Η ΕΚΡΗΞΗ ΤΗΣ ΑΓΑΠΗΣ π ΑΝΔΡΕΑΣ ΚΟΝΑΝΟΣ
Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Θυμίαμα καλείται από τα αρχαία χρόνια το αρωματικό ρετσίνι ή το κόμμι που βγαίνει από τις τομές στον κορμό του δέντρου λίβανος εξ ου και λιβάνι. Στο σπίτι καλό είναι να προσφέρεται θυμίαμα τακτικά και να συνοδεύεται πάντοτε με κάποια προσευχή. Οι πνευματικοί συμβολισμοί του θυμιάματος είναι:
1. Το θυμίαμα εν πρώτοις συμβολίζει την προσευχή, που ανεβαίνει προς τον θρόνον του Θεού. " Κατευθυνθήτω η προσευχή μου ως θυμίαμα ενώπιόν Σου. . . " Είναι η ορμή της ψυχής προς τα άνω. Και ταυτόχρονα συμβολίζει και την ζέουσαν επιθυμία μας να γίνει η προσευχή μας δεκτή " εις όσμήν ευωδίας πνευματικής ". Γράφει ο ιερός Χρυσόστομος " Ώσπερ το θυμίαμα και καθ' εαυτό καλόν και ευώδες, τότε δέ μάλιστα επιδείκνυται την ευωδίαν, όταν ομιλήση τώ πυρί. Ούτω δέ και η ευχή καλή μέν καθ' εαυτήν, καλλίων δέ και ευωδεστέρα γίνεται όταν μετά και ζεούσης ψυχής αναφέρηται, όταν θυμιατήριον η ψυχή γένηται και πύρ ανάπτη σφοδρόν ". Γι ' αυτό και πρέπει, όταν προσεύχεται κανείς, καλόν είναι να καίει θυμίαμα στο σπίτι.
2. Συμβολίζει ακόμη τις γλώσσες πυρός της Αγ. Πεντηκοστής, όταν ο Κύριος εξαπέστειλε στους Μαθητές Του το Πανάγιό Του Πνεύμα " έν είδει πυρίνων γλωσσών ". Στην ευχή που λέγει ο ιερεύς, όταν ευλογεί το θυμίαμα στην Πρόθεση, αναφέρει " Θυμίαμά Σοι προσφέρομεν Χριστέ ο Θεός εις οσμήν ευωδίας πνευματικής, ο προσδεξάμενος εις το υπερουράνιόν Σου θυσιαστήριον, αντικατάπεμψον ημίν την χάριν του Παναγίου Σου Πνεύματος ". Με το θυμίαμα δηλ. ζητούμε από τον Κύριο να μάς στείλει την αγιοπνευματικήν Του χάρι. Γι' αυτό και οι πιστοί, όταν τους θυμιάζει ο Ιερεύς, κλίνουν ελαφρώς την κεφαλή σε δείγμα αποδοχής της χάριτος αυτής. Ο Άγ. Συμεών Θεσσαλονίκης ερμηνεύει ως εξής την σημασίαν του θυμιάματος : " Δηλοί την απ' ουρανού χάριν και δωρεάν εκχυθείσαν τώ κόσμω διά Ιησού Χριστού και ευωδίαν του Πνεύματος και πάλιν εις τον ουρανόν δι' αυτού αναχθείσαν".
3. Το ευώδες θυμίαμα συμβολίζει εξ άλλου και τον αίνον, που απευθύνεται προς τον Θεό. Η καύση του θυμιάματος σημαίνει τη λατρεία και τον εξιλασμό. Το δέ ευχάριστο συναίσθημα, που δημιουργείται από το άρωμα του θυμιάματος σε όλο το χώρο του Ι. Ναού, σημαίνει την πλήρωση της καρδιάς μας από τη θεία ευαρέστηση, που είναι ο καρπός της αγάπης μας προς το Θεό. Στην περίπτωση αυτή κάθε πιστός μετατρέπεται σε " ευωδίαν Χριστού ".
4. Το δέ θυμιατήριον, όπου καίγονται τα κάρβουνα και τοποθετείται το θυμίαμα, συμβολίζει την κοιλίαν της Θεοτόκου, η οποία δέχθηκε στα σπλάχνα της σωματικώς την Θεότητα, που είναι " πύρ καταναλίσκον ", χωρίς να υποστή φθοράν ή αλλοίωση. Κατά τον άγιο Γερμανό, Πατριάρχη Κων/λεως " Ο θυμιατήρ υποδεικνύει την ανθρωπότητα του Χριστού, το πύρ την θεότητα και ο ευώδης καπνός μηνύει την ευωδία του Αγίου Πνεύματος προπορευομένην ". Και αλλού " Η γαστήρ του θυμιατηρίου νοηθείη αν ημίν η ηγιασμένη μήτρα της Θεοτόκου φέρουσα τον θείον άνθρακα Χριστόν εν ώ κατοικεί πάν το πλήρωμα της θεότητος σωματικώς. Διό και την οσμήν της ευωδίας αναδίδωσιν ευωδιάζον τα σύμπαντα ". Με απλά λόγια και ο άγιος Κοσμάς ο Αιτωλός περιγράφει αυτόν τον συμβολισμόν, λέγοντας " Το θυμιατό σημαίνει την Δέσποινα, την Θεοτόκο. Όπως τα κάρβουνα είναι μέσα στο θυμιατό και δεν καίεται, έτσι και η Δέσποινα η Θεοτόκος εδέχθηκε τον Χριστόν και δεν εκάηκε, αλλά μάλιστα εφωτίσθηκε.
Με το θυμίαμα που προσφέρουμε την ώρα της προσευχής υποβοηθείται η ανάταση της ψυχής προς τα υψηλά «άνω σχώμεν τάς καρδίας». Όπως το θυμίαμα θερμαινόμενο στον άνθρακα ανέρχεται προς τα άνω ευωδιάζοντας το περιβάλλον, έτσι και η ψυχή του πιστού με θερμή πίστη πρέπει να πτερουγίζει προς τα άνω μυροβλύζουσα, απαγγιστρωμένη από τις υλικές μέριμνες. Η βάση του θυμιατηρίου υποδεικνύει την ανθρωπότητα του Χριστού, η φωτιά την θεότητά Του και ο ευώδης καπνός μάς «πληροφορεί» την προπορευόμενη ευωδία του Αγίου Πνεύματος.
Ο Μωυσής υπακούοντας στον Θεό κατασκεύασε και τοποθέτησε στη Σκηνή του Μαρτυρίου Θυσιαστήριο του Θυμιάματος (Έξοδ. 30: 1-10). Ο τρόπος παρασκευής του Θυμιάματος διδάχθηκε από τον ίδιο τον Κύριο (Έξοδ. 30: 34-36). Η προσφορά Θυμιάματος στην Παλαιά Διαθήκη αποτελούσε εντολή του Θεού. Έπρεπε να προσφερθεί Θυμίαμα στην αρχή της ημέρας το πρωί και το βράδυ με το άναμμα των Λύχνων (Έξοδ. 30: 7-8).
Αυτή η καλή συνήθεια μεταφέρθηκε και στη χριστιανική λατρεία. Ιδιαίτερα προσφέρεται Θυμίαμα στον Εσπερινό με το ιλαρό φως της δύσεως του Ηλίου και στο ψάλσιμο του δεύτερου στίχου του 140 Ψαλμού, όπου ψάλλεται το "κατευθυνθήτω η προσευχή μου ως θυμίαμα ενώπιόν σου". Παρακαλούμε τον Κύριο να ανεβεί η προσευχή μας προς τον θρόνο Του, όπως ανεβαίνει το ευωδιαστό Θυμίαμα προς τον ουρανό.
Το λατρευτικό αυτό μέσο δημιουργεί κατανυκτικό κλίμα προσευχής και ελκύει την αγιαστική χάρη του Θεού. Η ευλογία του Θυμιάματος κατά την τελετή της Προσκομιδής δείχνει καθαρά τη μεγάλη ωφέλεια, που προξενείται στους εκκλησιαζόμενους από την προσφορά του Θυμιάματος. Λέει χαρακτηριστικά εκεί ο ευλογών λειτουργός: "Θυμίαμά σοι προσφέρομεν, Χριστέ ο Θεός ημών, εις οσμήν ευωδίας πνευματικής· ό προσδεξάμενος εις το υπερουράνιόν σου θυσιαστήριον, αντικατάπεμψον ημίν την χάριν του παναγίου σου Πνεύματος". (Δηλαδή: Θυμίαμα σ' Εσένα προσφέρουμε, Χριστέ Ύψιστε Θεέ, ως οσμή ευωδίας πνευματικής· αυτό, αφού δέχθηκες στο υπερουράνιό Σου Θυσιαστήριο, στείλε πίσω σε μας τη χάρη του παναγίου Σου Πνεύματος). Έκπληξη προκαλεί το ότι τα ίδια λόγια περίπου χρησιμοποιεί ο λειτουργός και για την προσφορά των Τιμίων Δώρων στη Θεία Λειτουργία: " Όπως ο φιλάνθρωπος Θεός ημών, ο προσδεξάμενος αυτά εις το άγιον και υπερουράνιον και νοερόν αυτού θυσιαστήριον εις οσμήν ευωδίας πνευματικής, αντικαταπέμψη ημίν την θείαν χάριν και την δωρεάν του Αγίου Πνεύματος, δεηθώμεν". (Δηλαδή: Με σκοπό ο φιλάνθρωπος Θεός μας, που δέχθηκε αυτά στο άγιο και υπερουράνιο και πνευματικό Του Θυσιαστήριο ως οσμή ευωδίας πνευματικής, να στείλει πίσω σε μας τη θεία χάρη και τη δωρεά του Αγίου Πνεύματος, ας παρακαλέσουμε).
Όταν ο λειτουργός θυμιάζει τους πιστούς, αυτοί πρέπει να προσκυνούν ευλαβικά προσδοκώντας την ευλογία και τη χάρη του Θεού. Όταν ο λειτουργός θυμιάζει τις εικόνες των αγίων, επιζητεί τις μεσιτικές προσευχές τους προς τον Κύριο για βοήθεια των μελών της στρατευομένης Εκκλησίας. Δυστυχώς Πολλοί χριστιανοί, όταν τους θυμιά ο Ιερεύς, παραμένουν ακίνητοι (σάν κολώνες). Και τούτο, ασφαλώς, λόγω άγνοιας! Η μικρή υπόκλιση είναι δείγμα ότι συμμετέχουμε στα τελούμενα και μία ανταπόκριση στοιχειώδους ευγένειας προς τον λειτουργό που προσεύχεται για μάς!
Πηγές άντλησης απάντησης: http://www.alopsis.gr/, http://www.phys.uoa.gr/~nektar/, http://www.oodegr.com/, Εγκύκλιος Η’ Αρχιεπισκόπου Αθηνών και πάσης Ελλάδος, Χριστοδούλου 11/10/01
Η λέξη καντήλι προέρχεται από τη λατινική candela=κερί.
Στη χριστιανική Εκκλησία το Καντήλι τοποθετείται μπροστά στις άγιες εικόνες. Αυτό που τοποθετείται μπροστά στον Εσταυρωμένο, μέσα στο Ιερό Βήμα, διατηρείται πάντοτε αναμμένο και γι” αυτό λέγεται «ακοίμητο» Καντήλι.
Ένα Καντήλι τοποθετείται επίσης στο εικονοστάσι του σπιτιού και ανάβεται κάθε μέρα, σύμφωνα με την ορθόδοξο παράδοση.
Μια συνήθεια που διατηρεί τον βαθύ χριστιανικό συμβολισμό της με το Φώς του Χριστού που φωτίζει κάθε άνθρωπο, που θερμαίνει την ελπίδα και που παρηγορεί και συντροφεύει στις ατέλειωτες ώρες της μοναξιάς.
Το άναμμα του καντηλιού ενέχει τον συμβολισμό ότι προσφέρεται ως θυσία σεβασμού και τιμής προς τον Θεό και τους Αγίους του. Συμβολίζει επίσης, το φώς του Χριστού που φωτίζει κάθε άνθρωπο, καθώς επίσης συμβολίζει και το γνωστό παράγγελμα του Κυρίου μας ότι πρέπει να είμαστε, οι χριστιανοί, τα φώτα του κόσμου.
Το έλαιον, το λάδι δηλ. που καίει στα καντήλια μας, “τον του Θεού υπεμφαίνει έλαιον” γράφει ο Άγ. Συμεών Θεσσαλονίκης, το έλεος του Θεού που φανερώθηκε όταν η περιστερά του Νώε επέστρεψε στην Κιβωτό για να σημάνει την παύση του κατακλυσμού, έχοντας στο ράμφος της κλάδο ελαίας, ή όταν ο Ιησούς, καθώς επροσηύχετο εκτενώς, επότιζε με τους θρόμβους του ιδρώτος του την ελιά, κάτω από τα κλαδιά της οποίας γονάτισε την μαρτυρική εκείνη νύχτα, στο Όρος των Ελαιών.Βέβαια, όλοι ξέρουμε πως απείρως ανώτερος του υλικού φωτισμού είναι ο εσωτερικός, αγιοπνευματικός φωτισμός. Έγραφε λοιπόν ο Θεοφόρος Πατήρ Γρηγόριος ο Ναζιανζηνός : “Φωτίσωμεν…γλώσσαν” και συμπληρώνει ο σχολιαστής του : Επετεύχθη τούτο ;
Το λάδι συμβολίζει το άπειρο έλεος του Θεού, αλλά και τα κανδήλια συμβολίζουν την Εκκλησία που είναι μεταδοτική Θείου ελέους και φωτιστική. Συμβολίζουν βέβαια τους ίδιους τους αγίους που το Φώς τους έλαμψε, κατά το λόγο του Κυρίου, «έμπροσθεν των ανθρώπων, όπως ίδωσι τα καλά έργα και δοξάσωσι τον Πατέρα τον εν τοίς ουρανοίς».
Υπάρχουν πολλοί λόγοι για τους οποίους πρέπει οι Ορθόδοξοι να ανάβουμε το καντήλι όπως για παράδειγμα
για να μάς θυμίζει την ανάγκη για προσευχή,
για να φωτίζει το χώρο και να διώκει το σκότος όπου επικρατούν οι δυνάμεις του κακού,
για να μάς θυμίζει ότι ο Χριστός είναι το μόνο αληθινό Φώς και η πίστη σε Αυτόν είναι Φώς,
για να μάς θυμίζει ότι η ζωή μας πρέπει να είναι φωτεινή,
για να μάς θυμίζει ότι όπως το καντήλι απαιτεί το δικό μας χέρι για να ανάψει έτσι και η ψυχή απαιτεί το χέρι του Θεού, τη Χάρη Του δηλαδή,
για να μάς θυμίζει ότι πρέπει το θέλημά μας να καεί και να θυσιαστεί
για την αγάπη προς το Θεό κ.ά.
Εννοείται, βέβαια, ότι το λάδι των καντηλιών πρέπει να είναι ελαιόλαδο και μάλιστα όσο το δυνατόν καλύτερης ποιότητος. Άλλωστε ο Κύριος προσευχήθηκε στον κήπο των Ελαιών και ο ναός με τα κανδήλια μετατρέπεται σε νέο κήπο και ελέους (λαδιού) και Ελέους Θεϊκού Το λάδι τους μας θυμίζει την ευσπλαχνία του Θεού και το φως τους στη ζωή μας, που πρέπει να είναι φωτεινή και άγια.
Η φωτοχυσία του ναού συμβολίζει το θείο φως της παρουσίας του Θεού που φωτίζει τις καρδιές όχι μόνο των νεοφώτιστων αλλά και όλων των χριστιανών. Ο Κύριος φανέρωσε αυτή τη μεγάλη αλήθεια για τον εαυτό Του με τα ακόλουθα λόγια: «Εγώ ειμι το φως του κόσμου» (Ιωάν.8/η: 12). Είναι φως όχι μόνο λόγω της φωτεινής διδασκαλίας Του, αλλά κυρίως λόγω της φωτεινής παρουσίας Του. Αυτό επιβεβαιώνεται κυρίως από τη θαυμαστή Μεταμόρφωσή Του, όπου «έλαμψε το πρόσωπον αυτού ως ο ήλιος, τα δε ιμάτια αυτού εγένετο λευκά ως το φως» (Ματθ.17/ιζ: 2).
Στο Σύμβολο της Πίστεως ο Υιός του Θεού παρουσιάζεται ως «φως εκ φωτός». Στην ακολουθία του Εσπερινού επίσης ο υμνογράφος παρουσιάζει τον Κύριο ως «φως ιλαρόν». Και οι χριστιανοί με τα μυστήρια της Εκκλησίας και τον πνευματικό τους αγώνα μπορούν να δεχθούν το φως της χάριτος του Αγίου Πνεύματος και να το ακτινοβολούν με τη ζωή τους.
Στην «επί του όρους» ομιλία ο Κύριος συμβουλεύοντας τους μαθητές Του είπε: «Υμείς εστε το φως του κόσμου…. ούτω λαμψάτω το φως υμών έμπροσθεν των ανθρώπων, όπως ίδωσιν υμών τα καλά έργα και δοξάσωσι τον πατέρα υμών τον εν τοις ουρανοίς» (Ματθ 5/ε: 14-16). (Δηλαδή: Εσείς είστε το φως του κόσμου… έτσι να λάμψει το φως σας μπροστά στους ανθρώπους για να δουν τα καλά σας έργα και να δοξάσουν τον πατέρα σας τον επουράνιο). Εδώ φαίνεται καθαρά ότι το φως των μαθητών του Χριστού είναι τα καλά έργα της αγιοπνευματικής ζωής τους. Οι άγιοι στην άλλη ζωή θα ομοιάσουν με τον Κύριο, θα γίνουν «θεοί κατά χάριν». Αυτό το εκφράζει ο Κύριος καθαρά με τα προφητικά λόγια Του: «Τότε οι δίκαιοι εκλάμψουσιν ως ο ήλιος εν τη βασιλεία του πατρός αυτων» (Ματθ. 13/ιγ: 43).
St.Theophan The Recluse-What to do when Assailed by Tempting Thoughts after the Resolve to Serve the Lord.
St.Theophan The Recluse
Yes, when a man resolves to serve the Lord, all this cries out to him. It would be good if these were but light thoughts, but no — they penetrate to the depths of the soul, stun it and lure it to their side, just as a hook catches a live body and tugs it to itself. What can a man do?
Help is near.... Just use some effort and you will overcome it, but use force prudently. Prayerfully confirming yourself, as we said, in self-abnegating trust in God's will and all-powerful grace:
1) Hasten to banish all these thoughts from your soul. Push them out of your consciousness with special force of self-action, back into that hidden place from whence they came and return the calm to your heart; for until you calm your heart, you will not be able to do anything more. First of all, do not entertain them at all and do not enter into conversation with them, even though it be antagonistic. A throng of foolish people will soon scatter if you are tough with them from the start. If you say a condescending word to one of them, to a second or a third, they will gather courage and become insistent in their demands. The throng of tempting thoughts will also become more demanding if you allow them to linger in your soul, especially if you enter into conversation with them. But if you push them away from the start with strong force of will, refusing them and turning to God, they will immediately depart and leave your soul's atmosphere clean.
2) Though this dark horde of evil thoughts may be cast out, the heart is again calm, and the soul has become light, again you need to remember that your work is not yet done. These enemies are still alive. They are only squeezed out of your attention, and, perhaps they have intentionally hidden themselves so that they might attack at a more unexpected, opportune time and regain their victory even more securely. No, you must never stop here, otherwise you will have neither peace nor success. You have to kill them, draw them out and immolate them on the altar of determination.
Thus, again confirming yourself in prayerful self-sacrifice to God and His grace, call out each of these inspirers of sin, try to turn your heart away from them and direct it towards the opposite. By this they will be cut off from the heart and should die. For this, give freedom to healthy reasoning, and lead the heart also along its tracks. Enlightened by the truth and aided by the hidden action of grace, let your reasoning a) at first remember all the ugliness of these, we can say, children of hell; force your heart to feel repugnance toward them, b) Then clearly imagine the danger into which they will throw you; see them as your most evil enemies. Move your heart to hatred for: them, c) Then fully imagine before you all the beauty and sweetness of the life that they hinder you from entering, all the charm of freedom from these tyrants. Force your heart, which already has a repugnance and hatred for them, to turn away from them to the other, like a deer panteth after the fountains of water. This way you will attain the goal. It is a short program, but the matter may not be finished so soon. We only indicate here the aspects that the reasoning must focus on, while the thread of reasoning itself — to lead to the goal — must be understood by each person. Individual reasoning sees an effective and strong thought in one respect or another. You must know that the reasoning is a key factor, but the important thing is the changing of the heart. You could say that as soon as the indicated changes occur in the heart, we have reached the goal.
Taken from the book,"The Path To Salvation" By St.Theophan the Recluse
The first and foremost reason why our intention to correct ourselves and lead a holy life remains without result lies in the fact that our intention is often too vague and indefinite.
A certain sinner, for example, says to himself: “It’s high time for me to stop sinning, time to mend my ways! I repent! I’ll stop sinning!” The intention is quite indefinite. And because of this, although it might be sincere, it is unreliable and may not achieve the desired correction.
He who has a sincere desire to amend himself must first of all determine exactly what it is that must be corrected. He must determine what his greatest sin is and what means he must use against it, and what dangers he must avoid so as not to fall into it again, since it has become a habit, a part of his life. All this thought and self-examination must come first and only then should a resolve be made, and that resolve should be specific as, for example: “Enough is enough! With God’s help I am no longer going to fall into such-and-such a sin; I’m going to break this bad habit; I’m no longer going to associate with those particular people who encourage me in this habit; I’m going to break off that unhealthy relationship; I’m going to use such-and-such means against this sin; I’m going to arm myself and muster all my forces against it when it begins again to tempt me.”
The same thing must also be said about the resolution to lead a righteous life. By no means is it enough to content oneself simply by stating the following resolve: “From this time forth I’m going to lead a God-pleasing life.” Such a resolution is not definite enough, and although it may have come from the heart, it is doubtful whether it will have any effect.
He who desires to abandon a life of sin and live a righteous life must first of all examine which obligations he has most difficulty in fulfilling and does not like to fulfill; what exactly hinders their fulfillment; what he must do, what means he must employ to fulfill them more readily. Having done this, he must make a specific resolve, as for example: “Now, with God’s help I will try hard to fulfill this obligation which until now I have done so poorly; I will apply myself to using such-and-such means towards its fulfillment. For example, when someone offends me I will be more patient; I won’t start using insulting and shameful language, or better yet, I won’t answer back at all; in such-and such company I’ll be more careful in what I say; at such-and-such times I’ll try to pray fervently, something I have not done up to now.., and so on.”
In general, the more definite one’s intention to change one’s sinful life and live righteously, the more it will suit the particular circumstances, the state of one’s soul, one’s relationship with others, etc., and the more hope there is of its bringing it into reality. When something is so definite one can more easily direct one’s thoughts and one’s strength to one subject and thus, of course, more easily achieve the desired goal.
Another reason why our good intentions fail, is because we do not hold firmly enough to our resolve. Scarcely two or three days pass by after our having made our resolution and we, in our normal daily routine of life amidst our worldly cares and pursuits, have already forgotten our intention, although at the time it was made with proper firmness of purpose. For this reason, if we truly wish our good intention to be realized, then each of us, every morning after our morning prayers, must immediately bring to mind and renew our resolution, saying in our hearts: “I promised God to turn away from this particular sin; I really wanted to fulfill this obligation; I must keep my promise!” Having renewed in this way our good intention, we must diligently pray to God that He would grant us the necessary strength to carry it out.
Likewise, our intention must be renewed in this way throughout the course of the day. And when evening comes, we should never go to sleep without having first examined our hearts to see how we have spent the day: did we keep our promise to God? And if it happens that we went against our resolve, against our promise, then we must immediately ask God’s forgiveness, and once again renew our resolve and carefully watch over ourselves. This is the way in which those people act who are concerned for the salvation of their souls, and in this way they attain salvation!
The third reason we fail in our intention to lead a better life, is our excessive fear of the difficulties connected with such an undertaking. A holy life is not attained without work, without sufferings and difficulties; it often takes a prolonged and fierce battle. We must withdraw from occasions to sin, of which there are so many. We must sacrifice various enjoyments which are so pleasant, abandon many worldly pursuits which make life interesting, and endure many unpleasant things which because of our self-love are often so difficult to bear.
For example, let us suppose that we resolved to withdraw from our natural inclination to become angry. In order to turn away from anger we must quietly endure a lot of what is to us almost unbearable, and to which our usual response would have been a stream of crude words; sometimes we must not justify ourselves even when we are in the right; often we must be silent when we feel the urge to speak; often we must give in to others even when the occasion does not demand it; we must often bear the offenses of others and not reveal our irritation; often force ourselves to patiently endure when we are slandered or laughed at like fools and cowards. All this we must endure if we truly desire to realize our intention to withdraw from anger.
Amidst all the difficulties of keeping oneself from anger or any other sin which manifests itself as particularly great, our soul often falls into despondency and all our strength seems to evaporate. In such cases we must immediately bring to mind various sacred truths and experiences which are able to restore our former spirit, our former strength, and give us hope of abandoning the sin from which we decided to turn away. Thus we must remember that no matter how weak a man is, with God’s help he can do and endure all things if only he truly desires and uses it; this is accomplished through the strength that is granted by God.
We must remember the millions of righteous ones, who have gone before us and their self-denial, patience and endurance which they left as an example for us and for the whole world. We must remember that, above all, God desires our correction, and because of this, knowing our weakness and our needs, He will unfailingly come to our aid if only we turn to Him with fervent prayer and make use of the means and the power which He has given to us.
We must remember that the difficulties which invariably accompany any important undertaking are intimidating only to the lazy and faint-hearted; that only the first steps along the path of correction are unpleasant and difficult; that the farther one goes along such a path the easier and less painful it becomes; that any victory which we gain over our enemy makes us much stronger and better able to endure any further onslaughts. We must more often remind ourselves of the feeling of peace and satisfaction we shall experience when in the last days and hours of our life we look back at our past, at the difficulties we have heroically overcome, at the many sufferings borne with Christian patience, at the countless temptations conquered by our love for God, at all the noble deeds which we performed in secret before God’s eyes alone, at all the favors which we showed our fellow man, at the faithfulness with which we fulfilled our obligations, often forcing ourselves to the utmost to do this.
Finally, we must more often remind ourselves that for all this we will be rewarded by so much in the life of the age to come that all the difficulties which we overcome here in this life, all the sufferings which we endure in this age for the sake of a righteous life, will appear to us much smaller; in fact, they will appear insignificant, in comparison with the heavenly rewards.
O, Almighty God! Now we count each minute of trial and suffering and we rarely consider the blessed eternity which delights the souls of Thy righteous and faithful servants. Brother! In your striving towards a God-pleasing life, when you weigh your earthly difficulties and grief, place more often on the scale this eternity! It will outweigh all your trials, all the pleasures of worldly pursuits, pleasures and enjoyments.
The fourth reason that our resolution to lead a better life often fails, lies in the fact that we want immediately to become saints. Many people, when they once feel an aversion to their sinful behavior, make a firm resolve to change their ways and place a good beginning towards this reform; but because this doesn’t happen as quickly as they would like, and whether by habit or rashness they often fall into their old sins, they lose heart and come to the conclusion that it’s impossible for them to change their ways.
Brother! Sister! People don’t become saints overnight. Our old man does not easily yield to being transformed into the new man. A big tree is not felled by a single stroke of the ax. So it is with each evil passion which’ is so firmly rooted in us. The way to perfection or to spiritual maturity is almost always unnoticeable, just as are so many things in nature.
A spiritual man passes through various stages of growth, just like the physical man. Much time is spent in childhood before reaching the fullness and strength of manhood. There is a long period of weakness, and only then does one become stronger and stronger, until finally one becomes a man. Only at this age is one capable of doing what is proper to a man. Likewise, a ripened ear of corn is at first only a seed, then a small blade of grass, then a stalk, and finally an ear of corn; but even this ear is not ripe all at once, but grows, then flowers, then it tassels and only then does it become ripe. The same is true of a righteous, life! Even the best man in the world does not suddenly become a saint. His perfection for the most part develops slowly and only little by little. Good earth which accepts into itself a good seed brings forth fruit, says the Lord, in patience. (Lk 8:15).
To fall, of course, is not good, and it were better not to; but he who falls and then quickly gets up, becomes wiser and more careful, renews his good intention, fervently prays to God for new strength to attain a righteous life. Falls are not such a hindrance for such a man on the path to perfection. At the time of his fall, when he falleth, he shall find a stay, i.e., strength (Sir 3:31) and like the Apostle Paul, strikes ahead towards the mark of the prize of the high calling, forgetting those things which are behind. (Phil 3:13).
The above, then, are some of the reasons why our good intentions to turn away from sin and lead a better life are often unfulfilled. Let us avoid these pitfalls; let us try to make our resolution as definite as possible; let us remember more often and continually to renew our decision, and let us not become faint-hearted if we do not at once reach perfection, but let us courageously surmount the difficulties we meet along the way in firm hope of God’s help.
From “The Conversations of Metropolitan Gregory of Novgorod,” translated from the monthly periodical of St. Panteleimon’s Monastery on Mt. Athos, January 1899, pp. 15-19.
The Holy and Righteous John of Kronstadt recalled this vision which he had in January of 1901:
After evening prayers I laid down to rest a little in my dimly lit cell since I was fatigued. Hanging before the icon of the Mother of God was my lit lampada. Not more than a half-hour had passed when I heard a soft rustle. Someone touched my left shoulder, and in a tender voice said to me, “Arise servant of God John, and follow the will of God!” I arose and saw near the window a glorious Staretz (elder) with frosty gray hair, wearing a black mantia, and holding a staff in his hand. He looked at me tenderly, and I could scarcely keep from falling because of my great fear. My hands and feet trembled, and I wanted to speak, but my tongue would not obey me. The Staretz made the sign of the cross over me, and calm and joy soon came over me. Then I made the sign of the cross myself. He then pointed to the western wall of my cell with his staff in order that I should notice a certain spot. The Staretz had inscribed on the wall the following numbers: 1913, 1914, 1917, 1922, 1924, and 1934. Suddenly the wall vanished, and I walked with the Staretz toward a green field and saw a mass of crosses-thousands standing as gravemarkers. They were wooden, clay, or gold. I asked the Staretz, “What are these crosses for?” He softly answered, “They are for those who suffered and were murdered for their faith in Christ and for the Word of God and have become martyrs!” And so we continued to walk.
Suddenly I saw an entire river of blood and asked the Staretz, “What is the meaning of this blood? How much has been spilled?” The Staretz looked around and replied, “This is the blood of true Christians!” The Staretz then pointed to some clouds, and I saw a mass of burning white lamps. They began to fall to the ground one after another by the tens and by the hundreds. During their descent they grew dim and turned to ashes. The Staretz then said to me, “Look!” I saw on a cloud seven burning lamps. I asked, “What is the meaning of the burning lamps which fell to the ground” He said, “Those are the churches of God which have fallen into heresy, but these seven lamps on the clouds are the seven Catholic and Apostolic Churches which will remain until the end of the world!”
The Staretz then pointed high into the air and I saw and heard angels singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabbaoth!” Then a large crowd of people with candles in their hands rushed by with joy on their shining faces. They were archbishops, monks, nuns, groups of laymen, young adults, and even children and babies. I asked the wonderworking Staretz, “What is the meaning of these people?” He responded, “These are all the people who suffered for the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church, for the holy icons at the hands of the wicked destroyers.” I then asked the great Staretz if I could sit down next to them. The Staretz said, “It is too early for you to suffer, so joining them would not be blessed by God!” Again I saw a large group of infants who had suffered for Christ under Herod and had received crowns from the Heavenly King.
We walked further and went into a large church. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but the Staretz said, “It is not necessary to cross yourself because this is a place of abomination and desolation!” The church was very gloomy. On the altar was a star and a Gospel book with stars. Candles made of tar were burning and crackling like firewood. The chalice was standing there covered by a strong stench. There was prosphora with stars. A priest stood before the altar with a face like pitch and a woman was under the altar covered in red with a star on her lips and she screamed and laughed throughout the church saying, “I am free!” I thought “Oh, Lord, how awful!” The people, like madmen, began to run around the altar, scream, whistle, and clap their hands. Then they began to sing lecherous songs. Suddenly lightning flashed, a frightening thunderbolt resounded, the earth trembled, and the church collapsed, sending the woman, the people, the priest, and the rest into the abyss. I thought “Oh Lord, how awful, save us!”
The Staretz saw what had happened as did I. I asked, “Father, tell me, what is the meaning of this frightening church?” He responded, “These are the earthly people, heretics who have abandoned the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church and recognized the newly innovated church which God has not blessed. In this church they do not fast, do not attend services, and do not receive Holy Communion!” I was frightened and said, “The Lord has pity on us, but curses those with death!” The Staretz interrupted me and said, “Do not mourn, but just pray!” Then I saw a throng of people, each of whom had a star on his lips and was terribly exhausted from thirst, walking here and there. They saw us and yelled loudly, “Holy Fathers, pray for us. It is very hard for us because we ourselves cannot. Our Fathers and Mothers did not teach us the Law of God. We do not even have the name of Christ, and we have received no peace. We rejected the Holy Spirit and the sign of the cross!” They began to cry.
I followed after the Staretz. “Look!” he said, pointing with his hand. I saw a mountain of human corpses stained in blood. I was very frightened, and I asked the Staretz, “What is the meaning of these dead bodies?” He replied, “These are people who lived the monastic life, were rejected by the Antichrist, and did not receive his seal. They suffered for their faith in Christ and the Apostolic Church and received martyrs crowns dying for Christ. Pray for these servants of God!”
Without warning the Staretz turned to the north and pointed with his hand. I saw an imperial palace, around which dogs were running. Wild beasts and scorpions were roaring and charging and baring their teeth. And I saw the Tsar sitting on a throne. His face was pale and masculine. He was reciting the Jesus Prayer. Suddenly he fell like a dead man. His crown fell. The wild beasts, dogs, and scorpions trampled on the anointed Sovereign. I was frightened and cried bitterly. The Staretz took me by my right shoulder. I saw a figure shrouded in white -- it was Nicholas II. On his head was a wreath of green leaves, and his face was white and somewhat bloodied. He wore a gold cross around his neck and was quietly whispering a prayer. And then he said to me with tears, “Pray for me, Fr. John. Tell all Orthodox Christians that I, the Tsar-martyr, died manfully for my faith in Christ and the Orthodox Church. Tell the Holy Fathers that they should serve a Panahida for me, a sinner, but there will be no grave for me!”
Soon everything became hidden in the fog. I cried bitterly praying for the Tsar-martyr. My hands and feet trembled from fear. The Staretz said, “Look!” Then I saw a throng of people scattered about the land who had died from starvation while others were eating grass and vegetation. Dogs were devouring the bodies of the dead, and the stench was terrible. I thought, “Oh Lord, these people had no faith. From their lips they expelled blasphemy, and for this they received God’s anger.”
I also saw an entire mountain of books and among the books worms were crawling, emitting a terrible stench. I asked the Staretz, “What is the meaning of these books?” He said, “These books are the Godlessness and blasphemy which will infect all Christians with heretical teachings!” Then the Staretz touched his staff to some of the books, and they ignited into flames. The wind scattered the ashes.
Further on, I saw a church around which was a large pile of prayer intentions for the departed. I bent over and wanted to read them, but the Staretz said, “These prayer requests for the dead have been lying here for many years, and the priests have forgotten about them. They are never going to read them, but the dead will ask someone to pray for them!” I asked, “Who will they get to pray for them?” The Staretz answered: “The angels will pray for them!”
We proceeded further, and the Staretz quickened the pace so that I could hardly keep up with him. “Look!” he said. I saw a large crowd of people being persecuted by demons, who were beating them with stakes, pitchforks, and hooks. I asked the Staretz, “What is the meaning of these people?” He answered, “These are the ones who renounced their faith and left the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church and accepted the new innovative church. This group represents priests, monks, nuns, and laymen who renounced their vows or marriage, and engaged in drinking and all sorts of blasphemy and slander. All of these have terrible faces and a terrible stench comes from their mouths. The demons beat them, driving them into the terrible abyss, from where hellfire comes forth.” I was terribly frightened. I made the sign of the cross while praying, “Lord deliver us from such a fate!”
I then saw a group of people, both old and young, all of whom were terribly dressed, and who were raising a large, five pointed star. On each corner were twelve demons and in the middle was satan himself with terrifying horns and a straw head. He emitted a noxious foam onto the people while pronouncing these words, “Arise you accursed ones with the seal of ...” Suddenly many demons appeared with branding irons and on all the people they placed the seal on their lips, above the elbow and on their right hands. I asked the Staretz, “What is the meaning of this?” He responded, “This is the mark of the Antichrist!” I made the sign of the cross and followed after the Staretz.
He suddenly stopped and pointed to the east with his hand. I saw a large gathering of people with joyous faces carrying crosses and candles in their hands. In their midst stood a large altar as white as snow. On the altar was the cross and the Holy Gospel and over the altar was the aer with a golden imperial crown on which was written in golden letters, “For the short term.” Patriarchs, bishops, priests, monks, nuns, and laymen stood around the altar. They were all singing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth.” Out of great joy I made the sign of the cross and praised God.
Suddenly the Staretz waved his cross upwards three times, and I saw mountain of corpses covered in human blood and above them angels were flying. They were taking the souls of those murdered for the Word of God to heaven while they sang “Alleluia!”
I observed all this and cried loudly. The Staretz took me by the hand and forbade me to cry. “What is pleasing to God is that Our Lord Jesus Christ suffered and shed His precious blood for us. Such ones will become martyrs who do not accept the seal of the Antichrist, and all who shed their blood will receive heavenly crowns.” The Staretz then prayed for these servants of God and pointed to the east as the words of the Prophet Daniel came true, “Abomination of desolation.”
Finally, I saw the cupola of Jerusalem. Above it was a star. Within the church millions of people thronged and still many more were trying to enter. I wanted to make the sign of the cross, but the Staretz grabbed my hand and said, “Here is the abomination of desolation!” So we entered into the church, and it was full of people.
I saw an altar on which tallow candles were burning. On the altar was a king in red, blazing, porphyry. On his head was a golden crown with a star. I asked the Staretz, “Who is this?” He replied, “The Antichrist!” He was very tall with eyes like fire, black eyebrows, a wedge-shaped beard, a ferocious, cunning, evil, and terrible face. He alone was on the altar and he reached his hands out to the people. He had claws as those of a tiger for hands and he shouted, “I am King. I am God. I am the Leader. He who does not have my seal will be put to death.”
All the people fell down and worshipped him, and he began to place his seal on their lips and on their hands in order that they should receive some bread and not die from hunger and thirst. Around the Antichrist his servants were leading several people whose hands were bound as they had not bowed down to worship him. They said, “We are Christians, and we all believe in our Lord Jesus Christ!” The Antichrist ripped off their heads in a flash and Christian blood began to flow. A child was then led to the altar of the Antichrist to worship him, but he boldly proclaimed, “I am a Christian and believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, but you are a minister, a servant of satan!” “Death to him!” exclaimed the Antichrist. Others who accepted the seal of the Antichrist fell down and worshipped him.
Suddenly, a roar of thunder resounded and a thousand lightning flashes began to sparkle. Arrows began to strike the servants of the Antichrist. Then a large flaming arrow flashed by and hit the Antichrist himself on the head. As he waved his hand, his crown fell and was crushed into the ground. Then millions of birds flew in and perched on the servants of the Antichrist. I felt the Staretz take me by the hand.
We walked further on, and I again saw much Christian blood. It was here that I remembered the words of Saint John the Theologian in the book of Revelation that blood would “be up to the horse’s bridle.” I thought, “Oh my God, save us!” At that time I saw angels flying and singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy. Lord of Sabbaoth!” The Staretz looked back and went on to say, “Do not grieve, for soon, very soon, will come the end of the world! Pray to the Lord. God be merciful to His servants!”
Time was drawing near to a close. He pointed to the east, fell to his knees and began to pray so I prayed with him. Then the Staretz began to quickly depart from the earth to the heights of heaven. As he did so, I remembered that I did not know his name, so I cried out loudly, “Father, what is your name?” He tenderly replied, “Seraphim of Sarov!” That is what I saw, and this is what I have recorded for Orthodox Christians.
A large bell rang above my head, and I heard the sound and arose from bed. “Lord, bless and help me through the prayers of the great Staretz! You have enlightened me, the sinful servant, the priest John of Kronstadt.”
Translated by Priestmonk Orestes, Christ the Saviour Orthodox Seminary