Tuesday, 6 November 2012

How One Should Pray In Church

Orthodox Christians have received from the Holy Fathers and observe the following practices throughout the world:

     1. Entering the church one makes the sign of the Cross three times, accompanying each with a little bow* and says:
"Thou hast created me, O Lord, have mercy."
"O God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
"Countless times have I sinned, O Lord, forgive me."
     2. Then, having bowed to those on the right and the left, one stands in one's place and listens to the psalms and prayers read in church. One does not say prayers of one's own choosing or read any from prayerbooks, lest one be judged by the holy Apostle Paul for having forsaken the assembly of the Church (Heb. 10:25).      3. Great and little bows should not be made according to one's pleasure but according to the regulations of the holy apostles and fathers, namely: at the Trisagion ("Holy God..."), "O come let us worship," and the threefold "Alleluia," one makes the sign of the Cross three times and three little bows. This is also done during the reading of "Vouchsafe, O Lord," and again at the beginning of the Great Doxology (Glory be to God on high...") and after the priest says, "Glory to Thee, Christ God, our hope." At every exclamation of the priest and also when the reader chants, "More honorable than the Cherubim..." one ought to make the sign of the Cross and a lesser reverence. On ordinary days great bows are made during the Liturgy:
     a) at the beginning of "It is meet and right..."
     b) at the end of "We sing unto Thee..."
     c) at the end of the hymn to the Holy Virgin, "It is meet and right to bless thee..." or its substitute;
     d) at the beginning of the Lord's prayer;
     e) when the Holy Gifts are brought forth for Communion;
     f) at the words "Always, now and ever..."
     At Matins of Vigil a great bow is made at "The Theotokos and Mother of the Light let us magnify..."
     4. On Sundays, from Holy Pascha until Trinity Day, from the Nativity of Christ until Theophany, and on feasts of the Transfiguration and the Elevation of the Holy Cross (on which last only three great bows are made to the Cross), the Holy Apostles utterly forbid kneeling and great bows, concerning which St. Basil the Great wrote to the Blessed Amphylochius. The First and Sixth Ecumenical Councils have also thus ruled, for Sundays and other feasts of the Lord serve as a reminder of our adoption by God, according to the Apostle: "Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son" (Gal. 4:7): for the reverences propoer to servants are not becoming to sons.
     5. Orthodox Christians do not kneel at their own pleasure, but rather at the words of the priest (or deacon), "Again and again on bended kneels..." do they kneel; the customs of kneeling at will and of striking one's breast with the hand come from the Western heretics and are not permitted in the Orthodox Church. Orthodox Christians, in accordance with Church rule, make great bows at the appointed times, bowing to the ground and standing upright immediately.
     6. In church, whenever the faithful are blessed with the Cross or Gospel Book, with an icon or the chalice, they make the sign of the Cross and bow the head. When they are blessed with candles, the hand, or are censed, Orthodox Christians ought not to make the sign of the Cross but only bow the head. However, during the week of Holy Pascha when the priest censes with the Cross, all make the sign of the Cross and answer, "Truly, He is risen!" In this way then ought we to distinguish between the reverences due holy things and those which are due to persons, even if they be of priestly rank.
     7. When receiving a blessing from either a priest or a bishop, a Christian kisses the right hand of him who bestows the blessing and does not make the sign of the Cross. It is not proper to kiss the left hand of clergy, for this is a Jewish usage, but the right hand from which we have received the blessing.
     8. According to the teaching of the Holy Fathers, the sign of the Cross is to be made in the following manner: the thumb and first two fingers of the right hand are joined at their tips and the other fingers folded across the palm. We then touch the forehead, breast, right and left shoulders and make a slight bow. Of those who sign themselves with all five fingers, or who bow before finishing the Cross, or simply wave their hand in the air or before their breast, St. John Chrysostom says: "The devils rejoice at these mad gestures." On the other hand, the sign of the Cross, properly made with faith and reverence, terrifies the devils, lessens the sufferings caused by sins and calls down divine grace.


     1. At the middle of the Hexapsalm, at the triple Alleluia, three times.
     2. At the beginning of the Creed.
     3. At the dismissal -- "Christ our true God..."
     4. At the beginning of a reading from Holy Scripture: Gospel, Apostle or Old Testament Lesson.


     1. When entering or leaving a church -- three times.      2. At every petition of the litanies.
     3. At the exclamation of the priest giving glory to the Holy Trinity.
     4. At the words, "Take, eat..." "Drink ye all of this..." "Thine own of Thine own..." and "Holy Things for the holy!"
     5. At the words, "Higher in honor than the Cherubim..."
     6. At the words, "Let us worship...", "We worship...", "We adore...", and "We fall down before..."
     7. During "Alleluia," "Holy God," "O come, let us worship," and "Glory to Thee, Christ God," before the dismissal the sign of the Cross with the little bow is made three times.
     8. During the first and ninth odes of the canon, at the first refrain to the Lord, the Mother of God or the Saint.
     9. After each stikhira -- at which time the choir which has finished singing makes the sign of the Cross.
   10. During the Litiya, at each of the first three petitions we sign ourselves and bow three times; after the remaining two petitions we sign ourselves and bow once.


     1. During fasts, when entering and leaving church -- three times.      2. During fasts, at each "...we magnify thee" in the refrain to the Canticle of the Mother of God (Magnificat).
     3. At the beginning of "It is meet and right to worship the Father..."
     4. After the "We sing unto Thee..."
     5. After the hymn to the Mother of God or its substitute.
     6. At the exclamation, "And grant us, O Master...", introducing the Lord's Prayer.
     7. When the Holy Gifts are brought forth for Communion and again after Communion.
     8. During the Great Fast at Great Compline during the singing of "Most holy Mother of God..." and at each of its several accompanying petitions; at Vespers, at the end of "Virgin Mother of God rejoice," and the two hymns following.
     9. During fasts at the end of each section of the prayer "O Lord and Master of my life..."
   10. During fasts, at the three concluding petitions -- "Remember me, O Lord, when..."


     At the words:      1. "Peace be to all."
     2. "The blessing of the Lord be upon you..."
     3. "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ..."
     4. "And may the mercies of our great God..."
     5. When the deacon exclaims, "And unto the ages of ages" (after "For Thou art holy, O our God...").


     1. During psalms.      2. Generally, while singing.
     During litanies by the choir which will make the responses.
     Making the sing of the Cross and bows are allowed after singing, not during the concluding words of a given piece.
     Prostrations are not allowed on Sundays; from Nativity through Theophany; from Pascha until Pentecost Sunday; on the feast of the Transfiguration; and on the feast of the Elevation of the Cross (except the three prostrations of the Cross).
     Prostrations cease with the entrance during Vespers of the feast and are not resumed until after "Vouchsafe, O Lord..." during Vespers on the day of the feast itself.

 * In this article the terms poyasny/zemnoy poklon have been translated as little/great bow. The little bow is made by bending from the waist until the fingers of the extended right hand touch the ground; the great bow, by kneeling and touching the forehead to the ground (Trans. note).

Source: Orthodox Life, Volume 26, Number 1 (Jan.-Feb. 1976), pages 24-27.

Why Orthodox Christians Stand During Divine Services

by Rev. G. S. Debolsky

   In performing divine services in a manner like the saints, whom the God-inspired prophets Isaiah, Micah, Daniel and St. John the Theologian saw "standing in the heavens next to the throne of God" (Isaiah 6:2; I Kings 22:19; Daniel 7:10; Apocalypse 7:11), Christians similarly should not sit during divine services, but stand.
     The custom that Orthodox Christians stand during prayer and church services is not only a representation of spiritual service in the Heavenly Church, but also in the Church of the Old Testament.
     In the description of the blessing of Solomon's temple it is said: "The Levites and all the singers, being arrayed in white linen and having cymbals and psalteries and harps stood at the east end of the altar (II Chronicles 5:12); "All the congregation of Israel stood" (II Chronicles) 6:2).
     Another example from the Bible occurs in the description of the reign of Josaphat. In order to protect his homeland from the Ammonites and the children of Moab, he "stood in the congregation of Judah in Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord before the new court. And all Judah stood before the Lord, with their littles ones, their wives, and their children" (II Chronicles 20:5, 13).
     Ezra and Nehemiah, speaking of the services of the Jews after the Babylonian captivity, say: "And they set priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the Lord, after the ordinance of David, King of Israel" (I Ezra 3:10); "And the Levites stood according to their rank and cried with a loud voice unto the Lord their God, and the Levites caused the people to understand the law; and the people stood in their place" (Nehemiah 9:4, 5; 8:7; also Matthew 6:5).
     To stand during prayer was thus a customary rule among the Jews, as is proven in their writings. In the manner of the Heavenly and the Old Testament Church, Orthodox Christians have maintained their custom, since apostolic times, of standing during divine services. The correctness of such a practice is evident from New Testament scripture, where we find the words of Christ: "When ye stand praying" (Mark 9:25), and in apostolic tradition, where it is often proclaimed: "Let us stand well."
     Christians, according to the apostolic teachings, all had to stand during the reading of the Gospel and the "Liturgy of the Faithful." During other readings and homilies some would stand, others would sit. Tertullian, in the year 190 A.D., mentions the practice of standing during services. He says: "Some, in preparation for prayer, throw off their cloaks, and some think it their duty not to stand, but to sit, and we are not to imitate these. It is especially improper to pray while sitting at the very time that a multitude of angels stand before the face of the Lord in fear and trepidation; sitting shows that we are somehow praying unwillingly, carelessly, in a lazy manner." Blessed Augustine, when discussing standing in church, says: "Moved by fatherly love, I have advised those who have an affliction of the legs, or are burdened by other sickness, that they should sit quietly and listen attentively during lengthy readings. But now even some of our healthy daughters think that they should do this all the time..... Even worse, they engage in idle talking, not listening themselves, nor allowing others to listen. Thus, I ask you, noble daughters, and implore you with fatherly concern, that none of you should sit during readings or homilies, unless a profound weakness of the body forces you to do so."
     In the early works of the Holy Fathers a reverent attitude during services was shown to be an important and sacred duty. In one such writing it says: "One must stand and not look around, nor lean against a wall or pillar, nor stand with a cane, nor shift one's weight from one foot to the other."
     To stand before God and His holy saints during the church service is the only acceptable posture for the faithful, both for the ones who are serving, and the ones praying, for does a servant sit before his master? The faithful are all servants of the Lord, redeemed by His blood (Luke 17:10; I Cor. 6:19, 20).
     The entire life of an Orthodox Christian, according to the Scriptures, should be a continuous spiritual uprightness and attentiveness toward God. The Apostle Paul says: "Watch ye, stand fast in the faith" (I Cor. 16:13); "Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth" (Ephes. 6:14); "Stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved" (Philippians 4:1). If a Christian must always stand on guard spiritually over his salvation, then he must do so even more during the divine church services, which serves as an expression and an enrichment to private everyday service to God. If the spirit of the ones serving and praying strives toward the Highest, will it not also lift up the body which is subject to it? Standing during church services shows us to be humble servants, ready, attentive, and willing to serve God. Not unlike the Old Testament sacrifices, the faithful, standing and becoming fatigued during services, themselves symbolically become offerings to God, as the Apostle says: "Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1).

Source: Orthodox Life, Volume 33, No. 6 (Nov.-Dec. 1983), pages 48-49. An excerpt from the book The Concern of the Orthodox Church for the Salvation of the World by Rev. G. S. Debolsky. Translated from the Russian by Maria Naumenko.

Spiritual Counsels of Starets Parfeny

Father Parfeny has given us the following spiritual counsels:

     Circumspection is the loftiest of all virtues; through it the soul opposes the passions and thoughts that assail it.
     Circumspection is above all; patience is the most needed of all; silence is the best of all; much talking is the worst of all.
     The loss of grace is the most fearsome loss of all; there is no more woeful state than the state of a man who has lost grace. There are only a few who, having lost it, have received it back, and then only by the greatest struggles. One must have unceasing vigilance in order to preserve it. It is granted to us freely, by the compassion of God alone; but for its preservation we must add our own diligence.
     The enemy wars against us without sleeping. First he attacks us from the left side; that is, he tempts us with our passions and desires; and when he can attain nothing from the left side, he attacks from the right side, that is, in our own good deeds he lays his traps for a fall.
     The more you draw near to God, the more mightily the enemy pursues you. Therefore, if you come to work for the Lord, prepare your soul for temptation.
     The enemy sows his tares in all our good deeds.
     One must never quickly follow his own thought, even though it may appear to be good, but must test it for a time.
     In order to attain patience in sorrows and temptations, believe that all that happens to us is by the will of God.
     In order to attain patience in sorrows and temptations, believe that all that happens to us is by the will of God.
     It is extremely dangerous to follow one's own thoughts and judgment in the work of salvation. Our mind is the limited eye of the flesh, which can only see and discern external and material matter; but we must trust the loftier ways of God Himself through our father and director, and in all things follow his judgments.
     Our wishes and intentions continually change and scatter like dust. Thus, we must endlessly mortify our will and trust the will of our guide.
     Beware of judging another, and so as not to fall into this temptation of the tongue, do not look at what others do.
     Love of the poor and non-possessiveness prepare great treasures for the soul.
     An indescribable benefit flows from solitude, but prayer must be inseparable from it.
     Solitude and prayer are above every good thing.
     He has attained prayer does not have time even to think of anything earthly; conversations, the sight of people and all that distracts him from God weigh upon him.
     It is indescribably difficult to attain true prayer. Often the soul, because of this struggle, is brought to the very gates of death. But for him who is granted to attain it, it is like a pain that grows in the heart and nothing can take it away.
     Love for God can be kindled in the heart only by ceaseless prayer.
     External solitude must be accompanied by internal solitude. Only the complete separation from men, in body and thought, can grant peace to the soul.
     The enemy brings despair to every soul that wishes to be saved.
     The fear of God, being more than fasting and all ascetic struggles, wears out the body. For him who has attained it, there exists neither earthly sorrow nor joy.
     Man with all his efforts, but without the cooperation of God, cannot arrange either his external life or the state of his soul. Without God, he does not even reach the threshold.
     Our human will is only to desire the good and to seek out means for the good, but God is He Who perfects and does every good. Evil comes from us.
     To lead a good life, to do good, to think good -- this is not a sacrifice to God, but man's duty to Him.
     In order to escape from distress and maintain the spirit of prayer, avoid every kind of conversation and visiting, count solitude above all, and frequently contemplate death.
     Death is desirable for those who love God, but fearsome for those who are not prepared.
     The preservation of physical purity must be accompanied by the preservation of purity of thoughts.
     Purity of body and thoughts can be attained only by unceasing prayer and the striving of the mind towards God; the coming of the Holy Spirit consumes and destroys all passions.
     Anger, vainglory or high-mindedness and judging of one's neighbor drive away the grace of the Holy Spirit.
     Honor that comes from men must be hateful for the soul that seeks salvation and knows its own infirmity.
     Over-indulgence in food brings more harm to the soul than to the body, and excess sleep is a result of excess food.
     The slightest attachment, not only to a person but to a thing, arouses the anger of God and prepares the way for corruption.
     For the attainment of perfect purity, do not have any attachment, even spiritual, either to man or to things; love everyone with perfect love, as yourself, but without attachment, that is, do not desire the sight or presence of the person you love and do not take pleasure in the thought of him.
     Silence is a great virtue; the slave of the tongue shall not be corrected on earth.
     Much talking drives away grace and destroys warmth of soul.
     Non-possessiveness and prayer are essential for salvation. Prayer gives birth to non-possessiveness, non-possessiveness to prayer.
     He who himself has not attained to a measure of perfection and begins to instruct others destroys even what he had.
     Employ every means for the attaining of peace of soul, but you will not find it by any other means than prayer and solitude.
     We fall into conflict with others because we do not wish to deny ourselves, in accordance with the word of God.
     A person who has been touched by grace cannot be other than peaceful, nor can he be offended by his neighbor over anything.
     One must be peaceful and indifferent when our neighbor is angry with us: do not be wounded by words, or disturbed by threats; for they cannot have the slightest influence on our future; there will only be what God decrees.
     The Kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force (Matt. 11:12). This force is not limited only by abstinence from the passions and food, but extends also to all our internal and external actions and movements. Do everything in opposition to the desire of the flesh; it wants to lie down in rest, force yourself to the opposite; it wants to lean back while sitting, abstain -- and so in everything.
     One must force oneself, even against one's will, to prayer and to every good.
     Perfect poverty for Christ is a great treasure for the soul, but it can be contained in a man only with the firm and unshakeable hope in the Providence of God. Have this hope without any doubt, and the Lord will not permit you to die from hunger, or to have any need; but doubt only for a moment, or seek the help of man, or hope on yourself and the Providence of God will abandon you. Peter, while yet in the body, could walk on the water, until he doubted in thought.
     God's help withdraws when human help arrives. A certain desert-dweller was served by the angels, but when men came and began to minister to him, the angels withdrew from him.
     There is no limit to God's providence for us. He invisibly leads us. Nothing occurs without the will of God; for everything, there is ordained a day and hour. Put all your hope in God, and he will provide for you, but if you take care only of yourself, He will help you, but His all-acting Providence will withdraw from you.
     For the reception of the Holy Spirit, it is essential to humble the flesh; give up the flesh and receive the Spirit.
     The Holy Spirit does not dwell in a fattened body, even though it be virtuous. In order to be the temple of God, the soul and the body must be pure and holy.
     The Holy Spirit dwells in simple hearts. Internal simplicity must be poured out on all our externals -- simplicity in everything: in speech, in appearance. Do not appear reverent, do not look down, do not speak cleverly in a loud voice. Even though you compose your external appearance with good intention, grace will abandon you.
     Every blessed soul is simple, just, merciful, loving, without pride, without guile, without pretensions, without suspicion, abstinent and fearful of God.
     Guilelessness and simplicity, above all other virtues, call down upon us the grace and mercy of God.
     God turns away from him who remembers wrongs. With the one who prays while nurturing hurt against his neighbor, the demons instead of angels are present and his prayer is sinful.
     Do not play tricks in the matter of salvation. Do not seek out special paths. Do not take special struggles upon yourself; but as things come along, the Lord will send you strength. Only unceasingly and mercilessly force yourself to every good.
     Evil attaches itself to us like a contagious disease. If you will frequently be with a person who loves to talk, with a gossip, with a lover of the world, you yourself, imperceptively, will begin to fall into those same faults. And the opposite is true: turn frequently to a spiritual person and a man of prayer, and those same virtues will be poured into you also.
     For an impure and passionate person, even his possessions are tainted with his passions. Do not touch them, do not use them.
     One cannot tell another of his struggles and rule of prayer. Even if this is not from vainglory, still the gift you expose will be taken from you.
     Poverty and non-possessiveness are the essential property of a monk.
     He who would be a true monk must have extreme non-possessiveness and seek out how to do without even the essentials.
     True prayer is that which grew in the soul and is accomplished by the spirit. For its attainment, a great struggle of mind and body is necessary.
     A monk must serve his own self in everything and nourish himself by the work of his hands.
     A monk must live alone, and the other one with him must be the Lord.
     For a true monk, nothing and no one exist on earth. His joy and delight is in unceasing prayer. He loves all people, but is lonely among them because they separate him from God.
     For a monk, the most faithful way to salvation is solitude and unceasing prayer therein. Without prayer, one cannot bear solitude. Without prayer, on can never be united with God, and without this union, salvation is doubtful.
     The adornment of a monk is his cell, that is, dwelling in it without going out. No one returns to his cell the same as he left it.
     Derision, beatings and insults are God's gift for a person leading the monastic life and they are grace from on high; the saints are perfected by sorrows.
     It is good to be with God everywhere, and without Him it is extremely lonely both in paradise and in hell; for there is a paradise on earth like the heavenly one, and there is also a hell, only they are invisible, just as God is in heaven and also on the earth; only here everything is invisible, but there everything is visible -- God and paradise and hell.
     If God is with us invisibly on earth, this is a sign that He will be with us in heaven. If we do not see God on earth with the heart, we will not see Him in heaven.
     A monk who is careless over his salvation is a mocker of God. It would be better for that monk to have rotted in his mother's belly since he has not taken care of his calling.
     The reading of the Psalter calms the passions, and the reading of the Gospel consumes the tares of our sins; for the word of God is consuming fire. Once for forty days I read the Gospel for the salvation of a benefactor of mine and I saw in my sleep a field, covered by tares. Suddenly there fell down fire from the heavens, consumed the tares that covered the field, and the field remained clean. Puzzling over this vision, I heard a voice: the tares covering the field are the sins of the soul that benefited you; the fire that consumed them is the Word of God which you read for it.
     Having as his rule to read the Gospel daily and to read it through frequently, the elder gave this rule to his disciples also, to his spiritual children. He gave them Gospels with dedications, such as:
     "Here I transfer grace to you -- the holy Gospel. Read all four Gospels every week, that you may attain grace and knowledge of the true God and receive a good end, and not be deprived of eternal rejoicing, by beholding the three Hypostases shining in the Godhead in one essence."
     "Here for you, children of God, are the Gospels of the Passion. Read them through, whenever you have the opportunity, and especially in times of sorrow, that the Lord may console you. All things work for good for him who loves the Lord, and it is good to be with God, and it is lonely without Him, and then all is evil for us."
     "I give this book, the Gospel, to my spiritual child for his obedience to me ... Receive this commandment from me, the unworthy one; read through all four Gospels every two weeks. This book is the mother of all books; just as it is the prayers of prayers and is the guide to the kingdom of heaven, and brings men on earth to true knowledge, and grants them to behold God with the heart while still in the flesh, and makes them worthy to delight in the future age, face to face in the vision of the Holy Trinity."
     "Here for you, my spiritual child, is my Gospel. Pray for me and remember my love for you; and above all pray by an honorable and simple life. Patience is needed above all, preserve virginity, seek out silence: for in a talkative monk salvation is dubious; silence gathers and talking scatters. Pray ardently; do not spare yourself. Insult, beatings and abuse are God's gift for a monk and grace from on high."
     "May the blessing of God be upon you, my spiritual child, the protection of our undoubted hope, the Theotokos, and the assistance of the Wonder-workers of the Caves. Here for you is the commanded rule of monastics: having risen from sleep, read the akathist to the Savior, and before going to sleep, the akathist to the Mother of God and five kathismas each day; the whole Gospel every two weeks, and leave the canons for church. Do not be given over to various reading, and do the inter-hours with the Jesus prayer, adding to it also the Rejoicings to the Theotokos. You know that human salvation is vain, but in God we perfect strength and He lays low our enemies. Pray also for me and remember my love, and I entrust you to the grace of the All-Holy Spirit. Amen."

Saint Theophan the Recluse-How To Save the Soul

What does one say to the person who asks: "How can I save my soul?"
     This: Repent, and being strengthened by the power of grace in the Holy Mysteries, walk in the path of God's commandments, under the direction which the Holy Church gives you through its God-given priesthood. All of this must be done in a spirit of sincere faith which has no reservations.
     What then is faith?
     Faith is the sincere confession that God, Who is worshipped in the Trinity, Who created all things and provides for all, saves us who are fallen, through the power of the death on the Cross of the incarnate Son of God, by the grace of the Most Holy Spirit in His Holy Church. The beginnings of renewal, which are established in this life, will appear in all their glory in the future age, in a way that the mind cannot comprehend not the tongue express.
     O our God, how great are Thy promises!
     How then does one walk in the path of the commandments unswervingly?
     This cannot be answered in one word, for life is a complex matter. Here is what is necessary:
     a) Repent, and turn to the Lord, admit your sins, weep for them with heartfelt contrition, and confess them before your spiritual father. Vow in word and in your heart before the face of the Lord not to offend Him further with your sins.
     b) Then by abiding in God in mind and heart, endeavor to fulfill in body the duties and affairs which your station in life imposes on you.
     c) In this labor most of all guard your heart from evil thoughts and feelings -- pride, vainglory, anger, judging of others, hatred, envy, scorn, despondency, attachment to things and people, scattered thought, anxiety, all sensual pleasures and everything that separates the mind and heart from God.
     d) In order to stand firm in this labor, resolve beforehand not to withdraw from what you recognize to be necessary, even if it may mean death. To achieve this, when you first resolve to do so, offer your life to God in order to live not for your own sake, but for God alone.
     e) A support for life in this manner is a humble offerings of one's self to the will of God, and not depending on one's self; the spiritual arena in which this life is accomplished is patience and an unswerving standing the ranks of redeemed life, with a cheerful endurance of all the labors and unpleasantness that are linked with this.
     f) A support for patience is faith, or the assurance that, working in this way for God, you are His servant and He is your Master, Who sees your efforts, is gladdened by them and values them; hope that the help of God which is ever protecting you, is always ready and waiting for you, and will descend upon you in your time of need, that God will not forsake you to the end of your life, and preserving you as one faithful to His commandments here, among all temptations, He will lead you through death to His eternal Kingdom; love, which meditates day and night upon the beloved Lord, in every way strives to do only what is pleasing to Him, and avoids everything that might offend Him in thought, word or deed.
     g) The weapons of such a life are: prayers in church and at home, especially mental prayer, fasting according to one's strength and the rules of the Church, vigilance, solitude, physical labors, frequent confession of sins, Holy Communion, reading of the Word of God and the writings of the Holy Fathers, conversations with God-fearing people, frequent consultation with one's spiritual father about all the events of one's internal and external life. The foundation of all these labors in measure, time and place is wisdom, with the counsel for those who are experienced.
     h) Guard yourself with fear. For this remember the end -- death, judgment, hell, the heavenly Kingdom.
     Most of all, be attentive to yourself: preserve a sober mind and an untroubled heart.
     i) Set as a final goal the kindling of the fire of the spirit, so that the spiritual fire will burn in your heart and, gathering up all your strength into one, will begin to build your inner man and finally burn up the tares of your sins and passions.
     Arrange your life in this manner, and with God's grace you will be saved.


Once there lived in the city an officer of the palace court. One day he was sent by the king to someone as a messenger. On the road, he found a dead person, who was naked. The officer was saddened with this lamentable image of misfortune and said to his servant, ‘take my horse and go on a bit’. The officer dismounted and approached the dead man. Taking off some of his clothing, he covered the dead man with them.

A few days after this incident, the officer was once again dispatched in the service of the king. But as soon as he left the city, he fell from his horse and broke his leg. He was immediately taken to his house, where he was beset by horrendous pain. The doctors looked after the ill man, but without result.  After five days, his leg turned to black. When the doctors saw this symptom they became very concerned and, so that the rest of his body would not become infected, decided to amputate his leg.

On hearing this decision of the doctors the officer became very upset, wept over his misfortune, and, because of his sadness, could not even sleep. The night after he learnt this terrible news he remained completely sleepless. The lamps in his room thus being lighted, around midnight there came to the attic window an unknown man who approached him. ‘Why are you crying and why are you sad?’ The officer answered him, ‘Sir how could I not cry? For no good reason I broke my leg, and tomorrow the doctors are going to amputate it.’ This unknown man then said to the suffering officer, ‘show me your leg.’ He began forthwith to anoint the leg of the sick man and to massage it. After a short time, he said to the ill man, ‘Get up and walk.’ ‘I cannot, Sir, because it is broken.’ ‘Do not be afraid,’ the man told him, ‘lean on me.’ In fact, the officer of the palace guard rose up from his bed and walked; he had become perfectly well.

After this strange miracle, the unknown man said to the healed officer; ‘See, you have become perfectly well. Lie down and rest from your night time vigil and your sufferings and do not worry.’ Continuing he spoke a few words about the value of charity, based on the words of Holy Scripture: ‘Blessed are the meek (poor): for they shall inherit the earth’ (Matt. 5:5) and ‘For He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath showed no mercy’ (James 2:13).

Following this short dissertation, the unknown man bid farewell to the healed officer: ‘Good bye and be always healthy!’ Saddened by the impending departure of his benefactor, the officer asked him: ‘Are you leaving?’ ‘What else do you want?’ he said. ‘You are now completely well.’ The officer said back to him: ‘In the name of God, who sent you? Tell me who you are.’ ‘Look at me carefully’ – the unknown man said – ‘and see if you recognise what I am wearing.’ ‘Yes’ the officer said, ‘Those are my own clothes.’ ‘Well, then,’ said the unknown man, ‘I am the same one whose body was tossed aside naked on the street and which you – with succour and mercy – covered with your clothes. It is thus that God sent me to cure you. For this you should always thank him.’  

Having finished his words, he climbed up again, through the attic window from which he had come, and became invisible. From that time forward, the healed man never ceased to thank God and to distribute alms to the poor.



The below passage is from "Way of the Ascetics," by Tito Colliander. This selection is the chapter entitled, "On Times of Darkness," those times of spiritual depression and abandonment that we all experience from time to time.

The weather shifts from cloudy to clear and then back to rain; thus it is with human nature. One must always expect clouds to hide the sun sometimes. Even the saints have had their dark hours, days and weeks. They say then that "God has left them" in order that they may know truly how utterly wretched they are of themselves, without His support. These times of darkness, when all seems meaningless, ridiculous and vain, when one is beset by doubt and temptations, are inevitable. But even these times can be harvested for good.

The dark days can best be conquered by following the example of St. Mary of Egypt. For forty-eight years she dwelt in the desert beyond Jordan, and when temptations befell her and memories of her former sinful life in Alexandria beckoned her to leave her voluntary sojourn in the desert, she lay on the ground, cried to God for help and did not get up until her heart was humbled. The first years were hard; she sometimes had to lie this way for many days; but after seventeen years came the time of rest.

On such days stay quiet. Do not be persuaded to go out into social life or entertainment. Do not pity yourself, seek comfort in nothing but your cry to the Lord: "Haste thee, O God, to deliver me! Makes haste to help me, O Lord (Psalm 70:1)! I am so fast in prison that I cannot get forth (Psalm 88:8)," and other such appeals. You cannot expect real help from any other source. For the sake of chance relief do not throw away all your winnings. Pull the covers over your head; now your patience and steadfastness are being tried. If you endure the trial, thank God who gave you the strength. If you do not, rise up promptly, pray for mercy and think: I got what I deserved! For the fall itself was your punishment. You had relied too much on yourself, and now you see what it led to. You have had an experience; do not forget to give thanks. 

"Way of the Ascetics," by Tito Colliander, San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1982, pp. 84-85

Elder Ephraim of Arizona-On Salvation and Paradise

1. Now in the springtime, when nature is wearing its most beautiful apparel, one feels inexpressible joy when this natural beauty is accompanied by a sublime spiritual state. Truly, our holy God has made all things in wisdom! [(cf. Ps. 103:26 (All quotes from the Old Testament are from the Septuagint )]. The soul cannot get enough of beholding the beauty of nature. Oh, if man would only lift his mind above the earthly realm to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the inconceivable beauty of paradise where the finite, earthly mind ceases to operate! If here in exile, in this accursed land of weeping, our holy God has given us so much beauty to enjoy, I wonder how much there will be in the place where God Himself dwells! Truly, “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the coming glory and bliss.” (cf. Rom. 8:18 ). Theosis in the heavens, my child! There the Lord our God will remove every tear from our eyes, and do away with all sorrow and pain and sighing, for there the angelic way of life reins, and the only work is to chant hymns and spiritual odes! An eternal Sabbath is prepared for us where we shall live in joy with our Father, God, Who is waiting for us to be ready so that He may call us to Him forever! There every saved soul will live in an ocean of love, sweetness, joy, amazement, and wonder!

2.A time will come, the hour will strike, the moment will arrive for these eyes to close and for the soul’s eyes to open. Then we shall see a new world, new beings, a new creation, a new life without end. Its title is: “Infinite Immortality,” the great homeland, incorruptible and everlasting—the heavenly Jerusalem, the mother of the firstborn, where redeemed souls, which have been washed of their impurity by the blood of the innocent Lamb, will dwell!
Who is able to express in words or with a pen the joy, the exaltation, the bliss of those blessed saved souls? Blessed are they who have died in the Lord, for the riches of God’s goodness awaits them. Blessed is he who wins the “lottery” for the heavenly festival, for riches that cannot be taken away, for the glory that God Himself has described: “sons of the Most High, children of God, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” Before the Passion, the Lord entreated His heavenly Father on behalf of His disciples and those who would believe through them: “Father, I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me; for Thou didst love Me before the foundation of the world.” (Jn. 17:24 ).
How great is Jesus’ love for us! He took on human nature and was hanged upon the Cross, giving us freedom and paying off our debt to His heavenly Father. And as a dear brother, He makes us worthy of jointly inheriting the infinite wealth of His heavenly Father! Oh, what love for us! Oh, how cold we are to Him! Oh, how ungrateful I am towards my Benefactor! My God, my God, have pity on me, and do not condemn me as I deserve because of my deeds!

3. Just as God has spiritually united us with an unbreakable bond, likewise may He count us worthy to be together in His heavenly kingdom, so that we may dine at the spiritual table and delight in His divine fare, united with the heavenly Father, in Whom the everlasting rivers of His divine waters flow. Oh, what a great calling! Oh, how rich are the fruits of transitory afflictions! The children of God will be adorned with heavenly garments; the divine features in their faces will appear radiant; they will enter into the paternal legacy—the eternal repose! They will go about those heavenly dwellings, and beholding those boundless riches, they will remain in ecstasy without realizing that eons are passing! Oh, what a great calling for man! But two distressing thoughts blemish this good meditation. The first one is that I shall not participate in all of this glorious blessedness—this is just a meditation now, but later it will take on flesh and bones, in other words, it will materialize. The second one is that people live their lives in ignorance of this great calling, and consequently this ignorance gives rise to separation from God, and spiritual death.
O my God, Lord of Sabaoth, enlighten the darkness of our hearts that we may see Thee, the true light, the blessed light that enlightens and gladdens the hearts of Thy friends. Enlighten us that we may follow Thee until the eternal rest.

One experiences ecstasy when, with the synergy of grace, detaches his nous from reason and the surrounding environment and brings it back to the heart. Then, "through the heart the nous ascends to God",according to St. Gregory Palamas. During ecstasy, the nous is found in a different, spiritual realm. It is not a respite of the actions of the soul and nous, but a respite of physical actions, such as eating, sleeping, etc.

The English word that best conveys the meaning of the Greek word "νους" is the word "mind". The Fathers use this term with several other meanings, too.

The term "meditation", as used by the Holy Fathers, indicates a thoughtful reflection or pondering upon a certain aspect of the faith, e.g., the Incarnation. God's mercy, the Crucifixion, the Transfiguration, one's sinfulness, etc. This is quite different from what is known as "Eastern meditation", which is the use of various psychosomatic techniques intended to bring about self-identification with a "supreme being" (or so-called "deity"), an "impersonal reality", or even nothingness. On the other hand, for an Orthodox Christian, meditation brings about humility, gratitude, and love, and is a preparation for prayer, which is a personal experience of the one, true, living God.

4 . Everything will pass and will end as if had never existed, whereas works done in God will remain with the soul that worked them so that the worker may reap eternal life from them. Blessed are the spiritual philosophers of God, who give away transient things and store up eternal things, so that when they depart, they will find their treasures in God’s treasury with accrued interest. Blessed are they who clean their hearts from the weeds of sin and cultivate the good seed, for the time will come for them to reap sheaves of eternal life! Blessed are they who sow tears with spiritual fasting, that is, always hungering and thirsting for good works, for they will reap eternal joy!

5 . All the labor, toil, and temptations in this life, my blessed child, cannot be compared with that blessed life. Even if we had thousands of lives and sacrificed them all, we would not have done anything significant in comparison with the future glory in which Christ the Master longs to establish us through His precious and life-giving Blood! This is why the Apostle Paul says, “The sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18 ). Furthermore, reflect that man “withers like a flower and passes like a dream,” (cf. Is. 40:6-8 ), and that “when the trumpet sounds, all the dead will rise as if in an earthquake” (cf. 2 Thes. 4:16 ) to meet Christ. When the door of the age to come opens, and when the present world is destroyed, then our nature will be restored to its original state. The Lord “will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” (Phil. 3:21 ). Our nature, which groans and travails together with all of creation, (cf. Rom. 8:22 ), awaits the glorious revealing of the children of God with an intense yearning. “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:19 ). The grandeur of man, whom God raises to such heights and glory, is unrivaled! Yet we passionate sinners are unaware of and indifferent to these great riches, and our way of thinking is completely earthly. Just think: this body which is fetid dirt is counted worthy to be conformed to God’s glory, to become angelic! (cf. Phil. 3:21 ). Now, men are material in comparison to the angels, which are purely spiritual beings. Angels in comparison to God are somewhat “material”. They are not purely spiritual as God is, Who is unapproachable light. In this manner men will also become angelic then. Then, a single unity of the fullness of the Church, of the faithful with Christ will occur. How tenderly and paternally our Lord puts it: “Father,” He said to His Father, “I desire that they also whom Thou hast given Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me” (Jn. 17:24 ). Can worldly riches compare with these words of God? If only we were there where our Lord is—where angels shudder and tremble to approach! O hidden wisdom and infinite wealth of God! 

6 . Do not forget your goal, my child. Look into heaven and see the beauty that awaits us. What are the present, earthly things? Aren’t they but ashes and dust and a dream? Don’t we see that everything here is subject to decay? Whereas things above are everlasting, the kingdom of God is endless, and blessed is he who will dwell in it, for he will behold the glory of His divine face! My child, do not forget that we are in this world only temporarily and that our life dangles by a thread and that all the desirable things in the world are vain. So, whoever despises the vain things of the world—in other words, does not passionately desire them—will participate in the eternal good things. So, when we have this knowledge of the truth, naturally we shall turn the eyes of our soul at every moment towards the eternal life, towards the heavenly Jerusalem, where the choirs of angels chant godly canticles of ineffable sweetness and wisdom. Oh, my children, how much glory your souls will have when after death they ascend to the heavens and are numbered with the angels in heaven!

7 . Let us glorify the risen Lord, Who counted us worthy to celebrate His holy Resurrection. Let us pray that He will also count us worthy to celebrate the eternal Sabbath in the heavens, in the new Jerusalem, in the eternal joy. “And no one will take this joy away from you (cf. Jn. 16:22 ). Indeed, my child, for earthly joy is followed by sorrows which can annihilate it, whereas heavenly joy is not, because it flows continuously as if from an inexhaustible and life-giving spring.
Let us compel ourselves in our Christian duties in order to be able to celebrate the eternal Pascha, close to our Christ and see Him face to face for our blessed enjoyment, without it being interrupted anymore by trials and despair.

8 . I sent you a letter in which I wrote a few things about the paradise; I hope this pleased you. Ah, if you could only see a little bit of paradise, if you could only hear for a few seconds the chanting of the sweet angels who shine with heavenly light and emit paradisaical fragrance! Oh, what beauty! Unfortunately, we are in the dark about all these things. There everything shines with limitless bliss. And what does the throne of Christ tell you? Christ the Master sits upon a throne, and due to His light no one can discern His sacred and most sweet face. Oh, what sweetness and beauty! What is more beautiful than this? This is truly paradise: to behold the face of our Jesus! Glory to Thy Cross, O Lord, and to Thy Resurrection! O depth of the wisdom of God! O mysteries of the three sun Deity! Blessed is he who humbles himself like a child, obeying all commands with a guileless soul for the love of God! And woe to him who will hold on to his egotism, like me; how many divine gifts does he deprive himself of! My children, run with humility to reach the Lord Who humbled Himself for our sake—our sweetest, beloved Christ, the light of our poor souls. See what beauty awaits us! If you could only see how beautiful it is! You would disregard everything; you would even become like trash to be stepped on, just as long as you would not be deprived of everything that the sweet love of Jesus has prepared! These are the kinds of things my Elder used to tell me, and I am conveying them to you so that you may be sweetened. I am done—forgive me!

9 . I, however, am not fit for paradise, because my works notify me in advance that I am only fit for hell.
The Apostle Paul speaks to us about paradise very beautifully. He was caught up to the third heaven (vid. 1 Cor. 12:2 ) and to the beauty of the kingdom of heaven and cried out in ecstasy, “How lovely and exquisitely beautiful the kingdom of God is, which cannot be compared with any earthly beauty!” Paradise is so beautiful that the eye of man has never been able to see such beauty. Likewise, a human ear has never heard sweeter chanting, since in heaven angelic choirs chant incomparably sweeter than the most sweet-voiced nightingales!
The Apostle Paul goes on to say that man has never conceived what God has prepared in heaven, in paradise, for His children. Indeed, it is the truth that if we knew the spiritual pleasures of paradise, we would be patient in every situation in order to gain it. Whereas now, because of our ignorance, we do the opposite and thus go far away from it!
Oh, if we only knew what paradise is! The human mind is unable to conceive the magnitude of its beauty! There the choirs of angels and holy souls chant incessantly-an eternal Pascha! There, souls converse with exultation. They talk about how they passed this vain life and how much God helped them to escape hell and to repose in this blissful place of God! They offer endless thanks to God for this tremendous mercy of His, that He gave them paradise!
What is paradise? It is a place full of unfading flowers, replete with divine aromas, the delight of angels, Paschal life, divine eros, ceaseless doxology of God, and an eternal life! So then, it is worth struggling for- but how insignificant our struggle is in light of this “fantastic,” so to speak, paradise!
Oh, paradise, how beautiful you are! Your beauty allures me and changes me into a different person. Why shouldn’t I endeavor and struggle properly to obtain you?
My God, our Lord, deliver us from accursed pride, so that guided by holy humility we may become inhabitants of sweetest paradise. Amen; so be it.

Counsels from the Holy Mountain
Selected from the letters and homilies
of Elder Ephraim

Ζήσαμε για τη σάρκα, ας ζήσουμε και για το πνεύμα...

Όπως ακριβώς δεν έχουν καμιά ωφέλεια οι γεωργοί που σπέρνουν το σπόρο στο δρόμο, έτσι ούτε κι εμείς έχο­με κανένα όφελος από το να μας ονομάζουν Χριστιανούς, αν τα έργα μας δεν είναι σύμφωνα με το όνομά μας. Και αν θέλετε να σάς παρουσιάσω αξιόπιστο μάρτυρα τον αδελφόθεο Ιάκωβο που λέγει, η πίστη χωρίς τα έργα είναι νεκρή (Ιακ. 2,17). Άρα λοιπόν παντού είναι ανα­γκαία και η εκτέλεση των έργων γιατί όταν απουσιά­ζουν αυτά, δεν μπορεί να μας ωφελήσει η ονομασία του Χριστιανού. Και μην απορήσεις. Γιατί, πες μου, ποιο κέρ­δος έχει ο στρατιώτης από την κατάταξη του στο στρα­τό, αν δεν είναι άξιος για την εκστρατεία και δεν πολεμά για τον βασιλιά από τον οποίο τρέφεται;

Ίσως, αν και είναι φοβερό το λεγόμενο, θα ήταν προτιμότερο να μη στρατευθεί, παρά να στρατευθεί και ν' αμελεί για την τι­μή του βασιλιά γιατί, πως δεν θα τιμωρηθεί αυτός που τρέφεται από το βασιλιά, αλλά δεν αγωνίζεται για το βασιλιά; Και τι λέγω για το βασιλιά; μακάρι να φροντί­ζαμε έστω και για τις ψυχές μας.

Και πως, λέγει, μπορώ να ζω μέσα στον κόσμο και ανάμεσα στα κοσμικά πράγματα και να σωθώ; Τι λες, άνθρωπε; Θέλεις με συντομία να σου δείξω ότι δεν είναι ο τόπος που σώζει, αλλά ο σωστός τρόπος ζωής και η προ­αίρεση; Ο Αδάμ έπαθε το ναυάγιο σαν σε λιμάνι μέσα στον παράδεισο (Γεν. 3) ο Λωτ πάλι διασώθηκε σαν σε πέλαγος μέσα στα Σόδομα (Γεν. 19)· ο Ιώβ πέτυχε τη δικαίωση επάνω στην κοπριά (Ιώβ 2), ενώ ο Σαούλ, αν και ζούσε μέσα στους θησαυρούς, έχασε και την εδώ βα­σιλεία και την εκεί (Α' Βασ. 18)...

Γνωρίζοντας αυτά και φέρνοντας στη μνήμη μας τη φοβερή ημέρα και σκεπτόμενοι το πυρ εκείνο και τα φο­βερά κολαστήρια, ας επιστρέψομε από το πλανεμένο δρό­μο μας. Γιατί θα 'ρθεί ώρα που θα διαλυθεί το θέατρο του κόσμου αυτού δεν είναι δυνατό μετά το πέρας αυτής της ζωής να κάνει κανείς κάτι, δεν είναι δυνατό να στεφανω­θεί μετά τη διάλυση του θεάτρου.

Αυτός είναι ο καιρός μετανοίας, ενώ εκείνος κρίσεως, αυτός είναι ο καιρός των αγώνων, ενώ εκείνος των στεφάνων, αυτός είναι ο καιρός του κόπου, ενώ εκείνος της ανέσεως, αυτός ο καιρός των καμάτων, ενώ εκείνος της ανταποδόσεως. Συνέλθετε, πα­ρακαλώ, αφυπνισθείτε και ας ακούσομε με προθυμία τα λεγόμενα. Ζήσαμε για τη σάρκα, ας ζήσομε και για το πνεύμα, ζήσαμε για τις ηδονές, ας ζήσομε και για τις αρε­τές, ζήσαμε με αδιαφορία, ας ζήσομε και με μετάνοια. Γιατί υπερηφανεύεται το χώμα και η στάχτη; (Εκκλ. 10, 9). Τι φουσκώνεις από αλαζονεία, άνθρωπε; γιατί μεγαλοφρονείς για τον εαυτό σου; τι ελπίζεις από τη δό­ξα του κόσμου και τον πλούτο;

Ας πάμε, παρακαλώ, στους τάφους και ας δούμε τα εκεί μυστήρια, ας δούμε τη φύση την ανθρώπινη κατασκορπισμένη, τα κόκκαλα σαπισμένα, τα σώματα σάπια κι αν ακόμη είσαι σοφός, σκέψου, κι αν είσαι φρόνιμος, πες μου, ποιος είναι εκεί ο βασιλιάς και ποιος ο ιδιώτης, ποιος είναι ο ευγενής και ποιος ο δούλος, ποιος ήταν ο σοφός και ποιος ο άσοφος;

Που είναι εκεί η ομορφιά της νεότητας; που το χαρούμενο πρόσωπο; που τα όμορφα μάτια; που η καλοκαμωμένη μύτη; που τα φλογερά χεί­λη; που τα κάλλη των παρειών; που το λαμπερό μέτω­πο; δεν είναι όλα σκόνη; δεν είναι όλα σκουλήκια και δυσωδία; δεν είναι όλα βρωμιά;

Σκεπτόμενοι, αδελφοί, αυτά και φέροντας στη μνή­μη μας την τελευταία ημέρα, όσο ακόμη έχομε καιρό, ας επιστρέψομε από τον πλανεμένο δρόμο μας. Με τίμιο αίμα αγορασθήκαμε (Α' Πέτ. 1,2). Γι' αυτό ο Θεός φα­νερώθηκε επάνω στη γη.

Ο κριτής οδηγείται στο δικαστήριο για τους καταδικασμένους, η ζωή γεύεται θάνατο, ο πλάστης ραπίζεται από το πλάσμα, εκείνος που δεν τον βλέπουν τα σεραφείμ, φτύνεται από το δούλο, γεύεται ξύδι και χολή, κεντάται με τη λόγχη, τοποθετείται στον τάφο, και συ, πες μου, αδιαφορείς και κοιμάσαι και τα περιφρονείς, άνθρωπε, όλα αυτά;

Δεν γνωρίζεις, ότι κι αν ακόμη χύ­σεις το αίμα σου για Εκείνον, ούτε έτσι έκαμες εκείνο που πρέπει; Και τούτο γιατί άλλο είναι το αίμα το δε­σποτικό και άλλο το αίμα του δούλου. Πρόλαβε με τη μετάνοια και τη μεταστροφή την έξοδο της ψυχής, μή­πως έρθει ο θάνατος και δεν καταστεί δυνατή η θεραπεία με τη μετάνοια, γιατί στη γη έχει τη δύναμη της η μετά­νοια, και μόνο στον άδη αυτό δεν είναι δυνατό να συμβεί.

Ας ζητήσουμε τον Κύριο όσο έχομε καιρό· ας κάνομε το καλό, ώστε και από τη μέλλουσα αθάνατη γέεννα ν' απαλλαγούμε και ν' αξιωθούμε την ουράνια βασιλεία, με τη χάρη και τη φιλανθρωπία του Κυρίου μας Ιησού Χριστού, στον οποίο ανήκει η δόξα και η δύναμη, στους αιώνες των αιώνων. 

 Αγίου Ιωάννου Χρυσοστόμου

Γ. Εφραίμ Φιλοθεΐτης -Η κατάκριση είναι εγωισμός

Να αγαπάτε ο ένας τον άλλο και να μην πικραίνεσθε λόγω εγωισμού. Η ταπείνωση είναι ασφαλής οδηγός · δεν αφήνει αυτόν που την έχει να προσκρούσει σε υφάλους απροσεξίας και να συντριβεί · αλλά ως οδηγός φωτεινός οδηγεί άπταιστα επί του ασφαλούς.

Ο εγωισμός είναι το κάκιστο των κακών · αυτός μας δημιουργεί όλα τα σφάλματα, με τους ανυπότακτους λογισμούς. Φοβηθείτε τον και προσπαθείτε να απαλλαγείτε απ’ αυτόν, καθώς όσο μένει μέσα μας αχτύπητος, τόσο θα μας πληγώνει με ανάλογους πόνους.

Παρακαλώ μην κατακρίνετε ο ένας τον άλλο, διότι είναι πέρα για πέρα εγωισμός · ας δικαιολογεί ο αδελφός του αδελφού το σφάλμα, κι αυτό είναι μαρτυρία ταπεινώσεως και αγάπης. Αυτός ο αδελφός που το κάνει αυτό θα βρει πολλή τη χάρη του Θεού · εκείνος όμως που κρίνει και σκανδαλίζει τον πλησίον του, πρέπει να γνωρίζει ότι όχι χάρη δε θα βρει, αλλά και αν κάτι έχει θα το χάσει, για να μάθει το μάθημα της ταπείνωσης διά του παθήματος.

Φοβηθείτε περισσότερο την εσωτερική κατάκριση, αυτή που γίνεται με τους λογισμούς · κι αυτό, γιατί δεν έρχεται στο φως με τον προφορικό λόγο, που ενδέχεται να διορθωθεί απ’ αυτόν που την ακούει. Προσέξτε, λέω, την ένδοθεν κατάκριση, που ανεπαίσθητα μας ενοχοποιεί θανάσιμα και μας στερεί τη ζωή της θείας χάριτος και μας προσφέρει ως ποτό πικρότατο, την ψυχική νέκρωση.

Πόσα και πόσα δε μας λένε το ιερό Ευαγγέλιο και οι Πατέρες περί κατακρίσεως. Καλύτερα να πέσει από ψηλά, παρά από τη γλώσσα.

Εύχομαι η αγάπη και η ακατακρισία να βασιλεύουν σε όλες τις εκδηλώσεις μεταξύ σας, ώστε το Άγιο Πνεύμα να αναπαύεται στις ψυχές σας.

(από τις «Πατρικές Νουθεσίες» του Γέροντος Εφραίμ, Καθηγουμένου Ιεράς Μονής Φιλοθέου)

Η αμφίεση των γυναικών μέσα στους ιερούς ναούς

Η ενδυμασία μας στο ναό να είναι καλή από κάθε πλευρά. Να είναι κόσμια και όχι εξεζητημένη. Γιατί το κόσμιο είναι σεμνό, ενώ το εξεζητημένο είναι άσεμνο.

Αυτό ακριβώς μας παραγγέλλει και ο απόστολος Παύλος, όταν λέει: «Θέλω να προσεύχονται οι άνδρες σε κάθε τόπο, σηκώνοντας προς τον ουρανό χέρια όσια, χωρίς οργή και δισταγμό ολιγοπιστίας. Επίσης και οι γυναίκες να προσεύχονται με αμφίεση σεμνή, στολίζοντας τον εαυτό τους με σεμνότητα και σωφροσύνη, όχι με περίτεχνες κομμώσεις και χρυσά κοσμήματα ή μαργαριτάρια ή ενδύματα πολυτελή, αλλά με ό,τι ταιριάζει στις γυναίκες που λένε ότι σέβονται το Θεό, δηλαδή με καλά έργα» (Α' Τιμ. 2:8-10). Αν, λοιπόν, απαγορεύει στις γυναίκες εκείνα που είναι απόδειξη πλούτου, πολύ περισσότερο απαγορεύει όσα κινούν την περιέργεια, όπως τα φτιασίδια, το βάψιμο των ματιών, το κουνιστό βάδισμα, τα παράξενα ρούχα και τα παρόμοια.

Τί λες, γυναίκα; Έρχεσαι στο ναό να προσευχηθείς, και στολίζεσαι με χρυσαφικά και χτενίζεσαι επιτηδευμένα; Μήπως ήρθες για να χορέψεις;

Μήπως για να λάβεις μέρος σε γαμήλια γιορτή; Εκεί έχουν θέση τα χρυσαφικά και οι πολυτέλειες. Εδώ δεν χρειάζεται τίποτε απ' αυτά. Ήρθες να παρακαλέσεις το Θεό για τις αμαρτίες σου. Τί στολίζεις, λοιπόν, τον εαυτό σου; Αυτή η εμφάνιση δεν είναι γυναίκας που ικετεύει. Πώς μπορείς να στενάξεις, πώς μπορείς να δακρύσεις, πώς μπορείς να προσευχηθείς με θέρμη, έχοντας τέτοια αμφίεση; 

Θέλεις να φαίνεσαι ευπρεπής; 

Φόρεσε το Χριστό και όχι το χρυσό. Ντύσου την ελεημοσύνη, τη φιλανθρωπία, τη σωφροσύνη, την ταπεινοφροσύνη. Αυτά αξίζουν περισσότερο απ' όλο το χρυσάφι. Αυτά και την ωραία την κάνουν ωραιότερη και την άσχημη την ομορφαίνουν. Να ξέρεις, γυναίκα, πως, όταν στολιστείς πολύ, γίνεσαι πιο αισχρή κι από τη γυμνή, γιατί έχεις αποβάλει πια την κοσμιότητα.

Αγίου Ιωάννου του Χρυσοστόμου
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