Friday, 16 November 2012

The Core of Our Holy Faith’s Spirituality

By Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, from “Orthodox Spirituality: A Brief Introduction.”

In the Holy tradition of the Orthodox Church at the centre of Orthodox spirituality is the heart and the nous. It is this centre which needs to be treated so that man’s complete psychosomatic constitution is cured. Moreover as the Lord said: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. (Mt 5:8) In order to see what the heart and nous are we must begin by examining the soul.
From the narration of Genesis in the Old Testament, we know that initially God created Adam’s body and then He breathed into it and created his soul. By saying “He created the soul” it is made clear that the soul is not a particle of God, the spirit of God, as some people claim. But, as St. John Chrysostom says, since the in-breathing of God is the energy of the Holy Spirit, it is this energy of the Holy Spirit which created the soul, without itself being the soul. It is of vital importance to state this, for thus we understand well that the soul cannot be examined autonomously but only in connection with God.
Every man’s soul is one and manifold, at the same time, as St. Gregory Palamas says. In another context St. Gregory Palamas teaches that as God is Trinity—Nous, Logos and Spirit—in a corresponding way man’s soul has a trinitarian nature: there is the nous—the core of man’s existence, the logos—begotten by the nous, and the spirit—"man’s noetic love."
The soul is closely linked to man’s body. It is not located in only one part of the body. According to Orthodox teaching, God governs the world through his uncreated energies. Just as God acts in nature, so the soul moves and activates each member of the body to perform its function, according to St. Gregory of Sinai. Therefore, just as God governs the world in the same way does the soul govern the body. As St. Gregory Palamas expresses it, the soul occupies the body with which it was created. It fills the entire body, giving life to the body. In other words, the soul is not enclosed by the body, but it occupies the body to which it is attached.
There is a strong bond between the soul and the body but also a clear distinction. A person is made up of body and soul, both of which coexist simultaneously without any confusion. Thus, it is not just the soul which is called man, neither is it solely the body which is called man, but both of them constitute man. The soul gives life to the whole body of man through its providential powers. However if the human body lacks one of its members, for example if a man has no eyes, this does not mean that the soul’s providential powers are of a lesser degree. Moreover the soul is not in and of itself equivalent to her providential powers but she uniquely encloses all the providential powers of the body.
St. Gregory of Nyssa states characteristically that the soul is not held by the body but it is she who contains the body. In other words, the body does not function as a vessel or a wine-skin containing the soul, but rather the body is within her. The soul acts throughout the whole of man’s body.
What has been said about the soul may seem highly theoretical, although it is a distinct teaching of the Church, and as such indispensable to the reader’s understanding of the matter of heart and nous, which is the centre of Orthodox spirituality. We are not able, otherwise, to comprehend where the Orthodox Church is headed and what she seeks to cure.
As God has essence and energy, so also does the soul -having been made in the image of God- have essence and energy. Essence and energy in God are of course uncreated, whereas the soul’s essence and energy are created. Nothing exists without an energy. The sun’s essence is beyond the atmosphere of the earth, yet its energy, which gives light, heat and causes burning etc. -reaches to earth and affords her with light, heat etc. The same happens with all objects. The soul’s essence is found in the heart not like in a vessel but as if in an organ; its energy operates through the thoughts (logismoi—λογισμοὶ).
According to St. Gregory Palamas, the soul is called the nous as well. Yet, both the essence of the soul—the heart—and its energy—consisting of the thoughts—are called nous. However, although in the Biblical-Patristic tradition the terms are interchangeable, to avoid any confusion the soul is referred to as the spiritual element of man’s existence; the heart, as the essence of the soul, and the nous as the energy of the soul. Thus, when the nous enters the heart and acts therein, there exists a unity between the nous (energy), the heart (essence) and the soul.
All asceticism in the Church aims at man’s theosis (divinization), at his communion with God the Trinity. This is accomplished when the energy of the soul (nous) returns to its essence (heart) and ascends to God. For unity with God to be attained, the unity of the soul, through the grace of God, must precede it. Sin in fact is the dispersion of these powers; it is primarily the scattering of the soul’s energy, i.e. of the nous, to things, and its separation from the heart.
Having made these clarifications it is important to examine more analytically what the heart and nous are in Orthodox tradition.
The heart is the centre of man’s psychosomatic constitution, since, as we noted previously, there is an “unconfused” union between soul and body. The centre of this union is called heart.
The heart is the place which is discovered through ascetic practice in a state of grace; it is the place wherein God is revealed and made manifest. This definition may seem abstract, yet it is a matter of spiritual experience. No one can fully show the place of the heart by rational and speculative definitions. In any case the heart is a centre and summation of the three faculties of the soul: of the intellect, the appetitive and the irascible. The fact is that when a person lives the inner life—when his nous returns within his inner world from its previous dispersion; when he experiences mourning and in the deepest sense, repentance—he is then conscious of the existence of this centre, i.e. the existence of the heart. He feels therein pain and spiritual sorrow; he experiences the grace of God; there also he even hears the voice of God.
According to patristic tradition, the essence of the soul, which is called heart, is found as if within an organ, not in a vessel where the physical organ of the heart is. This should be interpreted in reference to what it was said before, that the soul holds the body and gives life to it; it is not contained by the body but it contains the person’s body. It is within this perspective that St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite speaks of the heart as a biophysical (natural) centre, since the blood is circulated to all parts of the body from there; as an affected (contrary to nature) centre, since the passions prevail therein, and as a supernatural centre since the grace of God operates there, as many passages of the Holy Scripture state:
But I say unto you, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. (Mt 5:28)
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God. (Rom 2:5)
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. (Eph 3:17)
And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Rom 5:5)
The nous, on the other hand, is the energy of the soul. According to the Fathers, the nous is also called the eye of the soul. Its natural place is to be found within the heart; to be united with the essence of the soul and to experience the unceasing memory of God. Its movement goes contrary to nature when it is enslaved by the creatures of God and the passions. Orthodox tradition makes a distinction between nous and reason.
Reason is a function in the brain whereas the nous operates out of and is united with the heart in its natural state. In the Saintly person, who is the manifestation and bearer of Orthodox spirituality, reason works and is conscious of the surrounding world while the nous is within the heart, praying unceasingly. The separation of the nous from reason constitutes the state of a spiritually healthy person, and this is the goal of Orthodox spirituality.
Quite illustrative of the above theme are two passages from St. Basil the Great’s writings. In one text he says that in the spiritual man—who has become a temple of God and of the Most Holy Spirit—reason and the nous exist and operate simultaneously. Reason is engaged in earthly cares and the nous is engaged in the unceasing remembrance of God. Moreover, because his nous is united with the heart and has communion with God, man is not disturbed by unexpected temptations, that is to say, by temptations caused by the decay and transiency of his nature.
In the other passage St. Basil refers to the return of the nous into the heart and its ascent to God. The nous which is scattered outwards and diffused through the senses into the world is sick, fallen, prodigal. It must return from its diffused state to its union with and in the heart, its natural state, and then be united with God. Illumined by the uncreated Light (the state of theosis), the nous neglects even its nature, and the soul is not preoccupied with clothing and shelter. This does not mean that man does not care about food, etc. But, because man has attained to the state of theoria (vision of God) and theosis, his bodily forces -not those of the soul—are in a state of suspension; in other words, the soul and nous are not subjugated by the influences of the world and material things. Man is, of course, concerned about them, yet he is not enslaved by them. Additionally, St. Basil the Great clearly states that by this movement of the nous’ return within the heart, virtue as a whole is acquired: prudence, bravery, justice, wisdom along with all of the other virtues.
Fr. John Romanides says that all living creatures possess two known memory-systems. First, “there is the cell memory which determines the development and growth of the individual in relationship to itself”. This is the known D.N.A. structure which is the genetic code that literally defines everything in the human constitution. Secondly, “there is the brain cell memory which determines the functions and relations of the individual towards himself and his environment.” This is the operation of the brain which—being imprinted by all memories of the past as well as by human knowledge acquired through study and investigation—defines man’s relations with his fellow-human beings. In addition though, according to Romanides, “there exists within every person a non-functioning or sub-functioning memory within the heart; and when activated through noetic prayer, it has perpetual memory of God, which contributes to the normalization of all of a person’s other relations.
Consequently the Saint—a bearer of Orthodox spirituality—possesses all three of these memories, which act and function simultaneously without influencing one another. A Saint is the most “natural of men”. He is conscious of the world, involved in various concerns, yet -because his nous has attained to its natural function- “he lives on earth but is a citizen of heaven”.
Therefore, the centre of Orthodox spirituality is the heart, within which man’s nous must inherently operate. The energy of the soul -the nous- must return within the soul’s essence—in the heart; and thus by uniting these powers by the grace of God acquire unity and communion with God the Trinity. Spirituality outside of this perspective is not orthodox but moralistic, pietistic, abstract and rationalistic.
† † †
Theoria: Theoria is the vision of the glory of God. Theoria is identified with the vision of the uncreated Light, the uncreated energy of God, with the union of man with God, with man’s theosis (see note below). Thus, theoria, vision and theosis are closely connected. Theoria has various degrees. There is illumination, vision of God, and constant vision (for hours, days, weeks, even months). Noetic prayer is the first stage of theoria. Theoretical man is one who is at this stage. In Patristic theology, the theoretical man is characterised as the shepherd of the sheep.
Theosis-Divinization: It is the participation in the uncreated grace of God. Theosis is identified and connected with the theoria (vision) of the uncreated Light (see note above). It is called theosis in grace because it is attained through the energy, of the divine grace. It is a co-operation of God with man, since God is He Who operates and man is he who co-operates.

An Orthodox Understanding of Hell

“I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. Nay, what is so bitter and vehement as the torment of love? I mean that those who have become conscious that they have sinned against love suffer greater torment from this than from any fear of punishment. For the sorrow caused in the heart by sin against love is more poignant than any torment. It would be improper for a man to think that sinners in Gehenna are deprived of the love of God. Love is the offspring of knowledge of the truth which, as is commonly confessed, is given to all. The power of Love works in two ways: it torments sinners, even as happens here when a friend suffers from a friend; but it becomes a source of joy for those who have observed its duties. Thus I say that this is the torment of Gehenna: bitter regret. But love inebriates the souls of the sons of Heaven by its delectability.” 

- St. Isaac the Syrian, The Ascetical Homilies, xlvii – xlviii

Labor for Virtue According to Your Strength

                                      St. Paisius Velichkosvsky

“Virtue is acquired by every kind of forcing oneself.
Therefore, if you wish to conquer the passions, cut off the love of pleasure; but if you are pursuing food, you will spend a life in passions; the soul will not be humbled if the flesh is not deprived of bread. It is not possible to deliver the soul from perdition while protecting the body from unpleasantness. Therefore let us return to what is primary.
If you wish to be saved, O my soul, to go first on the most sorrowful path which has been indicated here, to enter into the Heavenly Kingdom and receive eternal life – then refine your flesh, taste voluntary bitterness, and endure difficult sorrows, as all the Saints tasted and endured. And when a man is preparing himself and gives himself the command to endure for the sake of God all sorrows and pain which come upon him, then light and painless seem for him all sorrows, unpleasantnesses and attacks of devils and men. He does not fear death, and nothing can separate such a one from the love of Christ.
Have you heard, my beloved soul, how the Holy Fathers spent their lives? O my soul! Imitate them at least a little.
Did they not have tears? O woe, my soul.
Were they not sorrowful, thin and worn out in body? O woe, my soul.
Did they not have bodily illnesses, great wounds and lamentation of soul with tears? O woe, my soul.
Were they not clothed in the same infirm body that we have? O woe, my soul!
Did they not have the desire for splendid, sweet and light repose in this world and every bodily repose?
Yes, they desired these things, and their bodies in truth were afflicted, but they exchanged their desires for patience and their grief for future joy. They cut off everything once and for all. They considered themselves as dead men, and tormented themselves mercilessly in spiritual labors. Do you see, my soul, how the Holy Fathers labored, having no repose and suffering every kind of evil? They subjected the flesh to the spirit and fulfilled all the other commandments of God, and were saved.
But you, O pitiful soul, do not at all wish to force yourself, and you grow faint from small labors, grow despondent and do not at all remember the hour of death and weep over your sins; but you have become accustomed, my wretched soul, to eat to the fill, to drink to the fill and to be slothful. Do you not know that you are called voluntarily to torment? And yet you endure nothing. How then do you wish to be saved?
At least from this time forth, then: Arise, my beloved soul, and do what I shall tell you.
If you cannot labor as the Holy Fathers did, then at least begin according to your strength.”

- St. Paisius Velichkosvsky

PRAYER TO THE MOST HOLY THEOTOKOS – St Nikolai of Ohrid and Zhicha

Waves of passion disturb my spirit, great sadness and anguish have overwhelmed my soul. Embalm my soul with Thy Son's peace, O Most Holy One, and by His Grace drive away every doubt and despair. Calm the storm of my sins that, like a fiery worm, burn me, and quench its flame. Fill my heart with joy, O Most Pure One, and disperse the fog of my iniquities before me, for it confuses me. Illumine me with the light of Thy Son. Helpless is my soul, and everything is cumbersome, even prayer. Here I am, cold as a stone, my lips whispering prayers, while my heart remains immovable, for it is smothered in anguish. Melt the ice which envelops my soul and warm my heart with Thy love.

I rely not on human protection, but fall down before Thee, O Most Pure Sovereign Mother of God; reject me not, but hearken unto the prayer of Thy servant. Sadness has overcome me; I can endure the demonic attack no more. I

have no protection; there is no shelter for this poor man, and in this battle I am ever being wounded. I have no consolation, but in Thee, O Holy Sovereign. O Hope and Protection of all who believe, reject not my prayer. Amen.

O Most Holy Mother of Christ, Most Pure, Most Blessed Theotokos, Satan is pounding at me like the waves of the sea against a ship, pursuing me by day and tormenting me at night. I have no peace; turbulent is my soul, my spirit

trembles. Hearken, O Most Holy One and help me. Intercede before the dear Lord that He may have mercy on me and forgive the sins I have committed. O Most Holy Mother of Jesus, Thy grace is great, and the mightiest opponent to the powers of hades. Thou art able to save even the greatest of sinners who, having been cast into the depths of hell by unclean powers, should call upon Thee. So too, save me, for lo, Satan will have me stumble and will destroy my faith, but I trust in the Lord. I magnify Thee, Who art more holy than the Cherubim and the Seraphim.

Γ.Ἐφραίμ Φιλοθεΐτης -Περί Πνευματικοῦ Ζήλου‏

Ὁ σκύλος ὅταν ἀντιληφθῆ, ὅτι κάτι ἔρχεται νὰ κάνη κακὸ στὰ πρόβατα, φωνάζει, γαυγίζει ἔντονα, ἀπειλητικά, νιώθοντας ὅτι ἔχει κάποια εὐθύνη πάνω στὰ πρόβατα, στὸ ἀφεντικὸ ποὺ τὸν ἔχει, ποὺ τὸν ταΐζει. Εἶναι φυσικό του νὰ τὸ κάνει αὐτό. Καὶ ὅσο γαυγίζει καὶ φωνάζει, ὁ κλέφτης, ὁ λύκος, τὸ ἀγρίμι, δὲν πλησιάζει τὸ κοπάδι. Ἐὰν στὸ σκυλὶ αὐτὸ ἔρθει ὁ λογισμός, ὅτι δὲν ὑπάρχει φόβος, δὲν ὑπάρχει λύκος, δὲν κρύβεται κάποιος κλέφτης καὶ ἀρχίζει νὰ σπάζει ἡ προσοχή του, τὸ ἄγρυπνο γιὰ τὸ κοπάδι, τὸν πλησιάζει ὁ νυσταγμός, κάθεται καὶ τὸν παίρνει ὁ ὕπνος. Καὶ ἔτσι ἡσυχάζει ὁ τόπος, τὸ κοπάδι ἀπὸ τὰ γαυγίσματα, αὐτὸ γίνεται ἀντιληπτὸ ἀπὸ τὸν κλέφτη, ἀπὸ τὸν λύκο, ποὺ παραμονεύουν. Ὅταν, λοιπόν, σταματήσει ὁ λύκος νὰ ἀγρυπνεῖ καὶ νὰ φωνάζει. Ὅταν δοῦνε τὴν περίπτωση αὐτή, σιγὰ-σιγὰ προχωροῦν, πλησιάζουν, προσβάλλουν τὸ κοπάδι καὶ ἀρχίζουν ἕνα - ἕνα νὰ ρημάζουν τὰ πρόβατα.

Ὁ ζῆλος ὁ πνευματικὸς εἶναι σὰν τὸ σκυλί. Γεννᾶται ἡ ἐπιθυμία στὸν ἄνθρωπο τὸν πνευματικὸ νὰ ἀγωνιστεῖ, νὰ ἀποκτήσει κάποια ἀρετὴ καὶ στὴ συνέχεια νὰ φυλάξει τὴν ἀρετή. Ἡ ἐπιθυμία ποὺ διεγείρεται μέσα στὸν ἄνθρωπο, γεννᾶ τὸν ζῆλο. Ὁ ζῆλος, ὅταν γεννηθεῖ, φωνάζει σὰν τὸ σκυλί. Πλέκει λογισμούς, πῶς νὰ ἀγωνιστεῖ σκέπτεται πῶς νὰ φυλαχθεῖ, πῶς νὰ φυλάξει, πῶς νὰ ἀποκτήσει ὁ ἄνθρωπος τὴν ἀρετή. Διεγείρεται ἡ ἀδιάλειπτη προσοχή, ἡ νῆψις, γιὰ νὰ κατορθωθεῖ ἡ ἀρετὴ τὴν ὁποία ἐπεθύμησε ἡ ψυχὴ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου.

Ἄς πάρουμε μιά περίπτωση, μιά ἀρετὴ ποὺ σκέπτεται, μᾶλλον ἐπιθυμεῖ νὰ ἀποκτήσει ὁ πνευματικὸς ἄνθρωπος. Ἂς πάρουμε τὴν ἀρετὴ τῆς προσευχῆς. Ἐπιθυμεῖ ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἀπὸ τὴν μελέτη, ἀπὸ τὴν φώτιση τοῦ Θεοῦ, νὰ ἀποκτήσει, νὰ κερδίσει τὴν ἀδιάλειπτη προσευχή. Τὴν προσευχὴ ποὺ δὲν ἔχει σταματημό. Ἡ ἐπιθυμία γεννᾶ τὸν ζῆλο, τὴν θέρμη αὐτή, τὴν ὁρμητικότητα τῆς ψυχῆς. Καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία, ὁ ζῆλος, ἡ θέρμη δημιουργοῦν ὁρμητικότητα, εἰς τὸ νὰ ἀποκτήσει κανεὶς αὐτὴ τὴν μεγάλη ἀρετή. Ὁ ζῆλος γεννᾶ τοὺς λογισμοὺς τῆς παραφυλακῆς καὶ σκέπτεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος, ὅτι γιὰ νὰ ἀποκτήσει αὐτὴν τὴν ἀρετή, χρειάζεται νὰ ἀγωνιστεῖ νόμιμα, κατὰ τοὺς Πατέρας. Ὅτι πρέπει συνεχῶς νὰ ἐλέγχει τὴν κατάσταση, νὰ ἀγωνίζεται στὴν ἀρχή, μὲ τὴν προφορικὴ ἐπίκληση μὲ τὸ στόμα νὰ λέει τὴν εὐχή. Ὁ ζῆλος παρακολουθεῖ τώρα νὰ μὴν σταματήσει ἡ προφορικὴ ἐπίκληση, νὰ μὴν ἀργολογήσει, νὰ μὴν σκεφτεῖ μάταια πράγματα, νὰ μὴν σκορπίζει τὸ μυαλὸ του ἐδῶ κι ἐκεῖ. Καὶ συνεχῶς τὴν προφορικὴ ἔτσι ἐργασία τῆς προσευχῆς, τὴν παρακολουθεῖ ὁ ζῆλος, ἡ προσοχή, ἡ νῆψις. Τὸ ἀγωνιστικὸ πνεῦμα νὰ μὴν σταματήσει.

Μόλις συμβεῖ κάτι, ποὺ νὰ ἐμποδίζεται ὁ ζῆλος, πάλι δίνει τοὺς λογισμοὺς τοὺς φωτισμένους, τοὺς θερμούς, ὅτι αὐτὸ τὸ ἐμπόδιο πρέπει νὰ ξεπεραστεῖ. Μιά ἀργολογία ἤτανε, μιά σκέψις ἦρθε ἔτσι μάταιη στὸν λογισμὸ καὶ σταμάτησε τὸ στόμα νὰ λέει τὴν προσευχή. Ἀμέσως ὁ ζῆλος ξεκινάει πάλι ὅτι πρέπει νὰ ἀγωνιστεῖ, αὐτὸ δὲν πρέπει νὰ ξαναγίνει. Μόλις δεῖς τὴν περίπτωση, νὰ τὴν ὑπερπηδήσεις, καὶ ἔτσι διατηρεῖται αὐτὴ ἡ ἐργασία τῆς προσευχῆς.

Φωτίζει τώρα ὁ ζῆλος, ἀποδιώκει κάθε κακὸ λογισμό, καὶ δέχεται τοὺς φωτεινοὺς λογισμοὺς ποὺ λένε ὅτι σὰν ἀγωνιστεῖς κατ' αὐτὸν τὸν τρόπο προφορικά, ὅπως μᾶς συμβουλεύουν οἱ μεγάλοι πατέρες, μετὰ ἀπὸ τὴν προφορική, θὰ φθάσουμε στὴ διανοητική, στὴν νοερὰ προσευχή. Ἡ ὄρεξη τῆς ψυχῆς νὰ φτάση στὴν νοερὰ ἐπίκληση, δίνει τόνωση, ὁρμητικότητα στὴν προφορικὴ ἐπίκληση, νὰ μὴ σταματήσει, γιατί πρόκειται νὰ φτάσουμε στὴν νοερά. Ἐὰν δὲν ἀγωνιστεῖ σωστὰ στὴν προφορική, δὲν θὰ φθάσεις στὸ ὑψηλότερο ἐπίπεδο τῆς προσευχῆς. Καὶ ἔτσι ὁ ζῆλος παρακολουθεῖ τὸν ἀγῶνα συστηματικὰ καὶ κανονικά. Τὸν περιφράττει, τὸν περιβάλλει, τὸν σκεπάζει κατὰ κάποιο τρόπο, ἀπὸ τὴν κακία τοῦ δαίμονος. Καὶ ἔτσι σιγὰ - σιγά, ἡ ἁγία αὐτὴ ἐπιθυμία, μὲ τὴν φρούρηση τοῦ πνευματικοῦ ζήλου, προχωρεῖ στὴν ἀπόκτηση τῆς τελείας προσευχῆς.

Ὅταν ὅμως νυστάξει αὐτὸς ὁ ζῆλος, οἱ θερμοὶ λογισμοὶ ἀρχίζουν νὰ κρυώνουν ἀρχίζει ἡ αὐτοπεποίθησις μέσα μας, ὅτι καλὰ πᾶμε. Θὰ ἀποκτήσω αὐτὸ τὸ πρᾶγμα. Λογισμοὶ μάταιοι ἔρχονται καὶ προσβάλλουν καὶ σπάζουν τὸν τόνο τοῦ ζήλου. Ἀρχίζει ὁ νυσταγμὸς τῆς ψυχῆς, καὶ πέφτει ὁ ἀγώνας. Ὑποχωρώντας ὁ ζῆλος, παύει τὸ στόμα φερ' εἰπεῖν νὰ λέει συνέχεια τὴν προσευχή. Ἀρχίζει νὰ κάνει διαλείψεις, νὰ κάνει σκαμπανεβάσματα, πλημμελῶς νὰ ἐργάζεται τὸ στόμα τὴν προσευχή. Ὁπότε τὴν κλέβει τελείως ὁ ἐχθρὸς τὴν προσευχή, καὶ κλείνουμε τὸ στόμα καὶ οἱ λογισμοὶ μέσα μας οἱ ἄσχημοι, δουλεύουνε ἄνετα. Τότε τὸ στόμα ἀπὸ τὴν προφορικὴ ἐπίκληση ἔρχεται στὴν παρρησία καὶ ἔτσι ἐρημώνεται τὸ πνευματικὸ ποίμνιο τῆς ψυχῆς.

Καὶ γιὰ κάθε ἀρετή, ἔτσι γίνεται, ἀπὸ τὴν πλευρὰ τοῦ πνευματικοῦ ζήλου. Ὅσο ἡ ἐπιθυμία θὰ φρουρεῖται καὶ θὰ θερμαίνεται ἀπὸ τὸν ζῆλο, ἡ ἐπιθυμία αὐτὴ τῆς ἀρετῆς θὰ γίνει ἔργο, θὰ γίνει κτῆμα τῆς ψυχῆς. Καὶ πρέπει συνεχῶς νὰ πυροδοτοῦμε τὸν πνευματικὸ ζῆλο, γιὰ νὰ φρουρεῖται ἡ ψυχή μας ἀπὸ τοὺς νοητοὺς λύκους καὶ ἀπὸ τοὺς νοητοὺς κλέφτες, οἱ ὁποῖοι καιροφυλακτοῦν ἀνὰ πᾶσαν στιγμήν, νὰ ἐρημώσουν τὴν ψυχή μας.

Ὁ διάβολος τῆς κακῆς ἐπιθυμίας στέκει ἀπέναντί μας, στέκει μπροστά μας, ἔχει ἀναμμένη, ὅπως λένε οἱ πατέρες, τὴν δάδα καὶ ζητεῖ εὐκαιρία, κατάλληλη στιγμὴ ἀμελείας καὶ ραθυμίας γιὰ νὰ μᾶς δώσει μπουρλότο, νὰ ἐμπρήσει τόν ναὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ, νὰ μᾶς ἀνάψει τὴν κακὴ ἐπιθυμία μέσα μας καὶ νὰ ἀποτεφρώσει τελείως κάθε ὑπόστασι καθαρότητος τῆς ψυχῆς.

Τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, τοῦ πνευματικοῦ ἀνθρώπου κατὰ τὸν ἀπ. Παῦλο, εἶναι ναὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ. Οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι εἴσαστε ναὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ τὸ Πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐνοίκει (κατοικεῖ) ἐντὸς ὑμῶν; Μέσα μας κατοικεῖ τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ Θεοῦ. Ἀπὸ τὴν στιγμὴ ποὺ ἀναγεννηθήκαμε πνευματικῶς, μὲ τὴ ἱεροπραξία αὐτή, τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιο ἦρθε μέσα στὴν καρδιὰ του βαπτισμένου ἀνθρώπου. Ἀλλὰ ἡ χάρις αὐτή, ὅταν δὲν προσέξει ὁ ἄνθρωπος καὶ ἁμαρτάνει, καταπλακώνεται, καταχώνεται βαθιὰ στὴν καρδιὰ καὶ ἡ λαμπρότης αὐτῆς τῆς χάριτος τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος, δὲν λάμπει στὸν νοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ὥστε ἡ λάμψις, ὁ φωτισμὸς αὐτῆς τῆς χάριτος, νὰ δώσει τὴν δυνατότητα, νὰ γνωρίση ὁ ἄνθρωπος τὸν Θεὸ μέσα του.

Ἡ χάρις αὐτὴ τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος διὰ τοῦ Ἱεροῦ Βαπτίσματος, κάνει τὸ σῶμα τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, τὴν ψυχὴ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, ναὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ. Ὁ ναὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ, ὅταν δὲν εἶναι καθαρός, ὁ Θεὸς δὲν τὸν ἐπισκέπτεται, δὲν μπαίνει μέσα στὸ ναὸ αὐτό, ἀλλὰ φεύγει. Τὸν ἀφήνει ἔρημο. Καὶ γίνεται ἕνας τόπος ἄχρηστος, ἕνας τόπος βρώμικος. Ἔρχονται ὅλα τὰ δαιμόνια καὶ κατοικοῦν ἐκεῖ μέσα. Ἄρα ἡ καθαρότης τοῦ ψυχοσωματικοῦ ἀνθρώπου, εἶναι ἡ καθαρότης τοῦ ναοῦ, εἶναι ἡ εὐωδία τοῦ ναοῦ, εἶναι ἡ εὐπρέπεια τοῦ ναοῦ.

Ἁγιάζεται ὁ ἄνθρωπος ὅταν βρίσκεται καθαρὸς στὴν ψυχὴ καὶ στὸ σῶμα. Καὶ ἔρχεται ὅλος ὁ Θεὸς μέσα στὸν ἄνθρωπο. Τότε ἡ Χάρις τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος ἀνακύπτει, ἔρχεται στὴν ἐπιφάνεια. Ἀποβάλλει ὅλη τὴν σαβούρα, ποὺ εἶχε πάνω της διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας. Καὶ οἱ λαμπηδόνες καὶ οἱ ἀκτῖνες καὶ οἱ λάμψεις αὐτῆς τῆς χάριτος τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος, καταυγάζουν ὅλον τὸν νοῦ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καὶ τόν κάνουν θεοειδῆ.

Λοιπὸν ὁ διάβολος, ὅπως εἴπαμε, στέκεται ἀπέναντί μας καὶ ἔχει στὸ χέρι του τήν κακὴ ἐπιθυμία τῆς ἁμαρτίας καὶ ζητᾶ εὐκαιρία νὰ πετάξει ἐπάνω μας αὐτὴ τὴν φλόγα τῆς κακῆς ἐπιθυμίας, νὰ μᾶς πυρπολήσει καὶ νὰ μᾶς ἀποξενώσει τελείως ἀπὸ τὸν Θεό, νὰ μὴν ἔχουμε ὑπόστασι τοῦ θείου ναοῦ. Ὁ πνευματικὸς ὅμως ζῆλος, ὅταν αὐτὸν τὸν ναὸ τὸν περιβάλλει, τὸν περιπολεῖ, τὸν περιτριγυρίζει καὶ ὑλακτεῖ καὶ φωνάζει σὰν τὸν σκυλί, τότε ὁ ἐχθρὸς ὁ ἀπέναντί μας, δὲν βρίσκει τὴν εὐκαιρία νὰ μᾶς κάψει, νὰ μᾶς ἀχρηστεύσει, νὰ μᾶς κάνει ἁμαρτωλοὺς μπροστὰ στὰ μάτια τοῦ Θεοῦ! Καὶ ἔτσι διατηρούμεθα ἐν τῷ Θεῷ.

Ὅταν ἡ ψυχή μας προσεύχεται, ὅταν ὁ νοῦς μας περπατάει στὸν Θεό, πλησιάζει τὸν Θεό, μὲ τὴν θεωρία καὶ τὴν θεία μελέτη, ὁ ναὸς θυσιάζεται μὲ τὸ ἄρωμα τῆς Χάριτος τοῦ Θεοῦ. Τὸ ἄρωμα εἶναι ἡ πρᾶξις τῆς ψυχῆς ἡ πρᾶξις τῆς προσευχῆς εἶναι ὁ καρπὸς τῆς προσευχῆς, ἡ εὐωδία τοῦ θυμιάματος, Καὶ ὅταν ἕνας ναὸς θυμιάζεται καὶ εὐωδιάζεται καὶ εἶναι εὐπρεπισμένος καὶ καλλωπισμένος, ὁ Θεὸς εὐχαρίστως ἔρχεται καὶ κατοικεῖ ἐκεῖ μέσα καὶ θυσιάζεται ἐπάνω στὸ θυσιαστήριο τῆς καρδιᾶς. Καὶ ἡ καρδιὰ ἀναπέμπει δοξολογίες καὶ εὐχαριστίες στὸν Θεό, ποὺ κάμει αὐτὸ τὸ μυστήριο, ποὺ δέχεται αὐτὴν τὴν ἐξιλαστήριο θυσία.

Ἐὰν ὅμως ὁ ζῆλος δὲν περιφρουρήσει αὐτὸν τὸν ναό, τότε ὁ ναὸς εἶναι ἀνοχύρωτος, εἶναι ἀπροστάτευτος, εἶναι ἀφύλακτος, καὶ ἐρημώνεται ἀπὸ τὸν διάβολο. Ἐμεῖς σὰν μοναχοί, ποὺ κατὰ κάποιο τρόπο γνωρίζουμε τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ, διδασκόμεθα συνέχεια ἀπὸ τοὺς θεοφόρους Πατέρες μας, πῶς πρέπει νὰ ἀγωνιστοῦμε. Ἡ ζωή τους, τὸ παράδειγμά τους, οἱ νουθεσίες τους, δὲν εἶναι τίποτε ἄλλο, παρὰ νὰ μᾶς ἀνάψουν τὸν ζῆλο γιὰ νὰ τοὺς μιμηθοῦμε. Νὰ τοὺς μιμηθοῦμε στὴν ἀρετή τους, καὶ στὴν χάρι ποὺ ἀπόκτησαν ἀπὸ τὸνἀγώνα τους.

Καὶ αὐτοὶ ἦταν ἄνθρωποι, εἶχαν πάθη καὶ ἀδυναμίες, ἀλλὰ πρόσεξαν πάρα πολὺ τὸν πνευματικό τους ζῆλο. Δὲν τὸν ἄφησαν νὰ νυστάξη, νὰ κοιμηθῆ. Τὸν εἶχαν πάντα ἄγρυπνο, νηφάλιο καὶ προσεκτικὸ καὶ σιγὰ - σιγὰ ὁ ναὸς τῆς ψυχῆς των καὶ τοῦ σώματός των ἔγινε ἅγιος καὶ ὁ Θεὸς κατοίκησε μέσα τους καὶ ἔγιναν ἅγιοι.

Τώρα ἀκολουθοῦμε ἐμεῖς. Ἤρθαμε ἐμεῖς στὸ στίβο τῆς πάλης. Ἤρθαμε στὴ θέσι τους. Ἤρθαμε στὴ ζωὴ ποὺ ἔζησαν αὐτοί. Πρέπει νὰ τοὺς μιμηθοῦμε καὶ πρῶτος ἐγώ. Πρέπει νὰ τοὺς μιμηθοῦμε, νὰ δοῦμε πῶς ἐζήλωσαν αὐτοὶ τὸν Νόμο τοῦ Θεοῦ, νὰ τὸν ζηλώσουμε καὶ ἐμεῖς. Νὰ ἔχουμε προσοχὴ σὲ ὅλα μας. Νὰ θερμαίνουμε συνεχῶς τὸν πόθο, τὸ πῶς θὰ ἁγνίσουμε ψυχοσωματικὰ τὸν ἑαυτό μας.

Ἀλλὰ σὰν ἄνθρωποι ποὺ εἴμεθα καὶ ἔχουμε τόσες ἀδυναμίες, ποὺ πολλὲς φορές μᾶς ξεφεύγουν ἀπὸ τὴν προσοχή, πρέπει τὸν δικό μας ζῆλο νὰ τὸν διατηροῦμε συνέχεια. Ἡ μνήμη τοῦ θανάτου, δίνει μεγάλη θέρμη στὸν ζῆλο! Καὶ ὅταν κανεὶς σκέπτεται, ὅτι ἴσως πεθάνει μετὰ ἀπὸ λίγη ὥρα, μετὰ ἀπὸ μία μέρα, ἕνα μῆνα, ἕνα χρόνο, ἡ σκέψις αὐτὴ εἶναι μία θέρμανση στὸν ζῆλο, ὥστε νὰ προσέξη τὸν ἑαυτό του. Νὰ προσέξη νὰ μὴν ἁμαρτήση νὰ μὴν σκεφθῆ κακό, νὰ μὴν μιλήση ἄσχημα, νὰ μὴν πράξη κακό, γιατί ὁ θάνατος ἄμα ἔρθη, τί θὰ γίνει μετά;

Γνωρίζουμε ὅτι τὰ πάντα μας εἶναι γνωστὰ στὸν Θεὸ καὶ στὸν διάβολο. Ὁ πειρασμὸς τὰ γράφει μὲ κάθε λεπτομέρεια ὅλα μας τὰ ἔργα, ὅλους μας τοὺς λογισμοὺς καὶ τὰ λόγια στὰ κατάστιχά του. Καὶ τὴν ὥρα ποὺ θὰ πρόκειται νὰ φύγουμε ἢ καὶ ὅταν θὰ ἀνεβαίνουμε πρὸς τὸν Θεό, τὰ εἰδικὰ τελώνεια θὰ μᾶς παρουσιάσουν ὅλο αὐτὸ τὸ πλῆθος τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν, ποὺ ἐμεῖς τὶς ἔχουμε λησμονήσει. Καὶ ὅταν τὶς δοῦμε καὶ εἶναι ὅλες γραμμένες καὶ νὰ μᾶς δοθῆ ἡ δυνατότητα νὰ τὶς ἐνθυμηθοῦμε, τότε, θὰ ἀπορήσουμε γιὰ τὸ μέγεθος, γιὰ τὸ πλῆθος, ποὺ θὰ ἔχουν γραμμένα ἐκεῖ οἱ δαίμονες.

Τότε θὰ ἔρθη τὸ μυαλὸ στὴ θέση του, τότε θὰ σκεφθοῦμε ὤριμα καὶ σωστά. Τὸ ὄφελος ποιὸ θὰ εἶναι; Νὰ μεταμεληθοῦμε βέβαια, ἀλλὰ μὲ τὴν ἔννοια ὅτι μεταμέλεια πλέον δὲν φέρνει τὴν ὠφέλεια, δὲν φέρνει τὴν μετάνοια, δὲν ἔχει ἀξία πλέον ἡ μετάνοια ἐκείνη τὴν ὥρα, διότι τὸ πανηγύρι ἔχει λήξει, ὁ καιρὸς τῆς μετανοίας δὲν ὑπάρχει καὶ ἡ δυσκολία εἶναι ἄμεση.

Ὅλα αὐτά, ὅταν τὰ ὑπενθυμίζει ὁ ζῆλος στὴν ψυχή, ἡ ψυχὴ φυλάγεται ἀπὸ τὸ κακό. Γι' αὐτὸ πρέπει ὁ ζῆλος νὰ μᾶς συνέχει καὶ νὰ μᾶς δίνει τὴν δυνατότητα τῆς ἀδειαλείπτου προσοχῆς. Δὲν πρέπει ἡ προσοχή μας νὰ ἀποσπᾶται. Νὰ προσέχουμε συνέχεια καὶ πρῶτος ἐγὼ διότι ἔχω μεγαλύτερη τὴν εὐθύνη καὶ ὁ λόγος τῆς ἀπολογίας μου σκληρότερος ἐνώπιόν του Θεοῦ.

Ἃς προσέξουμε τώρα πατέρες μου, νὰ ἔχουμε τὸν ζῆλο μας θερμό, ἀδιάλειπτον προσεκτικὸ καὶ ἀνύστακτον. Καὶ ὅταν ἔρθη, θὰ προσέχουμε τὴν ζωή μας, ὁ ναὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ θὰ φυλαχθῆ, θὰ διατηρηθῆ καὶ ὁ Θεὸς θὰ κατοικῆ μέσα του. Καὶ ὅταν ὁ Θεὸς εἶναι μέσα μας, τὰ πάντα κατευθύνονται σωστά. Ἡ πορεία μας εἶναι πρὸς τὸ φῶς, πρὸς τὴν Οὐράνιο Πύλη. Ἡ ἐλπίδα τοῦ Θεοῦ θὰ δίνη τὴν καλύτερη δροσιὰ καὶ ἀνακούφιση.

Ἃς ἀγωνιστοῦμε, λοιπόν, μ' αὐτὸν τὸν τρόπο, τὸν πνευματικὸ ζῆλο, καὶ ἂς ἐλπίσουμε τότε, ὅτι ὁ Θεὸς θὰ μᾶς βοηθήσει, θὰ συντρέξη μὲ τὴν καλὴ αὐτὴ ἐπιθυμία τῆς ψυχῆς μας, εἰς τὸ νὰ βοηθήση τὸν ζῆλο, τὴν θέρμη.

Ἂς ἐλπίσουμε ὅτι θὰ μᾶς ἀξιώση νὰ φτάσουμε στὴν μεγάλη πατρίδα, ποὺ ὑπάρχει εἰς τὸν Οὐρανόν. Ἐκεῖ ποὺ ἔχει κάμει ὁ Θεὸς τὴν ἄνωἹερουσαλήμ, τὴν Ἐκκλησία τῶν πρωτοτόκων, ἐκεῖ ὅπου ὑπάρχει τὸ Ἄκτιστον φῶς, ἐκεῖ ποὺ ὅλη ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ εἶναι Οὐράνιος ναὸς τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ ὁ Θεὸς εἶναι τὸ φέγγος.

Ὁ Θεὸς εἶναι ὁ ἥλιος καὶ τὸ φῶς ποὺ φωτίζει αὐτὸν τὸν Ναό. Ἐκκλησίασμα εἶναι οἱ σωσμένες ψυχές, ποὺ πέρασαν μέσα ἀπὸ τὸ καμίνι τῆς θλίψεως τοῦ ἐδῶ ἀγῶνος, καὶ ἐκεῖ ξεκουράζονται πλέον ἀπὸ αὐτὴ τὴν θλίψη, ἀπὸ τοὺς πειρασμούς, ἀπὸ τὸν ἀγώνα, ἀπὸ τοὺς ἀναστεναγμούς, ἀπηλλαγμένοι πλέον ἀπὸ τὰ δάκρυα, ἀπὸ τοὺς φόβους. Καὶ ἔτσι αὐτὸ τὸ ἐκκλησίασμα θὰ βρίσκεται σ' αὐτὸ τὸν ναό, εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων.

Γέρων Ἐφραίμ Φιλοθεΐτης (Προηγούμενος Ἱ. Μ. Φιλοθέου)


Να κυνηγάς την ταπεινοφροσύνη σαν να είσαι ερωτευμένος μαζί της

H ψυχή σου εξομοιώνεται με όσα κάνεις, παίρνει τη μορφή και το σχήμα των πράξεών σου. Η εμφάνισή σου, το ντύσιμο, το βάδισμα και ο τρόπος που κάθεσαι, όπως και το φαγητό σου, το κρεβάτι, το σπίτι και τα έπιπλα του σπιτιού, όλα να είναι απλά. Και τα λόγια και το τραγούδι και η παρέα με το φίλο, κι αυτά να τείνουν στο μέτρο κι όχι στην υπερβολή.

Μην κάνεις επίδειξη με περίτεχνα λόγια, ούτε με κορώνες στο τραγούδι, μην κάνεις διαλέξεις αλαζονικές και βαρυσήμαντες, μα απ' όλα να αφαιρείς την υπερβολή. Να είσαι καλός με το φίλο, μαλακός με τον υφιστάμενο, ανεξίκακος με τους θρασείς, φιλάνθρωπος με τους περιφρονημένους. Να παρηγορείς όσους ταλαιπωρούνται, να επισκέπτεσαι όσους υποφέρουν, να συζητάς με γλυκύτητα, να απαντάς με χαμόγελο, να είσαι προσιτός σε όλους.

Ούτε να πλέκεις εγκώμια του εαυτού σου, ούτε να παρακινείς τους άλλους να σου πλέκουν, και να μη συμφωνείς με λόγο υπερήφανο, καλύπτοντας όσο μπορείς τα προτερήματά σου.

Όσο για τα λάθη σου, πρώτος εσύ να κατηγορείς τον εαυτό σου, και να μην περιμένεις να σε διορθώσουν οι άλλοι. Με των άλλων τα λάθη να μην είσαι αυστηρός και να μην κάνεις παρατηρήσεις γρήγορα και θυμωμένα, ούτε να τους καταδικάζεις για μικροπράγματα, σαν να είσαι εσύ απόλυτα σωστός.

Αντίθετα, να στηρίζεις ψυχολογικά όσους έσφαλαν και να τους καθοδηγείς πνευματικά. Και να κάνεις τόση προσπάθεια για να αποφύγεις τη δόξα των ανθρώπων όση κάνουν άλλοι για να την αποκτήσουν. Μη ζημιώνεσαι λοιπόν θέλοντας να φαίνεσαι στους ανθρώπους. Ο πραγματικός, ο μεγάλος θεατής είναι ο Θεός. Στρέψε σ' Αυτόν τη φιλοδοξία σου. Δίνει λαμπρό μισθό. Ή μήπως απέκτησες κάποιο αξίωμα, και οι άνθρωποι σε ακολουθούν και σε χειροκροτούν;

Να γίνεις ίσος με αυτούς που διοικείς, γιατί, όπως λέει η Καινή Διαθήκη, «μην καταδυναστεύετε αυτούς που ποιμαίνετε», και μην τους εξουσιάζετε, όπως κάνουν οι ηγέτες στον κόσμο. Γιατί όποιος θέλει να είναι πρώτος πρέπει να γίνει δούλος όλων, έτσι όρισε ο Κύριος. Και γενικά, να κυνηγάς την ταπεινοφροσύνη σαν να ήσουν ερωτευμένος μαζί της. «Αγάπησέ την και θα σε δοξάσει».

Έτσι θα βρεις το δρόμο για την αληθινή δόξα, τη δόξα που δίνει ο Θεός. Κι ο Χριστός θα σε παρουσιάσει, για μαθητή Του, στους αγγέλους και θα σου δώσει δόξα, αν μιμηθείς την ταπεινοφροσύνη Του, Εκείνου που λέει: «Διδαχθείτε από το δικό μου παράδειγμα γιατί είμαι πράος και ταπεινός στην καρδιά και οι ψυχές σας θα βρουν ξεκούραση».

Μέγας Βασίλειος

Μην απελπίζεσαι θα βγεις νικητής στον αόρατο πόλεμο!

Ομιλία Γέροντος Νεκταρίου Μουλατσιώτη με θέμα: "ΑΔΕΛΦΕ ΜΟΥ ΜΗΝ ΑΠΕΛΠΙΖΕΣΑΙ, ΘΑ ΒΓΕΙΣ ΝΙΚΗΤΗΣ ΣΤΟΝ ΑΟΡΑΤΟ ΠΟΛΕΜΟ" Η ομιλία πραγματοποιήθηκε στην Ιερά Μονή Αγίων Αυγουστίνου Ιππώνος και Σεραφείμ του Σαρώφ Τρικόρφου Φωκίδος, την Τετάρτη 14 Νοεμβρίου 2012.
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