερομόναχος Βενέδικτος
Ἔκδοση Συνοδείας Σπυρίδωνος Ἱερομονάχου, Νέα Σκήτη, Ἅγιον Ὄρος

Γερόντισσα Γαβριηλία-ΑΓΑΠΑ ΚΑΙ ΚΑΝΕ ΟΤΙ ΘΕΣ

 - Αδελφή μου, ποιος είναι ο προορισμός του Ανθρώπου;
- Ο προορισμός του Ανθρώπου;…. «Εντολήν καινήν δίδωμι υμίν ίνα αγαπάτε αλλήλους». Ο προορισμός πάλι είναι η Αγάπη. Τίποτε άλλο. Μην κάνεις τίποτε άλλο… Αλλά τι θα πει Αγάπη; Όταν βλέπεις έναν άνθρωπο, να παύεις να υπάρχεις εσύ, πραγματικά, ως οντότητα, και να μπεις μεσ’ την ψυχή του. Μα είναι κακοποιός… Μα είναι κάτι που δεν το καταλαβαίνεις… Θα μπεις! Γιατί έχει κι αυτός μέσα του την Πνοή του Θεού, τον Σπινθήρα του Χριστού. Και έχει μια καρδιά που χτυπά σαν τη δική σου. Μ’ άλλα λόγια, εσύ ο ίδιος αντικατοπτρίζεσαι μέσα του. Αν δεν το κάνεις αυτό, δεν μπορείς να βοηθήσεις τον άλλο. Και τι ωφελεί να αγαπούμε μόνο τον Θεό με τα χέρια ψηλά προς τον Κύριο, καθέτως, και να μην τ’ ανοίξουμε και οριζοντίως, να πάρουμε όλη την Ανθρωπότητα, εάν είναι δυνατόν, και να γίνει έτσι το σώμα μας το σημείο του Σταυρού;

- …Το σημείο του Σταυρού… Πιάνει τα τέσσερα σημεία του ορίζοντα και μέσα σ’ αυτά, κλείνει όλο τον κόσμο.  - Και ξέρετε μαζί μ’ αυτά τι κλείνει; Τη μεγαλύτερη ευδαιμονία, γαλήνη, ειρήνη, πραότητα. Έλεος και Αγάπη Θεού μεσ’ την καρδιά μας. - Δηλαδή, η δική σας αρχή ποια είναι; - Δεν είναι δική μου. Είναι αυτό που είπε ο Άγιος Αυγουστίνος: «Αγάπα και κάνε ό,τι θέλεις» γιατί άμα αγαπάς, δεν μπορείς να κάνεις κακό!

 Γερόντισσα Γαβριηλία, Η ασκητική της αγάπης, εκδ. Τάλαντο, σ. 66

Ποιός εἶναι ὁ Χριστιανός;

Ὁ Χριστιανός εἶναι ἕνας μικρός Χριστός ἐπάνω στήν γῆ. Ναί! Ὁ Χριστιανός πρέπει νά εἶναι μιά σμικρογραφία τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Ὅπως, ὅταν ἀποσπάσουμε μιά σταγόνα νεροῦ ἀπό τήν θάλασσα, ἔχουμε στά χέρια μας μία σμικρογραφία τῆς θαλάσσης, ἔτσι καί ὅταν ἀποσπάσουμε ἕναν Χριστιανό ἀπό τό μυστικό σῶμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, ἔχουμε μία σμικρογραφία Χριστοῦ.
Γιά νά εἶναι κάθε Χριστιανός ἕνας μικρός Χριστός, ὀφείλει νά ἀποκτήση νοῦ Χριστοῦ, μάτια Χριστοῦ, γλῶσσα Χριστοῦ, χέρια Χριστοῦ, καρδιά Χριστοῦ. Νοῦ Χριστοῦ, πού νά εἶναι πάντα φωτεινός, πού νά μήν φιλοξενῆ σκέψι κακή, νά μήν σκέπτεται καί νά μήν σχεδιάζη τό κακό.
   Μάτια Χριστοῦ, πού νά μήν βλέπουν τήν ματαιότητα τοῦ κόσμου, ἀλλά τήν αἰωνιότητα τοῦ οὐρανοῦ. Μάτια καθαρά, βλέμμα ἁγνό, γεμᾶτο συμπόνια καί καλωσύνη. 
Γλῶσσα Χριστοῦ, πού νά ὑπηρετῆ τήν ἀλήθεια, νά ὑπερασπίζεται τήν δικαιοσύνη καί νά εἶναι ἄγρυπνος φρουρός τῶν δικαιωμάτων τοῦ Θεοῦ.
   Χέρια Χριστοῦ, πού νά μήν διαπράττουν κλοπή, πού νά μήν παλαμίζουν τό Εὐαγγέλιο, νά μή χειροδικοῦν καί καθίστανται δολοφονικά.
   Καρδιά Χριστοῦ, πού νά ἀγαπᾶ χωρίς ὑπολογισμούς. Μιά καρδιά πού νά χωροῦν ἀκόμη καί οἱ πλέον ἄσπονδοι ἐχθροί. Μιά καρδιά, πού νά μή σείεται ἀπ’ τό κακό, πού νά μήν πληγώνεται ἀπό τόν πονηρό· μιά καρδιά γεμάτη ἀπό θεϊκή ἀγάπη. Αὐτός εἶναι ὁ Χριστιανός. Ναί, αὐτό θά πῆ Χριστιανός.
  Πηγή: Ἀπό τό βιβλίο «Γρηγορεῖτε» τοῦ Ἀρχιμ. Θεοφίλου Ζησοπούλου.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...