Sunday, 30 June 2013

St. John of Kronstadt-On The Saints

Christ being led into the heart by faith, dwells in it with peace and joy. It is not without reason that it is said of God, "He is Holy, and rests in the saints."[34] 

Excerpts from the diary of St. John of Kronstadt On Saints

As an ill-natured man, coming with a request to one who is kind, gentle and meek, for the greater success of his request tries to resemble him, so the Christian, approaching God with a prayer to Him, or to His most pure Mother, or to the angels and saints, in order to insure the success of his prayer, ought to try to resemble as far as possible the Lord Himself, or His most-pure Mother, or the angels and saints. In this lies the secret of drawing near to God, and of His speedily hearing our prayers.

In the saints we see the dominance of the spirit over the flesh, because they live by the spirit and see the spirit throughout the whole world, the Wisdom, the Omnipotence, and Goodness of God; they see in every phenomenon, in every work, the impress of the spirit.

The holy angels and other heavenly powers are full of pure, holy life, of unbroken peace, of unchangeable vigour, of eternal courage and strength, of indescribable beauty, light, and wisdom, of the purest love for God and men, of mutual friendship, of Divine light and enlightenment: such are also our holy guardian-angel. What a wonderful nature the angels have! But Christians who become worthy of attaining to the future life and to the resurrection from the dead will be equal to the angels, according to the word of the Lord Himself. Let us, then, zealously strive after that endless, unchangeable, undisturbed life.

In the same manner as objects situated at a great distance off on the earth, though they may be large, are quite invisible from afar if the sun is not reflected in them, whilst even small ones are visible a long way off if the sun is reflected in them, so it is also amongst men: those in whom the Eternal Sun of Righteousness, God, is not reflected in His perfections, are only noticeable when quite near by a very few; but if the Sun of Righteousness is reflected in them, then they are seen by all from a very great distance, they are glorified by all; they are people of all places and of all times (the saints); some of them shine like the sun, others like the moon, and others like the stars.

God's saints are near to believing hearts and, like the truest and kindest of friends, are ready in a moment to help the faithful and pious who call upon them with faith and love. We have for the most part to send, and have sometimes to wait long for earthly helpers, whilst we have not to send for nor wait long for spiritual helpers: the faith of Him who prays can place them close to his very heart in a moment, and he will as speedily receive through faith full spiritual help. In saying this, I speak by experience; by this I mean the frequent deliverance from affliction of heart through the intercession and patronage of the saints, and especially through the intercession of Our Lady, the Holy Virgin Mary. Probably some would say that this is the action of simple and firm faith, and a determined assurance in our deliverance from affliction, and not the intercession of the saints for us before God. No, it is not so. How can this be proved? It can be proved by the fact that if I do not call upon the saints known to me in hearty prayer, without making any distinction, if I do not see them with my spiritual vision, then I shall obtain no help, however great assurance I may have felt of being saved without their help. I recognise, I feel clearly, that I receive help through the names of those saints upon whom I have called, because of my lively faith in them. This happens just as everything happens in the usual order of earthly things. First, I see my helpers by means of earnest faith; then, seeing them, I pray to them also with my whole heart, invisibly but intelligibly to myself; after this, having received invisible help in quite an imperceptible manner, but sensibly to my soul, I simultaneously receive a strong conviction that this help has been obtained from them, just as a sick man, cured by a doctor, is convinced that he has been cured precisely by that doctor, and not by anyone else; that his illness has passed away not by itself, but through the help of this particular doctor. All this comes to pass so simply that it is only necessary to have eyes in order to see.

You do not understand how the saints in Heaven can hear us when we pray to them. But how do the rays of the sun bend down from Heaven to us, lighting everything throughout the earth? The saints in the spiritual world are like the rays of the sun in the material world. God is the eternal, life-giving Sun, and the saints are the rays of this wise Sun. As the eyes of the Lord are constantly looking upon the earth and upon terrestrial beings, so also the eyes of the saints cannot but turn towards the same direction as the provident gaze of the Lord of all creatures towards where their treasures (their bodies, their works, the holy places, and the persons devoted to them) are to be found. "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."[88]

You know how quickly, how far, and how clearly the heart can see (especially the objects of the spiritual world); you notice this in all the sciences, especially in the spiritual ones, where a great deal is adopted by faith only (the vision of the heart). The heart is the eye of the human being. The purer it is, the quicker, farther, and clearer it can see. But with God's saints this spiritual eye is refined, even during their lifetime, to the highest degree of purity possible for man, and after their death, when they have become united to God, through God's grace it becomes still clearer and wider in the limits of its vision. Therefore the saints see very clearly, widely, and far: they see our spiritual wants; they see and hear all those who call upon them with their whole hearts — that is, those whose mental eyes are fixed straight upon them, and are not darkened or dimmed when so fixed by unbelief and doubt; in other words, when the eyes of the heart of those who pray, so to say, meet the eyes of those they call upon. This is a mysterious vision. He who is experienced will understand what is meant. Therefore, how easy it is to communicate with the saints! It is only necessary to purify the eye of the heart, to fix it firmly upon a saint known to you, to pray to him for what you want, and you will obtain it. And what is God in reference to sight? He is all sight, all light, and all knowledge. He everlastingly fills both Heaven and earth, and sees everything in every place. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good."[89]

How should we keep the festivals? We must celebrate in them either the event (with a view of investigating the greatness of the event, its object, and the fruits it brought to those who believe) or the person; as, for instance, our Lord, the Mother of God, the angels and saints (with the view of investigating the relation of that person to God and to mankind and his beneficial influence upon God's Church in general). It is necessary to investigate the history of the event or of the person whose festival we solemnise, to approach it or him with, our whole heart, to absorb them, so to say, into ourselves; otherwise the festival will be incomplete, and not pleasing to God. The festivals ought to influence our life, to vivify and kindle our faith in future blessings, and maintain in us a pious and gentle disposition. Yet they are mostly spent in sin and folly and met with unbelieving, cold hearts, often wholly unprepared to feel the great mercies which God has vouchsafed to us through the particular event or person whose festival is celebrated.

In asking anything of the Lord, or of His Most-pure Mother, or of the Angels and Saints, it is needful to have such faith as the centurion of Capernaum had. [150] He believed that in the same manner as his soldiers obeyed him and fulfilled his words, so much more, at the Almighty Word of the All-merciful God, his request would be fulfilled. If creatures with their limited powers fulfilled that which He asked them to do, then will not the Master Himself through His Almighty power fulfil the requests of His servants who turn to Him with faith and hope? Will not the Most-pure Mother of God, the Angels and Saints, His true servants mighty through grace and in intercession with God, also fulfil our requests offered with faith, hope, and love? They will indeed; and I believe, with the centurion, that if I pray as I ought, and for what I ought, to any Saint: Grant me this, he will grant it to me; Come to my help, he will come; Do this, and he will do it. This is the simple, firm faith that we must have!

If you invoke any saint doubting that he is near you and hears you, and your heart is oppressed and contracted, conquer yourself, or, rather, overcome, with the help of the Lord Jesus Christ, the calumniator (the Devil) nestling in your heart; call upon the saint with the hearty assurance that he is near you in the Holy Spirit and hears your prayer, and you will at once feel relieved. Oppression and weariness of heart during prayer proceed from want of sincerity, from the deceitfulness and craftiness of our heart, in the same manner as when, during ordinary conversation with other people, we feel inwardly ill at ease if we do not speak to them from the heart, but untruthfully, insincerely. "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."[173] Be true in heart always and everywhere, and you will always and everywhere have peace, but especially be true in your converse with God and the saints, "because the spirit is truth."[174]

For instance, Saint Nicholas was, and still is, compassionate and merciful to men, by the grace of God. He always was, and still is, ready to hear those who call upon him sincerely, through the same merciful heart which he had during his lifetime, and which he still possesses, by the grace of God. Now, is not the Lord Himself compassionate and merciful, and much more compassionate and merciful? Infinitely more, as He Himself is infinitely greater than Saint Nicholas.

The Angels and the Saints are also near to us in their names, as their names and our faith in them are near to our hearts; for they are nothing else but the breath of God, and are "one spirit with the Lord."[212]

What a close connection there is between the Church in heaven and the Church upon earth! What love the Church has! See: she unceasingly remembers, calls upon in prayer, and glorifies the Church in heaven for the great deeds accomplished on earth for God's sake; she unceasingly prays for the Church upon earth, and intercedes for the departed, in the hope of the resurrection, of the life eternal, and of union with God and the Saints. Her love is immense, grand, divine! Let us enter into the spirit of this love of our Mother, the orthodox Church, and let us be penetrated with the spirit of this love. Let us look upon all our brethren as our own members, upon ourselves and them as members of the one body of the Church, and let us love them actively, as ourselves; then we ourselves shall be living members of the Church in heaven, and she will be our active and speedy helper and intercessor.

Do the saints, whom we call upon, pray for us? They certainly pray for us. If I, a sinful man, a cold-hearted, sometimes wicked and malevolently disposed man, praying for others who have instructed or have not instructed me to pray for them and do not doubt, do not weary of saying their names during prayer, although sometimes not heartily, then will not God's saints — those lamps and torches, burning in God and before God, full of love to their earthly brethren — pray for me and for us when we call upon them with faith, hope, and love, according to our strength? They, our speedy helpers, pray also for our souls, as our Divinely-enlightened mother, the Holy Church, assures us. Pray, therefore, undoubtingly to God's saints, asking their intercession before God on your behalf. They hear you in the Holy Spirit; only pray in the Holy Spirit, from your soul for when you thus sincerely pray, then the Holy Spirit breathes in you, Who is the Spirit of truth and sincerity, and is our truth and sincerity. The one same Holy Spirit is in us and in the saints. The saints are holy through the Holy Spirit, Who sanctifies them and eternally dwells in them.How vividly God's Saints represented God to themselves! — the Saints who through the Holy Spirit compiled prayers for their own and our guidance. In what fear and trembling they stood before God in prayer, but also with what love and hope! Every word of their prayers says: "God is with us; and God within us hears each of our words, sees every thought, every wish, every tear."When we call upon the Saints in prayer, if we pronounce their names from the heart, it already means that we bring them near our heart itself. Therefore ask their prayers and intercession undoubtingly for yourself. They will hear you, and will speedily lay your prayers before the Lord, in the twinkling of an eye, for He is omnipresent and omniscient. When the Oblation you call in prayer upon the Lord Jesus Christ, or upon His Most pure Mother and the Saints, or when you commemorate the living or the departed, then the portion taken from the Bread, that has been offered, represents, and as if replaces by itself the Lord, or His Most-pure Mother, or some particular Saint, or many Saints conjointly; also the living or the departed commemorated, while the name thought of represents and replaces by itself the soul of the being invoked or commemorated. Thus, in a small form, on our lips and in our hearts, the beings of the higher and lower worlds are reflected, and all this through faith, by the Holy Spirit, who alone is being everywhere and filling everything. [287]At the end of your morning and evening prayers in your home, call upon the Saints: Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Prelates, Martyrs, Confessors, Holy Fathers, the Ascetics, the Unmercenary, so that seeing in them the realisation of every virtue, you may yourself become the imitator of every virtue. Learn from the Patriarchs childlike faith and obedience to the Lord; from the Prophets and Apostles, the zeal for God's glory and for the salvation of the souls of men; from the Prelates, zeal to preach God's word, and in general to assist through the Scriptures, to the possible glorification of God's name, to the strengthening of faith, hope, and love amongst Christians; from the Martyrs and Confessors, firmness for the faith and piety before unbelieving and godless people; from the Ascetics, to crucify your own flesh, with its passions and desires, to pray and think piously; and from the Unmercenary, not to love gain, and to give gratuitous help to the needy.God's Saints are represented in their inward actions as listening to the inward Guest, Who works within them — the Lord — venerating Him, smiling from inward sweetness and tenderness, and enjoying heavenly rest. "Ye are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls."[323]God's saints had "the eyes of their understanding enlightened,"[447] and with these eyes they clearly saw the wants of our sin-corrupted nature; clearly saw for what we should pray, for what we should ask, for what we should give thanks, how we should praise the Lord, and they left us the most perfect examples of prayers of various kinds. O, how beautiful these prayers are!If, being in an assemblage of men, you call a person known to you, and he comes to you; if you ask one or many men subservient to you to do anything for you within the limit of his or their capability, and they fulfil your request, satisfying it according to your desire, and even beyond your desire, then be assured that, likewise, in God's Church, in that great house of God divided into two halves — the heavenly and the earthly — any of the members of the Church in Heaven whom you call upon will come to your spiritual help conformably to his grace and the abundance of his love. Ask him to do anything for you that you please, especially anything relating to the Kingdom and righteousness of God, and he will do it through his close association with God, the Source of grace and power. God's saints also hear you — as, for instance, the whole congregation hears you when you pray or speak the Word — for they are in the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit is everywhere present, and fills all things.All the Saints in heaven and all true Christians upon earth are "one body and one spirit,"[570] this is why the prayer of believers is heard so easily and speedily and truly in heaven, and why there is so much hopefulness in calling upon the Saints; but in order that our prayers should be always easily and speedily heard by the Saints, we must have the same spirit as them, the spirit of faith and of love for God and our neighbour, the spirit of meekness, humility, abstinence, purity and chastity, brave, valiant, thirsting after righteousness, the spirit of compassion, heavenly and not earthly.As a passionate man is one spirit with the Devil — -and this I and many others feel and experience — so a virtuous man is and remains one spirit with the Lord, and this he feels and experiences, saying: "I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me"[602]; or, as it has been said by the Lord himself: "He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood dwelleth in me, and I in him"[603]; or, again, as the Apostle said: " Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you?"[604] Thus God's saints are one spirit with the Lord; likewise all those who live piously upon earth. This is a great mystery and a great honour for earthborn creatures. But, also, what shame and destruction it is to the sophistical and disobedient! They are one spirit with the Devil, from whom, Christ our God, deliver us all!As in the earthly life there are poor and rich, so also in the spiritual life", in the spiritual order, there are also poor and rich. As the poor ask charity of the rich and well-to-do, and cannot live without their help, so also in the spiritual order the poor must have recourse to the spiritually rich. We are the spiritually poor, whilst the saints, or those who shine even in this present life by their faith and piety, are the spiritually rich. It is to them that we needy ones must have recourse. We must beg for their prayers that they may help us to become simple as infants; that they may teach us spiritual wisdom, how to conquer sins, how to love God and our neighbour. And therefore pray for me, saints of God — prophets, apostles, martyrs, prelates, venerable and righteous men — that I may become like unto you!God's Saints are great through their spiritual disposition, through their faith, their firm trust in God, and their burning love to God, for Whose sake they despised all earthly things. O, how null we are, compared to them; how unlike unto them! They are great by their great deeds of abstinence, vigilance, fasting, unceasing prayers, their diligence in studying the Word of God, and in pious meditation. O, how unlike we are to them! How deeply we must venerate them! With what reverence we must ask for their prayers for us! But in no case must we regard them lightly, irreverently, remembering their godliness and their union with the Godhead.God's Saints are — beautiful, incorruptible, fragrant flowers. Do not touch these flowers with lips defiled by sins — that is, pray to them with a pure heart and pure lips, not carelessly, not with distracted thoughts, but with reverence, and without haste. They are speaking heavens; they led a heavenly, wonderful life on earth, doing great deeds, they lived in great love, in deep humility, gentleness, patience, self-denial, loving God above all things.How worthily reverenced and loved should the temple of God be! How God's Saints loved it!How fragrant are the bones of the Saints! What a wonderful perfume the relics of God's Saints emit! What a great blessing it is to gain the sweet-smelling grace of the Holy Spirit and the life eternal! Why do we run after corruption? Why have we loved the stink of sins, of poisonous passions?Lord in our prayers to Thee, we ask the intercession of the Saints, these spiritual sweet scents, that fragrance of Thy perfumes! Accept their prayers for us, fragrant with love and purity, and save us from the evil odour of sins, for our hearts are unclean and our mouths impure, and we are unworthy of most sweet converse with Thee. Everything in us is — earthly, corrupt, impure, and evil, whilst they, Thy Saints, are the purest fragrance; and, above all, Thy Most Pure Mother, Thy living, light-bearing abode, She is purer than all the brightness of the sun, more fragrant than all perfumes, for heaven and earth are full of the fragrance of Her holiness and of Her Divine virtues.If we call upon the saints with faith and love, then they will immediately hear us. The faith is the connecting element on our part, and love on theirs, as well as ours; for they are in God, and we are in God, Who is Love. [830]When your faith in the Lord, either during your life and prosperity, or in the time of sickness and at the moment of quitting this life, grows weak, grows dim from worldly vanity or through illness, and from the terrors and darkness of death, then look with the mental eyes of your heart upon the companies of our forefathers, the patriarchs, prophets, and righteous ones — St. Simeon, who took the Lord up in his arms, Job, Anna the Prophetess, and others; the Apostles, prelates, venerable Fathers, martyrs, the disinterested, the righteous, and all the saints. See how, both during their earthly life and at the time of their departure from this life, they unceasingly looked to God and died in the hope of the resurrection and of the life eternal, and strive to imitate them. These living examples, which are so numerous, are capable to strengthen the wavering faith of every Christian in the Lord and in the future life. Those Christian communions who do not venerate the saints and do not call upon them in prayer lose much in piety and in Christian hope. They deprive themselves of the great strengthening of their faith by the examples of men like unto themselves.Live as the saints lived: by their prayers, wisdom, and virtues; in meekness, humility, and gentleness, not sparing yourself, but renouncing yourself, your rest, ease and enjoyment, for the love of God and your neighbour, in patience, courage and struggle — have their faith, hope and love. "Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding."[980]I gaze upon the icons in the temple — upon Thy holy icon, my Lord, upon that of Thy Most Pure Mother, those of the holy Angels and Archangels, and upon the faces of the saints, adorned, resplendent with gold and silver — and think to myself how Thou hast honoured and adorned our nature, Creator and Provider of all! Thy saints shine with Thy light, they are sanctified by Thy grace, having conquered sin and washed away the sinful impurities of body and spirit ; they are glorious with Thy glory, they are incorruptible through Thine incorruptibility. Glory to Thee for having so honoured, enlightened, and raised our nature! Here are Thine Apostles and Hierarchs, living images of Thee, the Highest, Who passed through the heavens, Envoy of the Father, Hierarch and Chief of Shepherds; Thy goodness, Thy wisdom, Thy might, spiritual beauty, power, and holiness shine in them. Here are Thy martyrs, who by Thy strength overcame terrible temptations and endured fearful tortures; they have washed the garments of their souls white in Thy blood. Here are Thy venerable ones, who by fasting, vigilance, and prayer obtained Thy wonderful gifts, the gifts of healing, of discernment; Thy might strengthened them to stand above sin and all the snares of the Devil; Thy likeness shines forth in them like the sun.The holy Angels and God's saints are our best, kindest, and truest brothers and friends, so often helping us in various circumstances in which no human beings can help us. As these brothers, who eternally live and load us with benefits, are invisible, whilst we, on account of our corporality, wish to have them before our eyes and as though always present with us, therefore we have images of them; and, looking upon these images, we represent to ourselves that they are with us, and we call upon them in our prayers, knowing that they have great boldness before God and help us in various circumstances. Thus the veneration of icons is most beneficial for us, corresponding with our nature and with common-sense, as well as with the Holy Scriptures themselves, for there were images of the Cherubim in Moses' tabernacle of the Old Testament. Icons serve as a constant reminder to us that the Lord is always with us ("I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world"[994] ); that the Most Holy Mother of God is always near us as the "First-Origin of the spiritual renovation"[995] of the Church, as the Mother by grace of all true Christians. And therefore all true Christians have in their houses the image of the Mother of God, their Queen and Mother by grace, and abundantly, worthily, and rightly adorn it with silver, gold, and precious stones; for, after God, there is no one dearer and more reverenced by them than His Most Pure Mother. Both the Lord Himself and His Most Pure Mother continually prove to us by means of miracles, both inwardly and outwardly, that our true veneration of His saints, and of His Mother, and of His holy icons, is pleasing to Him and profitable to us in the highest degree.Our Lady, the Mother of God, the Angels and all the Saints are as near to me when I call upon them with a pure, whole heart as my own soul, and hear me, as I hear myself: for we are all — one body, one spirit, one Church of Angels and men. The members of the Church have the same relation to each other as the members of the body: they serve each other, they help each other, support and save each other. (But is it thus with the Protestants?)...By calling upon the names of God's saints in prayer, we move them to pray for us.How do the saints hear us? They hear us as being one in the Holy Spirit with us — "that they also may be one in us,"[1100] as members of the one Church of God, having for her head the one Christ, and animated by the one Spirit of God. The saints see and hear us in the Holy Spirit in the same manner as we see and hear with our bodily eyes and ears by means of light and air; but our bodily sight and hearing are very imperfect in comparison to spiritual sight and hearing. At a great distance we cannot see many objects and cannot hear many sounds, but spiritual sight and hearing are perfect; not a single movement of the heart, not a single thought, not a single word, intention, or desire escapes them, because the Spirit of God — in Whom the saints dwell, see, and hear us — is all-perfect, omniscient, all-seeing, and all-hearing, for He is omnipresent."As Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us."[1123] This is the reason why we must pray to the Saints: they are in God, and God is in them;[1124] and this is why they hear us, that is, owing to their being in the omnipresent God. "For holy art Thou, O our God, and Thou restest in the Saints."[1125]As by means of the electric telegraph we speedily communicate with persons who are far away from us, so, likewise, by means of lively faith, as though through the telegraph wires, we speedily communicate with God, with the Angels and Saints. As we entirely trust to the speed of the electric current, and to its reaching its destination, so, likewise, we should completely trust to the speed of the prayer of faith and to its reaching its destination. Send your petition to God and the Saints by means of the telegraph of faith, and you will speedily obtain an answer. The answering signs of a telegraph are simple, but the experienced read them; the actions upon the heart of the God of all spirits, of all flesh and of the Saints, are likewise simple, but the experienced understand them.As our Creator and God is one, therefore He brings together and unites all things, and, for a believing soul, there is nothing far away that He cannot bring near by means of faith. Do you wish to converse with — -not to speak of God, Who is everywhere, but with the high and heavenly powers, principalities, archangels and angels? You can do so. In accordance with your prayer they will instruct, enlighten, strengthen you in your faith. Or do you wish to converse with the departed Saints? You can do so. They will be with you at your first heartfelt call — especially the most Holy Virgin, Mother of God, our most speedy Mediatrix. " We unceasingly glorify Thee, O Christ, Who hast indescribably joined the earthly to the heavenly, and hast established one Church for the angels and men."[1134] Christ is the head both of angels and men. With such a Head, what then cannot be near to us? And how near to us must the Head Himself be in order to hear us! Experience convinces us that He hears us, as the saints also hear us.The Lord especially highly esteems the works of His hands, gifted with reason and free will, that is, the angels and saints, and works through them for our sanctification and salvation. Therefore do not say: I always have recourse straight to God alone with my needs, with my prayer. It is sometimes also necessary for you to have recourse to the saints as His instruments and organs. God Himself does not wish that these holy temples of His grace, of His Divine Spirit, should remain inactive in the work of our salvation.If we sinners pray and make supplications to the Lord for ourselves and others; if, when living upon earth, the saints pray for others and ask God for what is needful for them, then much more will they do so when they are transplanted to eternity and are face to face with God. By virtue of the great mediatory sacrifice of the Son of God, the prayers of the saints, especially those of His most pure Mother, possess, by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the power of mediation. This is the Lord's recompense for the merits of the saints.From our own experience of lively, heart-felt prayer, we may know that the saints are received into the closest union with God. Also, by our own experience we know that during our communion with God, by means of the prayer of faith, our mind is enlightened in an extraordinary manner, and acquires the widest scale of action. At this time it sees that which it does not see in its ordinary state. From this, it follows that the saints, being in union with God, being also pure, detached from the body, have the most clear, far-seeing mind. They hear our fervent prayers; and if these prayers are pleasing to God and profitable to us, they will unfailingly fulfil them.God and the saints hear us during our prayer as men hear each other when talking among themselves, or as people standing in church hear the preacher, or soldiers the voice of their commander, with the difference that God and the saints hear our prayers incomparably better and more perfectly, because when we hear the words of an ordinary man we do not know what is in his heart and thoughts, and it may happen that a person, says one thing whilst he has quite another in his heart.But with God and the saints it is not so; they see all that is in our thoughts and in our heart — God Himself by His omniscience, and the saints by the grace of the Holy Spirit, in Whom they eternally rest. They see whether our words really correspond to the feeling of our heart, and if so, and the heart itself on its part is a believing, contrite, and humble one, burning with love and zeal (for " we earnestly have recourse to Thee "), as well as with a desire to obtain what we ask for, then they are favourably inclined to accept our prayer and give us what we desire. God and the saints wish that during our prayer we should represent them to ourselves as living, present with us; that we should see them with our spiritual eyes. God is living. " For He is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto Him."[1233]As, during a conversation between men, the air, which is everywhere and fills all things, serves as a medium between the word of one and the word of another, and the words of one reach the hearing of another through the air, and it would be impossible to speak and hear without air — so in spiritual respects the Holy Spirit, "Who is everywhere present and filleth all things,"[1237] is a similar medium in our communion with the bodiless ones. We do not thoroughly understand how, by means of air, our words are heard by others, sometimes at a great distance, yet we know that they are heard; likewise, we do not understand how the holy angels and saints hear, in the Holy Spirit, the wail of our hearts; yet we know that it is heard. As in the first case we may be assured of our words having been heard by others from the answers, so in the latter we are similarly assured by the answers we receive. In the first case we see the person with whom we speak with our bodily eyes, and in the latter we see the person with whom we converse with our spiritual eyes. An image is presented to the bodily eye and to the spiritual eye — an invisible person or spirit. For corporal beings there is distance, whilst for the Holy Spirit it does not exist.Call upon the name of the saint with your whole soul; he will hear you, and will manifest his miraculous power in the image. The name of the Saviour, called upon with faith, works wonders. It drives away the demons, quenches the fire of the passions, heals sicknesses. The names of the saints, called upon with faith, by the grace of God also work wonders. And what is there astonishing in this? They are all in the Spirit of God, and the life-giving Spirit of God is everywhere present and fills all things. The saints all work wonders by the Holy Spirit, because the one Spirit of God is the Spirit of wonders.Concerning honouring and invoking the saints in prayer (on the day of St. Nicholas). What is it founded upon? They are in God; they are rich in spiritual gifts; they are in the land of the living, and in the land of abundance; whilst we are in the land of death and of spiritual hunger. God has taken them unto Himself to preserve our life. " God did send me before you to preserve life,"[1268] said Joseph to his brethren. Abraham — Noah. The rich man in hell begged Abraham to send Lazarus. Noah, the deliverer from the deluge. "Blessed is he whose race is in Sion, and who hath kinsmen in Jerusalem."[1269]"O most holy Bishop, Father Nicholas, pray to God for us!" What is the reason that we ask the prayers of the Saints for ourselves? Do they really pray for us? and is their prayer effective? God Himself plainly declared His will to some persons not having nearness to Him, chiefly to sinful men, that they should ask God's people to pray for them. For instance, Abimelech, who took Abraham's wife, was commanded to ask Abraham to pray for him; Job prayed for his friends, in accordance with the evident revelation of God's will; Moses, Samuel, Elijah, and all the prophets prayed; the Lord Himself, in accordance with His human nature, prayed to the Heavenly Father for Peter and for all the disciples. The Saints are worthy of being intercessors for us before God, by their virtues, by their merits, and as those who pleased Him. If earthly justice requires that a certain man nearer to God (for instance, a priest) should pray to God for others, then why should it not be the same in heaven? All the Saints live in God and for us; in God they see our needs, they sympathise with us, they are ready, in accordance with our prayers, to help us. Why in accordance with our prayers, and not otherwise? In order to strengthen us in faith and prayerfulness. Besides, why do even living men wish that others who need their help should ask them for it?What does the daily invocation of the Saints signify — of different ones each day, during the whole year and during our whole lifetime? It signifies that God's Saints, as our brethren, only perfect, live and are near us; that they hear us and are ever ready to help us, by the grace of God. We live together with them — in the one house of the Heavenly Father — only on its different halves. We live on the earthly, they on the heavenly half; but we both have a means of communication with each other: for us the prayer of faith and love, for them their spiritual nature, always ready for active help, owing to the love with which their souls are permeated.The saints fulfilled the word of the Lord; the Lord fulfils their word; they worked for Him — He does so for them. The Lord Himself said: " With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again."[1275] This is why the Lord speedily fulfils the prayers of the Saints for us."My servant Job shall pray for you; Abraham shall pray for thee . . . Moses. . . Samuel . . . Elijah."[1302] The prayers of the Saints for us are pleasing unto the Lord, as coming from His faithful servants. The Devil continually lies against God in our hearts, especially in respect to God's omnipresence, saying, "God hath forgotten: He hideth away His face;" also, in respect to His justice, "God careth not for it;"[1303] also even, in respect to His existence, "There is no God."[1304]God's saints are great merchants, who have enriched themselves with all spiritual treasures, with all virtues: meekness, humility, abstinence, patience, great faith, hope, and love. This is why we ask their holy prayers, as poor men of rich, that they may help us in our spiritual poverty; that they may teach us how to pray and to progress in all Christian virtues; that they, having boldness before God, may pray for the remission of our past sins and protect us from fresh ones. We go to earthly merchants in their shops to buy their merchandise: shall we not have recourse to the heavenly merchants with fervent prayer, as though with silver and gold? Shall we not purchase of them their intercession for us before God for the forgiveness of sins and the bestowal of various Christian virtues? It seems very natural to do so."All things are possible to him that believeth," because he who believes is one spirit with the Lord. If everything is possible to the believer who lives on earth, though he is°not quite perfect, then still more is it so to him who dwells in heaven in close union with God, and who is most perfect. To the saints God is everything, so that the saints are truly gods. "I [God Himself, Whose word is truth] have said: Ye are gods."[1363]The priests praying on earth for men are the sign and testimony of the heavenly Church praying for us in Heaven, and of the Mediator Christ God Himself. The Saints are kinder than we think, and more speedily than we think they come to our help, in accordance with our prayer.Do not be afraid of human talk and mockery about yourself. This is diabolical fear; think of what the Lord God says of you, what the angels and saints say of you.Call upon the saints with faith unshamed and love unfeigned if you wish them to hear you and fulfil your prayer. Remember that like seeks after like. The saints have themselves pleased God by their faith and love, and wish to see the same in you. To faith and love add also the reverence due to them.The saints of God live even after their death. Thus, I often hear in church the Mother of God singing her wonderful, heart-penetrating song which she said in the house of her cousin Elizabeth, after the Annunciation of the Archangel. At times, I hear the song of Moses; the song of Zacharias — the father of the Forerunner; that of Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel; that of the three children; and that of Miriam. And how many holy singers of the New Testament delight until now the ear of the whole Church of God! And the Divine service itself — the sacraments, the rites? Whose spirit is there, moving and touching our hearts? That of God and of His saints. Here is a proof for you of the immortality of men's souls. How is it that all these men have died, and yet are governing our lives after their death — they are dead and they still speak, instruct and touch us?Also daily invoke the glorified saints, that they may enlighten your way by their prayers, and that they may intercede for the forgiveness of your sins; and that you yourself may remember that after death there is eternal glorification and bliss for good deeds, and eternal condemnation for evil ones.How is it that the saints see us and our needs and hear our prayers? Let us make the following comparison: Suppose that you were transplanted to the sun and were united to it. The sun lights the whole earth with its rays, it lights every particle of the earth. In these rays you also see the earth, but you are so small in proportion to the sun, that you would form, so to say, but one ray, and there are an infinite number of such rays. By its identity with the sun this ray takes an intimate part in lighting the whole world through the sun. So also the saintly soul, having become united to God, as to its spiritual sun, sees, through the medium of its spiritual sun, which lights the whole universe, all men and the needs of those that pray.Whomsoever you wish to pray to, before praying, first ask in your heart that you may be made worthy of offering Him your heartfelt prayer, praise, or thanksgiving, for we can only pray by the strengthening of the Holy Spirit, and by the strengthening of those saints, through whose intercession we wish to pray to the Saviour. Raise to Him before your prayer or praise a heartfelt voice, that He may grant you the grace of sincere prayer, that He may lay His easy yoke and His light burden on your heart, that they may destroy the diabolical pride and resistance of your mind and heart. If you wish to pray to Our Lady, call upon Her that She may make you worthy of offering Her your prayer, praise, or thanksgiving from the whole heart, unfeignedly. If you wish to pray to an angel, ask the Lord to make you deserving of worthily offering him your prayer, or of hymning the grace, brightness, and goodness of his nature; if to a saint, invoke the Holy Spirit, by Whose holiness the saints are sanctified, that you may worthily call upon him or ascribe praises and thanksgivings to him; for we all can only pray worthily and vivifyingly through the strengthening of the life-giving Holy Spirit. God's saints are the pure breathings of the Holy Spirit. "The wind (the Spirit) bloweth where it listeth."[1424] (That is, He breathes in any soul He pleases.) The Holy Virgin was superabundantly sanctified and purified by the Holy Spirit. The angels, too, are sanctified by the Holy Spirit, and live and breathe by Him, as we live by the flesh and breathe by means of air. Prayers, in their true aspect, are nothing else but the breathing of the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit Itself," it is said, "maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."[1425]

[34] Exclamation taken from the Vespers.
[88] St. Matthew vi. 21.
[89] Proverbs xi. 3.
[150] St. Luke vii. 6 and following verses.
[173] Acts xxvi. 14.
[174] 1 John v. 7.
[212] Corinthians vi. 17.
[287] The English reader who is unacquainted with the liturgies of the Orthodox Church can refer to the translations of Neale, Richardson, Robertson, and others.
[323] 1 Peter ii. 25.
[447] Ephesians i. 18.
[570] Ephesians iv. 4.
[602] Galatians ii. 20.
[603] St. John vi. 56.
[830] 1 John iv. 16.
[980] St. Luke xii. 35, 36.
[994] St. Matthew xxviii. 20.
[1100] St. John xvii. 21.
[1123] St. John xvii. 21.
[1124] St. John iii. 24.
[1125] Exclamation at Vespers.
[1134] Canon to the Archangel.
[1233] St. Luke xx. 38.
[1237] Prayer to the Holy Spirit.
[1268] Genesis xlv. 5.
[1269] Isaiah xxxi. 9. (The text is thus rendered in the Slavonic version.)
[1275] St. Matthew vii. 2.
[1302] Job xlii. 8; Genesis xx. 7,17; Jeremiah xv. 1; 1 Kings xviii. 36; Psalm xcix. 6.
[1303] Psalm x. 11, 14.
[1304] Psalm xiv. 1.
[1363] Psalm lxxxii 6.
[1424] St. John iii. 8.
[1425] Romans viii. 26.

Excerpts compiled from: My Life in Christ or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God, St. John of Kronstadt.

Άγιος Σιλουανός ο Αθωνίτης- ΓΙΑ ΤΟΥΣ ΑΓΙΟΥΣ

Άγιος Σιλουανός ο Αθωνίτης 

Τοῦ Ἁγίου Πατρός ΣΙΛΟΥΑΝΟΥ τοῦ Ἀθωνίτου

«Eγώ τούς ἐμέ φιλοῦντας ἀγαπῶ, τούς δέ δοξάζοντάς με δοξάσω», λέγει ὁ Κύριος (πρβλ. Παρ. η' 17, Α' Βασιλ. β' 30).
Ὁ Θεός δοξάζεται μέ τούς Ἁγίους Του καί οἱ Ἅγιοι δοξάζονται ἀπό τόν Θεό.
Ἡ δόξα πού δίνει ὁ Θεός στούς Ἁγίους εἶναι τόσο μεγάλη, πού ἄν ἔβλεπαν οἱ ἄνθρωποι τόν Ἅγιο ὅπως εἶναι, ἀπό τήν εὐλάβεια καί τό φόβο θά ἔπεφταν καταγῆς, γιατί ὁ σαρκικός ἄνθρωπος δέν μπορεῖ ν᾽ ἀντέξη τή δόξα τῆς οὐράνιας ἐμφανίσεως.
Μήν θαυμάζετε γι᾽ αὐτό. Ὁ Κύριος ἀγάπησε τόσο τό πλάσμα Του, ὥστε ἔδωσε Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα μ᾽ ἀφθονία στόν ἄνθρωπο, καί μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἔγινε ὅμοιος μέ τό Θεό.
Γιατί, λοιπόν, ἀγαπᾶ ὁ Κύριος τόσο τόν ἄνθρωπο; Γιατί εἶναι ἡ Αὐτοαγάπη καί ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτή γνωρίζεται μόνο μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα.
Μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα γνωρίζει ὁ ἄνθρωπος τόν Κύριο, τό Δημιουργό του, καί τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα γεμίζει μέ τή χάρη Του ὅλο τόν ἄνθρωπο: καί τήν ψυχή καί τό νοῦ καί τό σῶμα.
Ὁ Κύριος ἔδωσε στούς Ἁγίους τή χάρη Του κι ἐκεῖνοι Τόν ἀγάπησαν καί προσκολλήθηκαν ὁλοκληρωτικά σ᾽ Αὐτόν, γιατί ἡ γλυκύτητα τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑπερνικᾶ τήν ἀγάπη γιά τόν κόσμο καί τήν ὀμορφιά του.
Κι ἄν ἔτσι γίνεται στή γῆ, τότε στόν οὐρανό οἱ Ἅγιοι εἶναι ἀκόμα πιό πολύ ἑνωμένοι μέ τόν Κύριο μέ τήν ἀγάπη. Κι ἡ ἀγάπη αὐτή εἶναι ἀνείπωτα γλυκειά καί ἐκχύνεται ἀπό τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα κι ὅλες οἱ ἐπουράνιες δυνάμεις μ᾽ αὐτήν τρέφονται.
Ὁ Θεός εἶναι ἀγάπη, καί τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα στούς Ἁγίους εἶναι ἀγάπη.
Μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα γνωρίζεται ὁ Κύριος. Μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα μεγαλύνεται ὁ Κύριος στούς οὐρανούς. Μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα δοξάζουν οἱ Ἅγιοι τό Θεό καί μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα δοξάζει ὁ Κύριος τούς Ἁγίους καί αὐτή ἡ δόξα δέν ἔχει τέλος.
Σέ πολλούς φαίνεται πώς οἱ Ἅγιοι εἶναι μακριά μας. Ἀλλά μακριά εἶναι ἀπό ἐκείνους πού οἱ ἴδιοι ἀπομακρύνθηκαν, ἐνῶ εἶναι πολύ κοντά σ᾽ ἐκείνους πού τηροῦν τίς ἐντολές τοῦ Χριστοῦ κι ἔχουν τήν χάρη τοῦ Ἁγίου Πνεύματος.
Στούς οὐρανούς τά πάντα ζοῦν καί κινοῦνται ἀπό τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα. Ἀλλά καί στή γῆ εἶναι τό ἴδιο Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα. Αὐτό ζῆ στήν Ἐκκλησία μας, Αὐτό ἐνεργεῖ στά μυστήρια, Αὐτό πνέει στήν Ἁγία Γραφή, Αὐτό ζῆ στίς ψυχές τῶν πιστῶν. Τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα ἑνώνει τούς πάντες, καί γι᾽ αὐτό οἱ Ἅγιοι εἶναι κοντά μας. Κι ὅταν προσευχώμαστε σ᾽ αὐτούς, τότε ἀκοῦνε αὐτοί μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα τίς προσευχές, κι οἱ ψυχές μας αἰσθάνονται τήν πρεσβεία τους γιά χάρη μας.
Πόσο εὐτυχισμένοι καί καλότυχοι εἴμαστε ἐμεῖς οἱ ὀρθόδοξοι χριστιανοί, πού μᾶς χάρισε ὁ Κύριος ζωή μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα, καί εὐφραίνονται οἱ ψυχές μας. Πρέπει ὅμως νά φυλᾶμε μέ σύνεση τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα, γιατί ἀρκεῖ κι ἕνας ἄσκοπος λογισμός γιά νά ἐγκαταλείψη τήν ψυχή, καί τότε στερούμαστε τήν ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἐξαφανίζεται ἡ παρρησία ἀπό τήν προσευχή, χάνεται καί ἡ σίγουρη ἐλπίδα πώς θά λάβουμε αὐτό πού ἐπιζητοῦμε.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι ζοῦν σ᾽ ἄλλο κόσμο κι ἐκεῖ βλέπουν μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα τήν θεία δόξα καί τήν ὀμορφιά τοῦ προσώπου τοῦ Κυρίου. Ἀλλά μέ τό ἴδιο Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα βλέπουν καί τή ζωή καί τά ἔργα μας. Γνωρίζουν τίς θλίψεις μας κι ἀκοῦνε τίς θερμές προσευχές μας. Ζώντας στή γῆ διδάχτηκαν τήν ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ ἀπό τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα. Κι ὅποιος ἀπέκτησε στή γῆ τήν ἀγάπη διαβαίνει μαζί της στήν αἰώνια ζωή στή Βασιλεία τῶν Οὐρανῶν, ὅπου ἡ ἀγάπη αὐξάνει ὡσότου γίνη τέλεια. Κι ἄν στή γῆ ἡ ἀγάπη δέν μπορῆ νά λησμονήση τόν ἀδελφό, πολύ περισσότερο στούς οὐρανούς οἱ Ἅγιοι δέν μᾶς λησμονοῦν καί δέονται γιά μᾶς.
Ὁ Κύριος χάρισε τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα στούς Ἁγίους, κι αὐτοί μᾶς ἀγαποῦν μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα. Οἱ ψυχές τῶν Ἁγίων γνωρίζουν τόν Κύριο καί τήν ἀγαθοσύνη Του γιά τόν ἄνθρωπο, γι᾽ αὐτό καί καίγονται πνευματικά ἀπό ἀγάπη γιά τό λαό. Ὅσο ζοῦσαν στή γῆ, δέν μποροῦσαν ν᾽ ἀκούσουν νά γίνεται λόγος γιά ἁμαρτωλό ἄνθρωπο, χωρίς πόνο στήν καρδιά, κι ἔχυναν δάκρυα στήν προσευχή τους γι᾽ αὐτούς. Τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα τούς ἐξέλεξε γιά νά προσεύχωνται γιά ὅλο τό κόσμο καί τούς ἔδωσε πηγές δακρύων. Τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα σκορπίζει στούς ἐκλεκτούς Του τόσο μεγάλη ἀγάπη, ὥστε οἱ ψυχές καίγονται ἀπό τήν ἐπιθυμία νά σωθοῦν ὅλοι οἱ ἄνθρωποι καί νά δοῦν τή δόξα τοῦ Κυρίου.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι περιβάλλουν, μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα, μέ τήν ἀγάπη τους ὅλο τό κόσμο. Βλέπουν καί ξέρουν πώς ἀποκάναμε ἀπό τίς θλίψεις, πώς ξεράθηκαν οἱ καρδιές μας, πώς παρέλυσε ἡ ἀκηδία τίς ψυχές μας, καί γι᾽ αὐτό μεσιτεύουν ἀκατάπαυστα στό Θεό γιά μᾶς.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι χαίρονται γιά τή μετάνοιά μας καί στενοχωριοῦνται ὅταν οἱ ἄνθρωποι ἐγκαταλείπουν τό Θεό κι ἐξομοιώνωνται ἔτσι μέ τά ἄλογα ζῶα. Λυποῦνται, γιατί οἱ ἄνθρωποι ζοῦν στή γῆ χωρίς νά ξέρουν πώς, ἄν ἀγαποῦσαν ὁ ἕνας τόν ἄλλο, θά ὑπῆρχε ἐλευθερία ἀπό τήν ἁμαρτία. Κι ὅπου δέν ὑπάρχει ἁμαρτία, ἐκεῖ ὑπάρχει χαρά καί ἀγαλλίαση πού δίνει τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα, κι ἔτσι ὅπου καί νά στραφῆ τό βλέμμα, τά πάντα εἶναι ἀγαπημένα κι ἡ ψυχή ἀπορεῖ καί ἀναρωτιέται «γιατί νοιώθω τόσο καλά», καί δοξολογεῖ τό Θεό.
Νά ἐπικαλεῖστε μέ πίστη τή Θεοτόκο καί τούς Ἁγίους.αὐτοί ἀκοῦνε τίς προσευχές μας καί ξέρουν καί τούς διαλογισμούς μας.
Καί μή θαυμάζετε γι᾽ αὐτό. Ὅλος ὁ οὐρανός τῶν Ἁγίων ζῆ μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα καί τίποτε δέν εἶναι κρυφό σ᾽ ὅλο τόν κόσμο γιά τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα. Ἐγώ δέν καταλάβαινα πιό πρίν, πῶς οἱ οὐρανοπολίτες ἅγιοι μποροῦν νά βλέπουν τή ζωή μας. Ὅταν ὅμως μέ ἤλεγξε ἡ Ἁγία Θεοτόκος γιά τίς ἁμαρτίες μου, τό ἔμαθα πώς οἱ Ἅγιοι μᾶς βλέπουν μέ τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα καί γνωρίζουν ὅλη τή ζωή μας.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι ἀκοῦνε τίς προσευχές μας καί ἔχουν ἀπό τό Θεό τή δύναμη νά μᾶς βοηθοῦν. Αὐτό εἶναι γνωστό σ᾽ ὅλο τό γένος τῶν χριστιανῶν.
Ὁ πάτερ Ρωμανός, ὁ γυιός τοῦ πάτερ Δοσιθέου, μοῦ διηγόταν πώς ὅταν ἦταν ἀκόμα στόν κόσμο πολύ νέος, ἔτυχε νά διαβῆ σ᾽ ἐποχή χειμώνα τό Δόν. Ξαφνικά ράγισαν οἱ πάγοι τοῦ ποταμοῦ καί τ᾽ ἄλογό του ἔπεσε μέσα στήν τρύπα πού ἄνοιξε καί σέ λίγο ὅλο τό ἕλκηθρο καί τό ἄλογο βυθίζονταν στούς πάγους. Αὐτός, μικρό παιδί, φώναξε: «Ἅγιε Νικόλα, βοήθησέ με νά σύρω ἔξω τό ἕλκηθρο» καί τραβώντας τά χαλινάρια εἶδε ἀμέσως ἕλκηθρο καί ἄλογο ἔξω ἀπό τούς πάγους.
Κι ὁ πάτερ Ματθαῖος, πού ἦταν συγχωριανός μου, ὅταν ἦταν παιδί ἔβοσκε, σάν τόν προφήτη Δαβίδ, τά πρόβατα τοῦ πατέρα του. Ὁ ἴδιος εἶχε ἀνάστημα ἴσα μέ πρόβατο. Ὁ μεγαλύτερος ἀδελφός του ἐργαζόταν στήν ἄλλη ἄκρη τοῦ κάμπου. Ξαφνικά βλέπει νά ὁρμοῦν λύκοι καταπάνω στό Μίσα - ἔτσι ὀνομαζόταν ὁ πάτερ Ματθαῖος κατά κόσμον – κι ὁ μικρός Μίσα ἄφησε κραυγή: «Ἅγιε Νικόλα, βοήθα με». Καί μόλις φώναξε, οἱ λύκοι γύρισαν πίσω καί δέν ἔκαμαν κακό οὔτε σ᾽ αὐτόν οὔτε στά πρόβατα. Καί γιά πολύν καιρό γελοῦσαν οἱ κάτοικοι τοῦ χωριοῦ μας κι ἔλεγαν: «Ὁ Μίσα ἐτρόμαξε φοβερά ἀπό τούς λύκους, ἀλλά ὁ Ἅγιος Νικόλας τόν γλύτωσε».
Κι ὅλοι μας ξέρομε πλῆθος περιπτώσεων, πού οἱ Ἅγιοι ἔρχονται παρευθύς νά βοηθήσουν. Ἀπ᾽ αὐτά εἶναι, λοιπόν, φανερό πώς ἀκούγονται οἱ προσευχές μας στούς οὐρανούς.
Οἱ Ἅγιοι ἦταν ἄνθρωποι ὅμοιοι μ᾽ ἐμᾶς. Πολλοί ἀπ᾽ αὐτούς εἶχαν μεγάλες ἁμαρτίες, ἀλλά μέ τήν μετάνοια πέτυχαν τήν Οὐράνια Βασιλεία. Κι ὅλοι ὅσοι ἔρχονται σ᾽ αὐτήν, μέ τή μετάνοια ἔρχονται πού μᾶς χάρισε ὁ Ἐλεήμων Κύριος μέ τά πάθη Του.
Ὅλοι οἱ Ἅγιοι ζοῦν στή Βασιλεία τῶν Οὐρανῶν, ἐκεῖ πού εἶναι ὁ Κύριος καί ἡ Πανάχραντη Μητέρα Του. Ἐκεῖ εἶναι οἱ ἅγιοι Προπάτορες καί Πατριάρχες, πού κράτησαν μέ ἀνδρεία καί παρέδωσαν τήν πίστη τους. Ἐκεῖ εἶναι οἱ Προφῆτες, πού ἔλαβαν Πνεῦμα Ἅγιο καί μέ τό λόγο τους καλοῦσαν τό λαό πρός τό Θεό. Ἐκεῖ εἶναι οἱ Ἀπόστολοι, πού πέθαναν γιά τό κήρυγμα τοῦ Εὐαγγελίου. Ἐκεῖ βρίσκονται οἱ μάρτυρες, πού ἔδωσαν μέ χαρά τή ζωή τους ἀπό τήν ἀγάπη γιά τό Χριστό. Ἐκεῖ εἶναι οἱ ἅγιοι Ἱεράρχες, μιμητές τοῦ Κυρίου, πού βάσταξαν τά βάρη τῶν πνευματικῶν τους προβάτων. Ἐκεῖ εἶναι οἱ ὅσιοι ἀσκητές καί οἱ κατά Χριστόν σαλοί, πού νίκησαν μέ τήν ἄσκηση τόν κόσμο. Ἐκεῖ βρίσκονται ὅλοι οἱ Δίκαιοι, ὅσοι τήρησαν τίς ἐντολές τοῦ Θεοῦ καί κατανίκησαν τά πάθη.
Πρός τά ἐκεῖ, σ᾽ ἐκείνη τή θεσπέσια ἅγια Σύναξη, πού συγκάλεσε τό Ἅγιο Πνεῦμα, ἑλκύεται ἡ ψυχή μου. Ἀλλά ἀλίμονο σέ μένα! Ἀφοῦ δέν ἔχω ταπείνωση, ὁ Κύριος δέν μοῦ δίνει δύναμη γιά τήν ἄθληση, καί τό ἀσθενικό μου πνεῦμα σβύνει σάν μικρό κερί, ἐνῶ τό πνεῦμα τῶν Ἁγίων ἔκαιγε σάν φλόγα φωτιᾶς, κι ὄχι μόνο δέν τό ἔσβυνε ὁ ἄνεμος τῶν πειρασμῶν, ἀλλά ἄναβε ἀκόμα περισσότερο. Περπατοῦσαν στή γῆ καί τά χέρια τους ἐργάζονταν, ἀλλά τό πνεῦμα τους ἔμενε πάντα κοντά στό Θεό κι ὁ νοῦς τους δέν ἤθελε ν᾽ ἀποσπασθῆ ἀπό τήν μνήμη τοῦ Θεοῦ. Γιά χάρη τῆς ἀγάπης τοῦ Θεοῦ ὑπέμειναν ὅλες τίς θλίψεις στή γῆ καί δέν φοβόνταν κανένα πόνο, κι ἔτσι δόξαζαν τόν Κύριο. Γι᾽ αὐτό κι ὁ Κύριος τούς ἀγάπησε καί τούς δόξασε καί τούς χάρισε τήν αἰώνια Βασιλεία μαζί Του.

Ἀπό τό βιβλίο
Ἱ.Μ. Τιμίου Προδρόμου
ΕΣΣΕΧ Ἀγγλίας 1988

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Saint Theophylact of Ochrid-First Sunday after Pentecost

Saint Theophylact of Ochrid 

First Sunday after Pentecost
Whosoever Shall Confess Me Before Men

Matthew 10:32-33, 37-38; 19:27-30

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Matthew


by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria


Ch. 10:32-33. Whosoever therefore shall confess in Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father Who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father Who is in heaven. He exhorts them to bear witness even unto martyrdom. For belief only within one's soul does not suffice; He desires also the belief confessed with the tongue. He did not say, "Whosoever shall confess Me," but in me, that is, in My strength. For he who confesses does so aided by the grace which is from above. But as for him who denies, Christ did not say "in Me," but whosoever shall deny Me, showing that he denies because he does not have the aid from above. Therefore everyone who confesses that Christ is God will find Christ giving confession of him to the Father, that he is a true servant. But those who deny will hear the words, "I do not know you."
37. He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. Do you see when it is that we must hate our parents and children? When they want us to love them more than Christ. And why should I speak of father, mother, and children? Hear what is even greater than this:
38. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me. Whoever, He says, does not renounce this present life and give himself over to shameful death, for this is what the cross signified to the ancients, is not worthy of Me. But since there are many who are crucified, such as robbers and thieves, He added, and followeth after Me, that is, live according to My laws.
Ch. 19:27. Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? Even though it seems that Peter had not forsaken very much, as he was poor, understand that in actuality he, too, forsook much. For the fewer possessions we have, the greater the attachment. But Peter also rejected every worldly pleasure, even natural affection for his parents. For these passions war against the poor as well as the rich (1) What then does the Lord answer?
28. And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Surely they will not be seated? (2) Of course not, but He indicated by means of a throne the great honor they will enjoy. Will Judas also be seated? No; for Christ said, which have followed Me, that is, "followed Me to the end," but Judas did not follow to the end. By a different interpretation, God often promises good things to those who are worthy. But if they should change and become unworthy, as Judas did, those good things are denied. Similarly with more menacing things, He often threatens but does not carry out the threat, because we have repented. By regeneration understand the resurrection of the dead at the Last Judgement.
29. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. So that no one would think that what was said applied only to the disciples, Christ broadened the promise to include everyone who does likewise. They will have, instead of family of the flesh, intimacy and brotherhood with God; instead of lands, Paradise; instead of houses of stone, the heavenly Jerusalem; instead of a mother, the venerable mothers in the Church; instead of a father, the priests; instead of a wife, all the faithful women, not in marriage—far from it!—but in affection and spiritual relation and compassionate care for them. The Lord does not bid us simply to separate from our families, but only when they impede our piety. In the same manner, He bids us to despise even our own life and body, but not with the result that we slay ourselves. See how good God is: He not only gives us these good things, but adds to them eternal life. You, then, O reader, hasten to sell your possessions and give to the poor. Possessions are, to the wrathful man, his anger; to the fornicator, his disposition for debauchery; to the resentful, his remembrance of wrongs. Sell these things and give them to the poor demons who are in want of every good thing. Return the passions to the creators of the passions, and then you will have treasure, which is Christ, in your heaven, that is, in your mind which has been exalted above this world. For he who becomes like the heavenly One has heaven within himself.
30. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first. Christ is suggesting here the Jews and the Gentiles. For the Jews, who were first, became last, while the Gentiles, who were last, were put first.

1. Natural affection for one's family becomes a passion when it is placed before love of God.
2. In the ancient world, the privilege to sit in the presence of others indicates a high office or rank such as that of a king or one representing him, or of the father in the presence of his children.

Ὅμιλία ἐγκωμιαστική στόν ἀπόστολο Παῦλο.Ἅγιος Ἰωάννης Χρυσόστομος.

Ἅγιος Ἰωάννης Χρυσόστομος

1.-. Τί τέλος πάντων εἶναι ὁ ἄνθρωπος καί πόση εἶναι ἡ εὐγένεια τῆς δικῆς μας φύσης καί πόσο ἱκανό στήν ἀρετή εἶναι αὐτό τό ὄν, μᾶς τό ἔδειξε περισσότερο ἀπ᾿ ὅλους τούς ἀνθρώπους ὁ Παῦλος. Καί τώρα σηκώνεται, ἀπό ἐκεῖ πού ἔχει φθάσει, καί μέ καθαρή φωνή πρός ὅλους ἐκείνους πού κατηγοροῦν τή φύση μας ἀπολογεῖται γιά χάρη τοῦ Κυρίου, προτρέπει γιά ἀρετή, κλείνει τά ἀναίσχυντα στόματα τῶν βλάσφημων καί ἀποδεικνύει ὅτι δέν εἶναι μεγάλη ἡ διαφορά ἀνάμεσα στούς ἀγγέλους καί στούς ἀνθρώπους, ἄν θέλουμε νά προσέχουμε τόν ἑαυτό μας.
Γιατί χωρίς νά ἔχει ἄλλη φύση, οὔτε νά ἔχει λάβει ἄλλη ψυχή, οὔτε νά κατοίκησε σ᾿ ἄλλο κόσμο, ἀλλά ἄν καί ἀνατράφηκε στήν ἴδια γῆ καί τόπο καί μέ τούς ἴδιους νόμους καί συνήθειες, ξεπέρασε ὅλους τούς ἀνθρώπους, οἱ ὁποῖοι ἔζησαν ἀπό τότε πού ἔγιναν οἱ ἄνθρωποι. Ποῦ εἶναι λοιπόν ἐκεῖνοι πού λέγουν, ὅτι εἶναι δύσκολο πράγμα ἡ ἀρετή καί εὔκολο ἡ κακία; Γιατί ὁ Παῦλος τούς ἀντικρούει λέγοντας· «Οἱ θλίψεις μας πού γρήγορα περνοῦν, προετοιμάζουν σ᾿ ἐμᾶς σέ ὑπερβολικά μεγάλο βαθμό αἰώνιο βάρος δόξας» (Β´ Κορ. 4, 17). Ἐάν ὅμως τέτοιες θλίψεις περνοῦν εὔκολα, πολύ περισσότερο οἱ φυσικές ἡδονές. Καί δέν εἶναι μόνο αὐτό τό θαυμαστό του, ὅτι δηλαδή ἀπό πολλή προθυμία δέν αἰσθανόταν τούς κόπους του γιά τήν ἀρετή, ἀλλ᾿ ὅτι ἀσκοῦσε αὐτήν χωρίς ἀμοιβή.

Ἐμεῖς βέβαια δέν ὑπομένουμε κόπους γι᾿ αὐτήν ἄν καί ὑπάρχουν ἀμοιβές. Ἐκεῖνος ὅμως καί χωρίς τά ἔπαθλα τήν ἐπιζητοῦσε καί τήν ἀγαποῦσε, καί ἐκεῖνα πού θεωροῦνταν ὅτι εἶναι ἐμπόδιά της τά ξεπερνοῦσε μέ κάθε εὐκολία. Καί δέν ἐπικαλέσθηκε οὔτε τήν ἀδυναμία τοῦ σώματος, οὔτε τήν τυραννίδα τῆς φύσης, οὔτε τίποτε ἄλλο. Ἄν καί εἶχε ἀναλάβει μεγαλύτερη φροντίδα ἀπό τούς στρατηγούς καί ὅλους τούς βασιλεῖς τῆς γῆς, ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως κάθε ἡμέρα ἦταν ἀκμαῖος, καί ἐνῶ οἱ κίνδυνοί του ἐπαυξάνονταν, διέθετε νεανική προθυμία. Γιά νά δείξει αὐτό ἀκριβῶς ἔλεγε, «Ξεχνώντας τά ὅσα ἔγιναν στό παρελθόν καί φροντίζοντας γιά ἐκεῖνα πού εἶναι μπροστά μου» (Φιλιπ. 3, 14). Καί ἐνῶ περίμενε τό θάνατο, καλοῦσε σέ συμμετοχή τῆς ἡδονῆς αὐτῆς λέγοντας, «Χαίρετε καί νά χαίρεστε μαζί μου» (Φιλιπ. 2, 18). Καί ἐνῶ τόν ἀπειλοῦσαν κίνδυνοι καί προσβολές καί κάθε ἀτιμία, πάλι σκιρτοῦσε· καί ὅταν ἔγραφε τήν ἐπιστολή στούς Κορινθίους ἔλεγε, «Γι᾿ αὐτό καί εὐφραίνομαι σέ ἀσθένειες, σέ προσβολές, σέ διωγμούς» (Β´ Κορ. 12, 10). Καί τά ὀνόμασε αὐτά ὅπλα τῆς δικαιοσύνης, ἀποδεικνύοντας ὅτι καί ἀπό αὐτά εἶχε πολύ μεγάλες ὠφέλειες καί ἀπό παντοῦ ἦταν ἀκατάβλητος στούς ἐχθρούς του. Καί ἐνῶ παντοῦ τόν βασάνιζαν, τόν περιφρονοῦσαν, τόν κακολογοῦσαν, σάν νά βάδιζε σέ θριάμβους καί νά ἔστησε σταθερά τρόπαια σ᾿ ὅλα τά σημεῖα τῆς γῆς, ἔτσι ὑπερηφανευόταν καί εὐχαριστοῦσε τό Θεό λέγοντας· «Ἡ εὐχαριστία ἀνήκει στό Θεό ὁ ὁποῖος πάντοτε μᾶς ὁδηγεῖ σέ θρίαμβο» (Β´ Κορ. 2, 14).

2.-. Καί τήν κακοποίηση καί τήν προσβολή γιά τό κήρυγμα ἐπιζητοῦσε περισσότερο ἀπ᾿ ὅσο ἐμεῖς τήν τιμή, καί τό θάνατο ἀπ᾿ ὅσο ἐμεῖς τή ζωή, καί τή φτώχεια ἀπ᾿ ὅσο ἐμεῖς τόν πλοῦτο, καί τούς κόπους περισσότερο ἀπ᾿ ὅσο ἄλλοι τίς ἀνέσεις, καί ὄχι ἁπλά περισσότερο, ἀλλά πολύ περισσότερο, καί τή λύπη περισσότερο ἀπ᾿ ὅσο ἄλλοι τή χαρά, καί τό νά εὔχεται γιά τούς ἐχθρούς περισσότερο ἀπ᾿ ὅσο τό νά τούς καταριοῦνται οἱ ἄλλοι. Καί ἀνάτρεψε τήν τάξη τῶν πραγμάτων, ἤ καλύτερα ἐμεῖς τήν ἀνατρέψαμε, ἐκεῖνος ὅμως, ὅπως τή νομοθέτησε ὁ Θεός, ἔτσι τή φύλασσε. Γιατί ὅλα αὐτά ἦταν σύμφωνα μέ τή φύση, ἐκεῖνα ὅμως ἀντίθετα. Ποιά εἶναι ἡ ἀπόδειξη; Τό ὅτι ὁ Παῦλος, ἄν καί ἦταν ἄνθρωπος, ἀκολουθοῦσε περισσότερο αὐτά παρά ἐκεῖνα. Ἕνα μόνο πράγμα ἦταν φοβερό γι᾿ αὐτόν καί ἀπόφευγε, τό νά ἀντιμάχεται τό Θεό, καί τίποτε ἄλλο. Ὅπως βέβαια τίποτε ἄλλο δέν τοῦ ἦταν ποθητό, ὅσο τό νά ἀρέσει στό Θεό. Καί δέ λέγω τίποτε ἀπό τά παρόντα, ἀλλά οὔτε καί ἀπό τά μέλλοντα. Καί μή μοῦ πεῖς τίς πόλεις καί τά ἔθνη καί τούς βασιλεῖς καί τά στρατόπεδα καί τά χρήματα καί τίς σατραπεῖες καί τίς δυναστεῖες, γιατί οὔτε ἱστό ἀράχνης τά θεωροῦσε αὐτά. Ἀλλά σκέψου αὐτά πού ὑπάρχουν στούς οὐρανούς καί τότε θά καταλάβεις τή σφοδρή ἀγάπη πού εἶχε γιά τό Χριστό. Γιατί ὁ Παῦλος γι᾿ αὐτήν τήν ἀγάπη δέ θαύμασε οὔτε τήν ἀξία τῶν ἀγγέλων, οὔτε τῶν ἀρχαγγέλων, οὔτε τίποτε ἄλλο παρόμοιο.

Εἶχε μέσα του πιό μεγάλο ἀπ᾿ ὅλα, τήν ἀγάπη τοῦ Χριστοῦ καί μαζί μέ τοῦτο θεωροῦσε τόν ἑαυτό του τόν πιό εὐτυχισμένο ἀπ᾿ ὅλους. Καί χωρίς αὐτό, δέν ἐπιθυμοῦσε νά γίνει ἕνας ἀπό τίς κυριότητες, οὔτε ἀπό τίς ἀρχές καί ἐξουσίες (ὀνομασίες ἀγγελικῶν ταγμάτων), ἀλλά μαζί μέ τήν ἀγάπη αὐτήν ἤθελε περισσότερο νά εἶναι ἀνάμεσα στούς τελευταίους καί τούς κολασμένους, παρά χωρίς αὐτήν ἀνάμεσα στούς πρώτους καί τιμημένους. Γιατί κόλαση γι᾿ αὐτόν ἦταν μία, τό νά χάσει τήν ἀγάπη αὐτήν. Αὐτό ἦταν γιά τόν Παῦλο γέεννα, αὐτό τιμωρία, αὐτό ἄπειρα κακά· ὅπως ἀκριβῶς καί ἀπόλαυση, τό νά πετύχει τήν ἀγάπη. Αὐτό ἦταν ἡ ζωή του, αὐτό ὁ κόσμος του, αὐτό ὁ ἄγγελός του, αὐτό τά παρόντα, αὐτό τά μέλλοντα, αὐτό βασιλεία, αὐτό ὑπόσχεση, αὐτό τά ἄπειρα ἀγαθά. Καί κάθε ἄλλο πού δέν ὁδηγοῦσε ἐδῶ, δέν τό θεωροῦσε οὔτε δυσάρεστο, οὔτε εὐχάριστο. Ἔτσι ὅμως περιφρονοῦσε ὅλα τά ὁρατά, ὅπως τό σάπιο χόρτο. Καί οἱ τύραννοι καί οἱ πόλεις πού ἄφριζαν ἀπό θυμό τοῦ φαίνονταν ὅτι εἶναι κουνούπια, ἐνῶ ὁ θάνατος καί οἱ τιμωρίες καί τά πάρα πολλά βασανιστήρια τοῦ φαίνονταν παιδικά παιχνίδια. Ἀλλά βέβαια τά ὑπόφερε γιά τό Χριστό.

3.-. Γιατί τότε τά δεχότανε μέ χαρά αὐτά καί στά δεσμά του ἔτσι ὑπερηφανευόταν, ὅπως δέ θά ὑπερηφανευόταν ὁ Νέρων ὅταν εἶχε στό κεφάλι του τό βασιλικό διάδημα. Καί ἔμεινε στή φυλακή, σάν νά ἦταν ὁ οὐρανός, καί δεχόταν τά κτυπήματα καί τίς μαστιγώσεις πιό εὐχάριστα άπό ἐκείνους πού ἁρπάζουν τά βραβεῖα. Καί τούς πόνους ἀγαποῦσε ὄχι λιγότερο ἀπό τά ἔπαθλα, θεωρώντας τούς πόνους ὅτι εἶναι ἔπαθλο. Γι᾿ αὐτό καί τούς ὀνόμαζε χάρη. Πρόσεχε ὅμως. Ἔπαθλο ἦταν, τό νά πεθάνει καί νά εἶναι μαζί μέ τό Χριστό, τό νά παραμείνει ὅμως στή ζωή, ἦταν αὐτός ὁ ἀγώνας. Ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως αὐτό προτιμᾶ περισσότερο ἀπό ἐκεῖνο καί λέγει ὅτι τοῦ εἶναι ἀναγκαιότερο. Τό νά ἀποχωρισθεῖ ἀπό τό Χριστό, ἦταν ἀγώνας καί κόπος, ἤ καλύτερα περισσότερο ἀπό ἀγώνα καί κόπο· τό νά παραμένει μαζί του, ἦταν ἔπαθλο. Αὐτό ὅμως προτιμᾶ περισσότερο ἀπό ἐκεῖνο γιά χάρη τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

Ἀλλά θά μποροῦσε ἴσως νά πεῖ κανείς, ὅτι ὅλα αὐτά τοῦ ἦταν εὐχάριστα γιά χάρη τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Αὐτό λοιπόν λέγω καί ἐγώ, ὅτι δηλαδή ἐκεῖνα πού γιά μᾶς εἶναι αἰτία λύπης, αὐτά προκαλοῦσαν σ᾿ ἐκεῖνον μεγάλη εὐχαρίστηση. Καί γιατί λέγω τούς κινδύνους καί τίς ἄλλες ταλαιπωρίες; Ἀφοῦ πραγματικά ἦταν σέ διαρκή λύπη· γι᾿ αὐτό καί ἔλεγε· «Ποιός ἀσθενεῖ καί δέν ἀσθενῶ καί ἐγώ μαζί του; ποιός σκανδαλίζεται καί δέν δοκιμάζομαι καί ἐγώ; » (Β´ Κορ. 11, 19). Ἀλλ᾿ ὅμως καί τή λύπη θά μποροῦσε νά πεῖ κανείς ὅτι εἶχε σάν εὐχαρίστηση. Γιατί πολλοί καί ὅταν χάσουν τά παιδιά τους καί τούς ἐπιτρέπεται νά θρηνοῦν, παρηγοροῦνται· ὅταν ὅμως ἐμποδίζονται, στενοχωροῦνται. Ἔτσι λοιπόν καί ὁ Παῦλος, κλαίοντας νύκτα καί ἡμέρα, παρηγοροῦνταν. Γιατί κανένας δέν πένθησε ἔτσι τά δικά του κακά, ὅπως ἐκεῖνος τά ξένα. Πῶς λοιπόν θεωρεῖς ὅτι συμπεριφέρεται, ἀφοῦ οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι δέ σώζονται, γιά νά σωθοῦν αὐτοί, ὅταν εὔχεται νά ἐκπέσει αὐτός ἀπό τήν οὐράνια δόξα; Ἑπομένως εἶναι φανερό ὅτι τό νά μή σωθοῦν αὐτοί ἦταν πολύ χειρότερο γι᾿ αὐτόν. Γιατί ἄν δέν ἦταν χειρότερο, δέν θά εὐχόταν ἐκεῖνο (Βλ. Ρωμ. 9, 3), ἀφοῦ τό προτίμησε σάν ἐλαφρότερο καί πού ἔχει μεγαλύτερη παρηγοριά. Καί ὄχι ἁπλῶς ἤθελε, ἀλλά φώναζε λέγοντας, «Ὅτι ὑπάρχει μέσα μου λύπη καί ἀδιάκοπος πόνος στήν καρδιά μου» ( Ρωμ. 9, 2).

Αὐτό λοιπόν πού ὑπόφερε καθημερινά, σχεδόν, γιά ὅλους τούς κατοίκους τῆς οἰκουμένης, καί γιά ὅλους μαζί, καί γιά τά ἔθνη, καί γιά τίς πόλεις καί γιά τόν καθένα χωριστά, μέ ποιόν θά μπορέσει νά τόν συγκρίνει κανείς; μέ ποιό σίδηρο; μέ ποιό διαμάντι; Τί θά μποροῦσε νά ἀποκαλέσει κανείς τήν ψυχήν ἐκείνη; χρυσή ἤ ἀδαμάντινη; γιατί ἦταν σκληρότερη ἀπό κάθε διαμάντι καί πολυτιμότερη ἀπό τό χρυσάφι καί τίς πολύτιμες πέτρες. Θά ξεπεράσει λοιπόν τήν ἀντοχή τοῦ διαμαντιοῦ καί τήν ἀξία τοῦ χρυσοῦ. Μέ ποιό λοιπόν στοιχεῖο θά μποροῦσε νά τήν συγκρίνει κανείς; Μέ κανένα ἀπό αὐτά πού ὑπάρχουν. Ἄν ὅμως ὁ Χριστός μποροῦσε νά γίνει διαμάντι καί τό διαμάντι χρυσός, τότε κάπως θά μπορέσει νά τή συγκρίνει μέ τήν εἰκόνα τους.

4.-. Ἀλλά γιατί νά τήν συγκρίνω μέ διαμάντι καί χρυσό; Σύγκρινε ὅλο τόν κόσμο, καί τότε θά δεῖς ὅτι ἡ ψυχή τοῦ Παύλου ἔχει περισσότερη ἀξία. Γιατί ἀφοῦ γι᾿ αὐτούς πού διακρίθηκαν φορώντας γιά ροῦχα δέρματα ζώων καί ζώντας σέ σπήλαια καί σέ τρύπες τῆς γῆς λέγει ὁ Παῦλος τοῦτο (Βλ. Ἑβρ. 11, 38), πολύ περισσότερο θά μπορούσαμε ἐμεῖς νά τό ποῦμε γι᾿ αὐτόν, ἐπειδή πραγματικά ἦταν πιό ἄξιος ἀπ᾿ ὅλους. Ἐάν λοιπόν ὁ κόσμος δέν ἦταν ἰσάξιος τοῦ Παύλου, ποιός ἦταν ἰσάξιός του; μήπως ὁ οὐρανός; Ἀλλά καί αὐτό εἶναι μικρό. Γιατί ἀφοῦ αὐτός ἀπό τόν οὐρανό καί τά εὑρισκόμενα στούς οὐρανούς προτίμησε τήν ἀγάπη τοῦ Κυρίου, πολύ περισσότερο ὁ Κύριος πού εἶναι τόσο ἀγαθότερος ἀπ᾿ αὐτόν, ὅσο ἡ ἀγαθότητα ἀπό τήν πονηρία, θά τόν προτιμήσει αὐτόν ἀπό ἄπειρους οὐρανούς. Γιατί δέν μᾶς ἀγαπᾶ μέ ὅμοιο τρόπο, πού ἐμεῖς τόν ἀγαποῦμε, ἀλλά τόσο περισσότερο, ὅσο οὔτε μέ λόγια δέν εἶναι δυνατό νά τό παραστήσουμε.

Πρόσεχε λοιπόν γιά πόσα τόν θεώρησε ἄξιο καί πρίν ἀπό τή μέλλουσα ἀνάσταση. Στόν Παράδεισο τόν ἅρπαξε, στόν τρίτο οὐρανό τόν ἀνέβασε, τοῦ φανέρωσε τέτοια ἀπόρρητα, τά ὁποῖα δέν ἐπιτρέπεται σέ κανένα ἄνθρωπο νά πεῖ. Καί πολύ σωστά. Γιατί ἐνῶ βάδιζε στή γῆ, σάν νά περιπολοῦσε μαζί μέ τούς ἀγγέλους, ἔτσι ἔκαμε τά πάντα, καί ἐνῶ εἶχε θνητό σῶμα, παρουσίαζε τήν καθαρότητα τῶν ἀγγέλων, καί ἐνῶ ὑπέκειτο σέ τόσες ἀνάγκες, προσπαθοῦσε νά μή φανεῖ καθόλου κατώτερος ἀπό τίς οὐράνιες δυνάμεις. Γιατί πραγματικά σάν ἀσώματος περιφρονοῦσε τούς πόνους καί τούς κινδύνους, καί σάν νά κέρδισε ἤδη τόν οὐρανό, περιφρονοῦσε τά γήινα, καί σάν νά συναναστρεφόταν μαζί μ᾿ αὐτές τίς ἀσώματες δυνάμεις ἔτσι ἦταν σέ διαρκή ἐγρήγορση.

Βέβαια πολλές φορές ἄγγελοι ἀνέλαβαν νά προστατεύουν διάφορα ἔθνη. Ἀλλά κανένας ἀπό αὐτούς τό ἔθνος, πού τοῦ παραδόθηκε, δέν τό φρόντισε ἔτσι, ὅπως ὁ Παῦλος ὁλόκληρη τήν οἰκουμένη. Καί μή μοῦ πεῖς ὅτι ὁ Παῦλος δέν ἦταν αὐτός πού τά ἔκαμνε, καθόσον καί ἐγώ τό ὁμολογῶ. Γιατί καί ἄν δέν ἦταν αὐτός πού τά ἐκτελοῦσε αὐτά, ἀλλά οὔτε ἦταν τόσο ἀνάξιος τῶν ἐπαίνων γι᾿ αὐτά, ἀφοῦ ἑτοίμασε τόν ἑαυτό του τόσο ἄξιο αὐτῆς τῆς μεγάλης χάρης. Ὁ Μιχαήλ ἀνάλαβε τό ἔθνος τῶν Ἰουδαίων (Βλ. Δαν. 12, 1 καί 10, 13.21), ὁ Παῦλος ὅμως τή γῆ καί τή θάλασσα καί τό κατοικούμενο μέρος καί τό ἀκατοίκητο. Καί αὐτά δέν τά λέγω μέ σκοπό νά προσβάλλω τούς ἀγγέλους, μακριά ἀπό μιά τέτοια σκέψη, ἀλλά γιά νά ἀποδείξω ὅτι εἶναι δυνατό, ἐνῶ εἶναι κανείς ἄνθρωπος, νά εἶναι μαζί μ᾿ ἐκείνους καί νά στέκεται κοντά τους. Καί γιά ποιό λόγο δέν ἀνέλαβαν αὐτά οἱ ἄγγελοι; Γιά νά μήν ἔχεις καμία δικαιολογία ὅταν εἶσαι ἀδιάφορος, οὔτε νά καταφεύγεις στή διαφορά τῆς φύσης ὅταν παραμένεις ἄπρακτος. Ἄλλωστε καί τό θαῦμα γινόταν μεγαλύτερο. Πῶς λοιπόν δέν εἶναι θαυμαστό καί παράξενο, ὁ λόγος πού ἔβγαινε ἀπό ἀνθρώπινη γλώσσα νά διώχνει τό θάνατο, νά συγχωρεῖ ἁμαρτίες, νά διορθώνει τήν ἀνάπηρη φύση καί νά κάνει οὐρανό τή γῆ;

5.-. Γι᾿ αὐτό ἐκπλήσσομαι μέ τή δύναμη τοῦ Θεοῦ, γι᾿ αὐτά θαυμάζω τήν προθυμία τοῦ Παύλου, ἐπειδή δέχτηκε τόση χάρη, ἐπειδή ἔκαμε τέτοιον τόν ἑαυτό του. Καί σᾶς παρακαλῶ νά μή θαυμάζετε μόνο, ἀλλά καί νά μιμεῖσθε τό παράδειγμα αὐτό τῆς ἀρετῆς, γιατί ἔτσι θά μπορέσουμε νά λάβουμε τά ἴδια μ᾿ ἐκεῖνον στεφάνια. Ἐάν ὅμως ἀπορεῖς ἀκούοντας ὅτι, ἄν κατορθώσεις τά ἴδια, θά πετύχεις τά ἴδια μέ τόν Παῦλο, ἄκουσε αὐτόν νά λέγει τά ἑξῆς· «Ἔχω ἀγωνισθεῖ τόν καλό ἀγώνα, ἔχω φθάσει στό τέλος τοῦ δρόμου, ἔχω διαφυλάξει τήν πίστη. Λοιπόν μοῦ ἐπιφυλάσσεται τό στεφάνι τῆς δικαιοσύνης, πού θά μοῦ δώσει σάν ἀνταμοιβή ὁ Κύριος, ὁ δίκαιος κριτής, κατά τήν ἡμέρα ἐκείνη· καί ὄχι μόνο σ᾿ ἐμένα, ἀλλά καί σ᾿ ὅλους πού ἔχουν ἀγαπήσει τήν ἐμφάνισή του» (Β´ Τιμ. 4, 7-8).

Βλέπεις πῶς ὅλους τούς καλεῖ στήν ἴδια κοινωνία; Ἐπειδή λοιπόν ὑπάρχουν τά ἴδια γιά ὅλους, ἄς φροντίσουμε ὅλοι νά γίνουμε ἄξιοι τῶν ἀγαθῶν τά ὁποῖα μᾶς ἔχει ὑποσχεθεῖ. Καί ἄς μή δοῦμε μόνο τό μέγεθος καί τήν ἔκταση τῶν κατορθωμάτων, ἀλλά καί τό πάθος τῆς προθυμίας, μέ τήν ὁποία ἀπέσπασε τόση χάρη, καί τή συγγένεια τῆς φύσης, γιατί εἶχε ὅλα αὐτά τά κοινά μ᾿ ἐμᾶς. Καί ἔτσι καί τά ὑπερβολικά δύσκολα θά μᾶς φανοῦν εὔκολα καί ἐλαφρά, καί ἀφοῦ κοπιάσουμε στό σύντομο αὐτό χρόνο, θά φορέσουμε τό ἄφθαρτο καί ἀθάνατο ἐκεῖνο στεφάνι, μέ τή χάρη καί τή φιλανθρωπία τoῦ Kυρίου μας Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, στόν ὁποῖο ἀνήκει ἡ δόξα καί ἡ δύναμη τώρα καί πάντοτε, καί στούς αἰῶνες τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.

Πρωτότυπο κείμενο

Ἐγκώμιον εἰς τὸν ἅγιον ἀπόστολον Παῦλον λόγος β

2.1 Τί ποτέ ἐστιν ἄνθρωπος͵ καὶ ὅση τῆς φύσεως τῆς ἡμετέρας ἡ εὐγένεια͵ καὶ ὅσης ἐστὶ δεκτικὸν ἀρετῆς τουτὶ τὸ ζῶον͵ ἔδειξε μάλιστα πάντων ἀνθρώπων Παῦλος· καὶ νῦν ἕστηκεν͵ ἐξ οὗ γέγονε͵ λαμπρᾷ τῇ φωνῇ πρὸς ἅπαντας τοὺς ἐγκαλοῦντας ἡμῶν τῇ κατασκευῇ ἀπολογούμενος ὑπὲρ τοῦ Δεσπότου͵ καὶ προτρέπων ἐπ΄ ἀρετῇ͵ καὶ τὰ ἀναίσχυντα τῶν βλασφήμων ἐμφράττων στόματα͵ καὶ δεικνὺς ὅτι ἀγγέλων καὶ ἀνθρώπων οὐ πολὺ τὸ μέσον͵ ἐὰν ἐθέλωμεν προσέχειν ἑαυτοῖς. Οὐ γὰρ ἄλλην φύσιν λαχών͵ οὐδὲ ἑτέρας κοινωνήσας ψυχῆς͵ οὐδὲ ἄλλον οἰκήσας κόσμον͵ ἀλλ΄ ἐν τῇ αὐτῇ γῇ καὶ χώρᾳ καὶ νόμοις καὶ ἔθεσι τραφείς͵ πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὑπερηκόντισε τοὺς ἐξ οὗ γεγόνασιν ἄνθρωποι γενομένους. Ποῦ τοίνυν οἱ λέγοντες ὅτι δύσκολον ἡ ἀρετή͵ καὶ εὔκολον ἡ κακία; Οὗτος γὰρ ἀντιφθέγγεται τούτοις͵ λέγων· Τὸ παραυτίκα ἐλαφρὸν τῆς θλίψεως καθ΄ ὑπερβολὴν εἰς ὑπερβολὴν αἰώνιον βάρος δόξης κατεργάζεται. Εἰ δὲ αἱ τοιαῦται θλίψεις ἐλαφραί͵ πολλῷ μᾶλλον αἱ οἴκοθεν ἡδοναί.

2.2 Καὶ οὐ τοῦτο μόνον ἐστὶν αὐτοῦ τὸ θαυμαστόν͵ ὅτι περιουσίᾳ τῆς προθυμίας οὐδὲ ᾐσθάνετο τῶν πόνων τῶν ὑπὲρ τῆς ἀρετῆς͵ ἀλλ΄ ὅτι οὐδὲ ἐπὶ μισθῷ ταύτην μετῄει. Ἡμεῖς μὲν γὰρ οὐδὲ μισθῶν προκειμένων ἀνεχόμεθα τῶν ὑπὲρ αὐτῆς ἱδρώτων· ἐκεῖνος δὲ καὶ χωρὶς τῶν ἐπάθλων αὐτὴν ἠσπάζετο καὶ ἐφίλει͵ καὶ τὰ δοκοῦντα αὐτῆς εἶναι κωλύματα μετὰ πάσης ὑπερήλατο τῆς εὐκολίας· καὶ οὔτε σώματος ἀσθένειαν͵ οὐ πραγμάτων περίστασιν͵ οὐ φύσεως τυραννίδα͵ οὐκ ἄλλο οὐδὲν ᾐτιάσατο. Καίτοι καὶ στρα τηγῶν καὶ βασιλέων ἁπάντων τῶν ὄντων ἐπὶ γῆς μείζονα φροντίδα ἐγχειρισθείς͵ ἀλλ΄ ὅμως καθ΄ ἑκάστην ἤκμαζε τὴν ἡμέραν. Καὶ τῶν κινδύνων ἐπιτεινομένων αὐτῷ͵ νεαρὰν ἐκέκτητο τὴν προθυμίαν͵ καὶ τοῦτο δηλῶν ἔλεγε· Τῶν μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος͵ τοῖς δὲ ἔμπροσθεν ἐπεκτεινό μενος· καὶ θανάτου προσδοκωμένου͵ εἰς κοινωνίαν τῆς ἡδονῆς ταύτης ἐκάλει λέγων· Χαίρετε καὶ συγχαίρετέ μοι· καὶ κινδύνων ἐπικειμένων καὶ ὕβρεων͵ καὶ ἀτιμίας ἁπάσης͵ ἐσκίρτα πάλιν͵ καὶ Κορινθίοις ἐπιστέλλων ἔλεγε· Διὸ καὶ εὐδοκῶ ἐν ἀσθενείαις͵ ἐν ὕβρεσιν͵ ἐν διωγμοῖς·

2.3 Καὶ ὅπλα δὲ αὐτὰ δικαιοσύνης ἐκάλεσε͵ δεικνὺς ὅτι καὶ ἐντεῦθεν τὰ μέγιστα ἐκαρποῦτο͵ καὶ τοῖς ἐχθροῖς πάντοθεν ἀχείρωτος ἦν· καὶ πανταχοῦ μαστιζόμενος͵ ὑβρι ζόμενος͵ λοιδορούμενος͵ ὥσπερ ἐν θριάμβοις ἐμπομπεύων͵ καὶ τὰ τρόπαια συνεχῆ πανταχοῦ γῆς ἱστάς͵ οὕτως ἐκαλ λωπίζετο͵ καὶ χάριν ὡμολόγει τῷ Θεῷ λέγων· Χάρις δὲ τῷ Θεῷ τῷ πάντοτε θριαμβεύοντι ἡμᾶς. Καὶ τὴν ἀσχη μοσύνην καὶ τὴν ὕβριν τὴν διὰ τὸ κήρυγμα μᾶλλον͵ ἢ ἡμεῖς τὴν τιμὴν ἐδίωκε͵ καὶ τὸν θάνατον͵ ἢ ἡμεῖς τὴν ζωήν͵ καὶ τὴν πενίαν͵ ἢ τὸν πλοῦτον ἡμεῖς͵ καὶ τοὺς πόνους μᾶλλον͵ ἢ τὰς ἀνέσεις ἕτεροι͵ καὶ οὐχ ἁπλῶς μᾶλλον͵ ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον͵ καὶ τὸ λυπεῖσθαι πλέον͵ ἢ μᾶλλον͵ ἀλλὰ πολλῷ μᾶλλον͵ καὶ τὸ λυπεῖσθαι πλέον͵ ἢ τὸ χαίρειν ἕτεροι͵ τὸ ὑπερεύχεσθαι τῶν ἐχθρῶν μᾶλλον͵ ἢ τὸ κατεύχεσθαι ἕτεροι. Καὶ ἀντέστρεψε τῶν πραγμάτων τὴν τάξιν͵ μᾶλλον δὲ ἡμεῖς ἀντεστρέψαμεν͵ ἐκεῖνος δέ͵ ὥσπερ ὁ Θεὸς ἐνομοθέτησεν͵ οὕτως αὐτὴν ἐφύλαττε. Ταῦτα μὲν γὰρ κατὰ φύσιν ἅπαντα͵ ἐκεῖνα δὲ τοὐναντίον. Τίς τούτων ἀπόδειξις; Παῦλος͵ ἄνθρωπος ὤν͵ καὶ τούτοις ἐπιτρέχων μᾶλλον ἢ ἐκείνοις.

2.4 Ἓν τούτῳ φοβερὸν ἦν μόνον καὶ φευκτόν͵ τὸ προσ κροῦσαι Θεῷ͵ ἕτερον δὲ οὐδέν· ὥσπερ οὖν οὐδὲ ποθεινὸν ἄλλο τι͵ ὡς τὸ ἀρέσαι Θεῷ· καὶ οὐ λέγω τῶν παρόντων οὐδέν͵ ἀλλ΄ οὐδὲ τῶν μελλόντων. Μὴ γάρ μοι πόλεις εἴπῃς καὶ ἔθνη καὶ βασιλεῖς καὶ στρατόπεδα καὶ ὅπλα καὶ χρήματα καὶ σατραπείας καὶ δυναστείας· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀράχνην ταῦτα εἶναι ἐνόμισεν· ἀλλ΄ αὐτὰ τὰ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς τίθει͵ καὶ τότε αὐτοῦ ὄψει τὸν σφοδρὸν ἔρωτα τὸν πρὸς τὸν Χριστόν. Οὗτος γὰρ πρὸς ἐκεῖνο τὸ φίλτρον͵ οὐκ ἀγγέλων ἀξίαν ἐθαύμασεν͵ οὐκ ἀρχαγγέλων͵ οὐκ ἄλλο τοιοῦτον οὐδέν. Τὸ γὰρ ἁπάντων μεῖζον εἶχεν ἐν ἑαυτῷ͵ τὸν τοῦ Χριστοῦ ἔρωτα· μετὰ τούτου πάντων ἑαυτὸν μακαριώτερον εἶναι ἐνόμισε. Καὶ τούτου χωρίς͵ οὐδὲ τῶν κυριοτήτων καὶ τῶν ἀρχῶν καὶ τῶν ἐξουσιῶν γενέσθαι ηὔχετο͵ ἀλλὰ μετὰ τῆς ἀγάπης ταύτης ἐν ἐσχάτοις εἶναι ἐβούλετο μᾶλλον καὶ τῶν κολαζομένων͵ ἢ ταύτης χωρίς͵ τῶν ἄκρων καὶ τῶν τιμωμένων.

2.5 Κόλασις γὰρ ἐκείνῳ μία͵ τὸ τῆς ἀγάπης ταύτης ἀπο τυχεῖν. Τοῦτο αὐτῷ γέεννα͵ τοῦτο τιμωρία͵ τοῦτο μυρία κακά͵ ὥσπερ καὶ ἀπόλαυσις͵ τὸ ταύτης ἐπιτυχεῖν· τοῦτο ζωή͵ τοῦτο κόσμος͵ τοῦτο ἄγγελος͵ τοῦτο παρόντα͵ τοῦτο μέλλοντα͵ τοῦτο βασιλεία͵ τοῦτο ἐπαγγελία͵ τοῦτο τὰ μυρία ἀγαθά. Ἕτερον δὲ οὐδὲν τῶν μὴ φερόντων ἐνταῦθα͵ οὔτε λυπηρόν͵ οὔτε ἡδὺ εἶναι ἐνόμιζεν· ἀλλ΄ οὕτω κατεφρόνει τῶν ὁρωμένων πάντων͵ ὡς τῆς κατασηπο μένης βοτάνης. Τύραννοι δὲ αὐτῷ͵ καὶ δῆμοι θυμοῦ πνέοντες͵ κώνωπες εἶναι ἐδόκουν· θάνατος δὲ αὐτῷ καὶ πνέοντες͵ κώνωπες εἶναι ἐδόκουν· θάνατος δὲ αὐτῷ καὶ τιμωρίαι καὶ μυρίαι κολάσεις͵ παίδων ἀθύρματα· πλὴν εἴ ποτε διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν ὑπέμενε. Τότε γὰρ καὶ ταῦτα ἠσπά ζετο͵ καὶ εἰς τὴν ἅλυσιν οὕτως ἐκαλλωπίζετο͵ ὡς οὐδὲ τὸ διάδημα Νέρων ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς ἔχων· καὶ τὸ δεσμω τήριον δὲ ᾤκει͵ ὡς αὐτὸν τὸν οὐρανόν͵ καὶ τραύματα καὶ μάστιγας ἐδέχετο ἥδιον τούτων τῶν τὰ βραβεῖα ἁρπαζόν των· καὶ τοὺς πόνους ἐφίλει τῶν ἐπάθλων οὐχ ἧττον͵ ἔπαθλον τοὺς πόνους εἶναι νομίζων· διὰ τοῦτο καὶ χάριν αὐτοὺς ἐκάλει.

2.6 Σκόπει δέ. Ἔπαθλον ἦν͵ τὸ ἀναλῦσαι καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι͵ τὸ δὲ ἐπιμεῖναι τῇ σαρκί͵ ὁ ἀγὼν οὗτος· ἀλλ΄ ὅμως τοῦτο μᾶλλον αἱρεῖται ἐκείνου͵ καὶ ἀναγκαιό τερον αὐτῷ εἶναί φησι· τὸ ἀνάθεμα ἀπὸ Χριστοῦ γενέσθαι͵ ἀγὼν ἦν καὶ πόνος͵ μᾶλλον δὲ καὶ ὑπὲρ ἀγῶνα καὶ πόνον· τὸ εἶναι μετ΄ αὐτοῦ͵ ἔπαθλον. Ἀλλὰ τοῦτο μᾶλλον αἱρεῖται ἐκείνου διὰ τὸν Χριστόν. Ἀλλ΄ ἴσως εἴποι τις ἂν ὅτι πάντα ταῦτα διὰ τὸν Χριστὸν ἡδέα αὐτῷ ἦν. Τοῦτο γὰρ καὶ ἐγώ φημι͵ ὅτι ἅπερ ἀθυμίας ἡμῖν αἴτια͵ ταῦτα ἐκείνῳ μεγάλην ἔτικτεν ἡδονήν. Καὶ τί λέγω κινδύνους καὶ τὰς ἄλλας ταλαιπωρίας; Καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἀθυμίᾳ διηνεκεῖ ἦν· διὸ καὶ ἔλεγε· Τίς ἀσθενεῖ͵ καὶ οὐκ ἀσθενῶ; τίς σκανδαλίζεται͵ καὶ οὐκ ἐγὼ πυροῦμαι; Πλὴν εἰ καὶ τὴν ἀθυμίαν ἡδονὴν ἔχειν εἴποι τις ἄν. Πολλοὶ γὰρ καὶ τῶν τέκνα ἀποβαλόντων͵ συγχωρούμενοι μὲν θρηνεῖν͵ παραμυθίαν λαμβάνουσι· κωλυόμενοι δέ͵ ἀλγοῦσι· καθάπερ οὖν καὶ ὁ Παῦλος͵ νυκτὸς καὶ ἡμέρας δακρύων͵ παραμυθίαν ἐλάμβανεν· οὐδεὶς γὰρ οὕτω τὰ οἰκεῖα ἐπέν θησε κακά͵ ὡς τὰ ἀλλότρια ἐκεῖνος. Πῶς γὰρ οἴει δια κεῖσθαι αὐτὸν Ἰουδαίων οὐ σωζομένων͵ ἵνα σωθῶσιν͵ εὐχόμενον ἐκπεσεῖν τῆς ἄνωθεν δόξης; Ὅθεν δῆλον ὅτι τὸ μὴ σώζεσθαι αὐτοὺς πολλῷ χαλεπώτερον ἦν. Εἰ γὰρ μὴ χαλεπώτερον͵ οὐκ ἂν ηὔξατο ἐκεῖνο· ὡς γὰρ κουφό τερον εἵλετο͵ καὶ μᾶλλον ἔχον παραμυθίαν· καὶ οὐχ ἁπλῶς ἐβούλετο͵ ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐβόα λέγων· Ὅτι λύπη μοί ἐστι͵ καὶ ὀδύνη τῇ καρδίᾳ μου.

2.7 Τὸν οὖν καθ΄ ἑκάστην͵ ὡς εἰπεῖν͵ ὑπὲρ τῶν τὴν οἰκουμένην οἰκούντων ἀλγοῦντα͵ καὶ ὑπὲρ ἁπάντων κοινῇ͵ καὶ ἐθνῶν͵ καὶ πόλεων͵ καὶ ὑπὲρ ἑνὸς ἑκάστου͵ τίνι ἄν τις δυνηθείη παραβαλεῖν; ποίῳ σιδήρῳ; ποίῳ ἀδάμαντι; Τί ἄν τις ἐκείνην καλέσειε τὴν ψυχήν; χρυσῆν͵ ἢ ἀδα μαντίνην; καὶ γὰρ ἀδάμαντος ἦν παντὸς στερροτέρα͵ καὶ χρυσοῦ καὶ λίθων τιμίων τιμιωτέρα· κἀκείνης μὲν οὖν τῆς ὕλης τὴν εὐτονίαν παρελάσει͵ ταύτης δὲ τὴν πολυτέλειαν. Τίνι ἂν οὖν τις αὐτὴν παραβάλοι; Τῶν μὲν οὐσῶν οὐδε μιᾷ. Εἰ δὲ χρυσὸς ἀδάμας γένοιτο͵ καὶ ἀδάμας χρυσός͵ τότε ὁπωσοῦν αὐτῶν τεύξεται τῆς εἰκόνος. Ἀλλὰ τί μοι δεῖ παραβάλλειν ἀδάμαντι καὶ χρυσῷ; Τὸν κόσμον ἀντίθες ἅπαντα͵ καὶ τότε ὄψει καθέλκουσαν τοῦ Παύλου τὴν ψυχήν. Εἰ γὰρ περὶ τῶν ἐν μηλωταῖς καὶ σπηλαίοις καὶ ἐν μικρῷ μέρει τῆς οἰκουμένης διαπρεψάντων τοῦτό φησιν ἐκεῖνος͵ πολλῷ μᾶλλον περὶ αὐτοῦ ἂν εἴποιμεν ἡμεῖς͵ ὡς ὅτι πάντων ἀντάξιος ἦν. Εἰ τοίνυν ὁ κόσμος αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἄξιος͵ τίς ἄξιος; τάχα ὁ οὐρανός; Ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῦτο σμικρόν. Εἰ γὰρ αὐτὸς οὐρανοῦ μετὰ τῶν ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς προετίμησε τοῦ Δεσπότου τὴν ἀγάπην͵ πολλῷ μᾶλλον ὁ Δεσπότης ὁ τοσοῦτον αὐτοῦ ἀγαθώτερος͵ ὅσον πονηρίας ἀγαθότης͵ μυρίων αὐτὸν οὐρανῶν προτιμήσει. Οὐ γὰρ ὁμοίως ἡμᾶς φιλεῖ͵ καθάπερ ἡμεῖς αὐτόν͵ ἀλλὰ τοσούτῳ πλέον͵ ὅσον οὐδὲ λόγῳ παραστῆσαι ἔνι.

2.8 Σκόπει γοῦν ἡλίκων αὐτὸν καὶ πρὸ τῆς μελλούσης ἠξίωσεν ἀναστάσεως. Εἰς παράδεισον ἥρπασεν͵ εἰς τρίτον ἀνήγαγεν οὐρανόν͵ ἀπορρήτων ἐποίησε κοινωνὸν τοιούτων͵ ἃ μηδενὶ τῶν τὴν ἀνθρωπίνην λαχόντων φύσιν θέμις εἰπεῖν. Καὶ μάλα εἰκότως· καὶ γὰρ ἐν γῇ βαδίζων͵ ὡς μετὰ ἀγγέλων περιπολῶν͵ οὕτως ἔπραττεν ἅπαντα· καὶ σώματι θνητῷ συνδεδεμένος͵ τὴν ἐκείνων καθαρότητα ἐπε δείκνυτο͵ καὶ ἀνάγκαις τοσαύταις ὑποκείμενος͵ ἐφιλονείκει τῶν ἄνω δυνάμεων μηδὲν ἔλαττον φανῆναι. Καὶ γὰρ ὡς πτηνὸς τὴν οἰκουμένην διέδραμε͵ καὶ ὡς ἀσώματος πόνων ὑπερεώρα καὶ κινδύνων͵ καὶ ὡς τὸν οὐρανὸν ἤδη λαχὼν͵ κατεφρόνει τῶν ἐπὶ γῆς͵ καὶ ὡς μετ΄ αὐτῶν ἀναστρεφό μενος τῶν ἀσωμάτων δυνάμεων͵ οὕτω διηνεκῶς ἐγρη γορὼς ἦν. Καίτοι γε ἄγγελοι πολλάκις ἐνεχειρίσθησαν ἔθνη διάφορα· ἀλλ΄ οὐδὲ εἷς αὐτῶν τὸ ἔθνος͵ ὃ ἐνεπιστεύ θη͵ οὕτως ᾠκονόμησεν͵ ὡς Παῦλος τὴν οἰκουμένην ἅπασαν. Καὶ μή μοι λέγε ὅτι Παῦλος οὐκ ἦν ὁ ταῦτα οἰκονομῶν· καὶ γὰρ καὶ αὐτὸς ὁμολογῶ. Εἰ γὰρ καὶ μὴ αὐτὸς ἦν ὁ ταῦτα ἀνύων͵ ἀλλ΄ οὐδὲ οὕτως ἐκτὸς ἦν τῶν ἐπὶ τούτοις ἐπαίνων͵ ἐπειδὴ ἑαυτὸν οὕτω κατεσκεύασεν ἄξιον τῆς τοσαύτης χάριτος. Ὁ Μιχαὴλ τὸ τῶν Ἰουδαίων ἔθνος ἐνεχειρίσθη. Παῦλος δὲ γῆν καὶ θάλατταν͵ καὶ τὴν οἰκουμένην͵ καὶ τὴν ἀοίκητον.

2.9 Καὶ ταῦτα οὐκ ἀγγέλους ὑβρίζων λέγω͵ μὴ γένοιτο͵ ἀλλὰ δεικνὺς ὅτι δυνατὸν ἄνθρωπον ὄντα μετ΄ ἐκείνων εἶναι͵ καὶ ἐγγὺς αὐτῶν ἑστάναι. Καὶ τίνος ἕνεκεν οὐκ ἄγγελοι ταῦτα ἐνεχειρίσθησαν; Ἵνα μηδεμίαν ἀπολογίαν ἔχῃς ῥᾳθυμῶν͵ μηδὲ εἰς τὴν διαφορὰν τῆς φύσεως κατα φεύγῃς καθεύδων· ἄλλως δὲ καὶ τὸ θαῦμα μεῖζον ἐγίνετο. Πῶς γὰρ οὐ θαυμαστὸν καὶ παράδοξον͵ ἀπὸ γλώττης πηλίνης ἐκπηδῶντα λόγον͵ θάνατον φυγαδεύειν͵ ἁμαρτή ματα λύειν͵ πεπηρωμένην διορθοῦν φύσιν͵ καὶ τὴν γῆν ἐργάζεσθαι οὐρανόν; Διὰ τοῦτο ἐκπλήττομαι τοῦ Θεοῦ τὴν δύναμιν͵ διὰ ταῦτα θαυμάζω τοῦ Παύλου τὴν προθυ μίαν͵ ὅτι τοσαύτην ὑπεδέξατο χάριν͵ ὅτι τοιοῦτον παρε σκεύασεν ἑαυτόν.

2.10 Καὶ ὑμᾶς παρακαλῶ μὴ θαυμάζειν μόνον͵ ἀλλὰ καὶ μιμεῖσθαι τὸ ἀρχέτυπον τοῦτο τῆς ἀρετῆς· οὕτω γὰρ δυνησόμεθα τῶν αὐτῶν στεφάνων κοινωνῆσαι ἐκείνῳ. Εἰ δὲ θαυμάζεις ἀκούων ὅτι͵ τὰ αὐτὰ κατορθώσας͵ τῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιτεύξῃ͵ ἄκουσον αὐτοῦ ταῦτα λέγοντος· Τὸν ἀγῶνα τὸν καλὸν ἠγώνισμαι͵ τὸν δρόμον τετέλεκα͵ τὴν πίστιν τετήρηκα· λοιπὸν ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος͵ ὃν ἀποδώσει μοι Κύριος ὁ δίκαιος κριτὴς ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ· οὐ μόνον δὲ ἐμοί͵ ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ἠγαπηκόσι τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ. Ὁρᾷς πῶς πάντας εἰς τὴν αὐτὴν κοινωνίαν καλεῖ; Ἐπεὶ οὖν ἅπασι πρόκειται τὰ αὐτά͵ πάντες σπουδά σωμεν ἄξιοι γενέσθαι τῶν ἐπηγγελμένων ἀγαθῶν· καὶ μὴ μόνον τὸ μέγεθος καὶ τὸν ὄγκον τῶν κατορθωμάτων ἴδωμεν͵ ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸν τόνον τῆς προθυμίας͵ δι΄ ἧς τοσαύτην ἐπεσπάσατο χάριν͵ καὶ τὸ τῆς φύσεως συγγενές· τῶν γὰρ αὐτῶν ἡμῖν ἐκοινώνησεν ἁπάντων. Καὶ οὕτω καὶ τὰ σφόδρα δυσκατόρθωτα͵ ῥᾴδια ἡμῖν φανεῖται καὶ κοῦφα͵ καὶ τὸν βραχὺν τοῦτον καμόντες χρόνον͵ τὸν ἀγήρω καὶ ἀθάνατον ἐκεῖνον στέφανον φοροῦντες διατελέσομεν͵ χάριτι καὶ φιλανθρωπίᾳ τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ͵ ᾧ ἡ δόξα καὶ τὸ κράτος νῦν καὶ ἀεὶ καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. Ἀμήν.

Friday, 28 June 2013

What's The Difference Between an Icon and a Portrait?

 Saint Nectarios of Aegina (1846–1920)

A saint’s icon can illustrate the story of his life in detail. Our reporter Ekaterina STEPANOVA asked the icon painter and teacher of St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University, Svetlana VASYUTINA, how we can tell by a saint’s sacred image what his occupation was and what he is famous for.  

Notwithstanding Our Infirmities

The first question that an icon painter is often asked is how one can draw a saint one has never seen. When I graduated from the Surikov Institute of Art (Moscow), I was also tortured by this question. In hagiography, we find descriptions of many saints, for instance, a straight nose, a moustache, a black or a long beard… But there can be so many variants of a ‘long beard,’ how shall I understand what he really looked like? The answer is simple: it is the saint himself who helps the icon painter to determine the details. It is the only way. One is to read the hagiography, to pray to this saint, and then the sacred image will turn out correctly. If an icon painter paints an icon as a picture, trying to reflect a part of himself, his own feelings, his vision of the saint, he will fail. I remember when I was making a mosaic of Our Lady, it was not at once that the sacred image was shaped out. They told me to leave it as it was. But I could not stop until I suddenly felt that the image now was exactly what Our Lady wanted it to be. I won’t hesitate to say that it is the Holy Spirit who moves the icon painter. It is the Holy Spirit who draws the lines, chooses the colors.

There arises a second appropriate question. An icon painter is as sinful a man as any other, how can he draw with the Holy Spirit? This hard question is most of all acute for icon painters themselves. The only ‘way out of this situation’ is to fully realize one’s own passions, one’s numerous sins and one’s unworthiness, and pray to God asking for His help. I pray thus, ‘O Lord, you know I am unworthy. You know I can do nothing by myself. But I love people, I love You, O Lord! You do want people to pray to You, don’t You? Let me be your paintbrush. What do people care whether the paintbrush is plastic or wooden, if it is crooked or broken?  But through me people will be able to see Your sacred image.’
Maybe I shouldn’t have disclosed the secrets of the icon painter’s inner life, but without this it is impossible to understand how sacred images appear. They come out in the very shape the saints want them to have. It happens not because of the icon painter’s virtues, but notwithstanding his infirmities.
Three Pokers in Hand  

An icon painter must see to it that a person, seeing the icon, should understand what the saint is famous for, what his life was like. It is a hard task. The colors, the background, the clothes – all matter.

The icon painter’s task is to concentrate all the information about the saint (and this can be years or scores of years of ascetic life) in one little image that would reflect, as a symbol, all his lifetime. Often, the saints in icons would hold in their hands something they are celebrated for. For example, St. Sergius of Radonezh founded a monastery, therefore, he is drawn with the monastery on his palm. St. Great Martyr Panteleimon was a healer, and he holds a box with medicines in the icon. St. Andrei Rublyov is often portrayed with the Trinity Icon in his hands. Prelates and Evangelists are depicted with the Gospel in their hands. Holy Fathers often hold a rosary, like St. Seraphim of Sarov, or rolls with holy maxims or prayers, like St. Siluan Athonitul. Martyrs would hold a cross.

St. Prokopy of Ustug is portrayed holding three pokers in his hands. I was surprised to see this. I started reading his biography and found that St. Prokopy was ‘foolish in Christ,’ he would run about the town, rattling a poker in the air, or maybe even hitting people’s heads with it, and denounce people’s sins. Why three pokers? Icon painters told me that they draw three pokers to exaggerate the situation – it appears there is such a tradition! When I was working at the fresco with this saint in Optina Pustyn’ monastery, I painted every poker with different colors: the first one was green, the second one was red, and the third one was blue!

It is known that St. Martyr Christophor who lived in Egypt in the III century was very handsome. To flee temptations, he begged God to change his appearance, to make him repulsive. God granted his request. In icons, he is portrayed as having a dog’s head. I do not think he really had a dog’s head, though God can do anything, it is just to show that his appearance became ugly. They exaggerate this motive in icons in order to emphasize the saint’s deed and to focus the attention of the person praying before the icon.

The color in icons plays an equally important role as the things mentioned above. Red belongs to martyrs. Blue stands for wisdom. White symbolizes paradise and chastity. Green is the color of the Venerable Fathers. Golden symbolizes sanctity. A while ago, I was tortured by the question why it is golden. Once I was standing at a church, looking at the iconostasis. Suddenly, they turned off the electric lights, and only candles before the icons were burning. The golden traces were shining, giving back the light. It was as if not the candles but the halos were radiating light. I was amazed; the light seemed not material, not as comes from a candle or a lamp. The golden color shows the person painted in the icon was granted a different kind of light. 

Colors in Icons

Red is the color of blood and sufferings, the color of Christ’s sacrifice. Martyrs’ clothes in icons are painted red. Red are the wings of archangels and seraphims who are close to God’s throne. Red is the color of Resurrection, of life’s victory over death. Sometimes they would even have red backgrounds symbolizing the triumph of eternal life.

White is the symbol of Divine light. It is the color of chastity, simplicity, paradise. In icons and frescos, saints and the righteous men usually wear white clothes. Babies’ swaddles and angels are also white.

Blue means the endlessness of the heaven, the symbol of eternal world. It also symbolizes wisdom. Blue is supposed to be the color of Our Lady who united in herself the earthly and the heavenly.

Green is the color of nature, of life, grass, leaves, bloom, and youth. Earth is painted green. The color would be present where life starts: in Nativity scenes. The golden shine of mosaics and icons is the magnificence of the Heavenly Kingdom and sanctity.

Purple or crimson is a very meaningful color in the Byzantine culture. It is the color of the King, the Sovereign, the Lord in Heaven, the emperor on earth. This color can be seen in Our Lady’s clothes as she is the Queen of Heaven.

Brown is the color of bare earth, dust, anything temporary and perishable. Mixed with the royal purple in Our Lady’s clothes, this color reminds us of human nature, subject to death.

A color which is never used in icon painting is grey. It is the mixture of black and white, evil and goodness, and this is the color of uncertainty, emptiness and non-existence.

Black is the color of evil and death. In icon painting, this color is used to paint caves, as symbols of a grave, and the hellhole. In some plots, it can be the color of secrecy. Black clothes of monks who departed from the usual life symbolize the rejection of worldly pleasures and habits – death in one’s lifetime, in a sense.

Skies and Earth in Icons
In icons, two worlds co-exist: the celestial and the earthly one. The celestial means the heavenly, the supreme one. The word ‘earthly’ in Russian originates from the word ‘vale, valley’ and means something below. This is the principle of depicting images in icons. Saints’ figures stretch themselves high, their feet hardly touching the ground. In icon painting it is called ‘pozyom’ (‘manure’) and is usually painted green or brown.  

Where Does a Taxi in the Icon Come From? 

In the background of a saint’s icon they often paint the monastery, the forest, the cave where the saint lived, or the place that he specially patronizes. The synaxis of Kiev Pechersk saints is painted against the background of the Kiev Pechersk Lavra; St. Maria of Egypt  is painted against the background of a desert; St. Blessed Ksenia – against St. Petersburg and the church at Smolenskoe graveyard. There exists a well-known icon of St. John of Shanghai in which one can see a pavement and a taxi. A remarkable icon! Someone can get confused; but say, if many centuries ago they could paint a desert, why can’t we paint a taxi now? We live in a historical period of time, in San Francisco they have this kind of pavement and yellow taxicabs can be seen around the city.

Such literary details appeared in icons to make them more understandable. A while ago there were lots of illiterate people who could ‘read’ the hagiography in a condensed form in the icon. There started to appear icons with ‘brands,’ which means that around the saint’s sacred image there would be drawn pictures illustrating the brightest episodes of his or her life. The saint’s ascetic deeds, his martyrdom and death, all the story of his life would be told in ‘pictures’ in one and the same icon. In the brands to the image ‘The Synaxis of All the Saints who Shone in Russian Land,’ one can even see the Red Army men shooting new martyrs, these men having no halos, of course.

Past and Future in Icons 
Often an icon illustrates the events of several days or even the whole lifetime of a saint. The icon ‘Kirik and Ulita’ (XVII century) tells the story of mother and son in detail. Holding up their hands in prayer, the martyrs call to Heaven where on His golden throne amidst clouds sits Jesus Christ. On the left, among arcs and columns (that means within buildings) one can see scenes of their deeds, miracles and their deaths as martyrs. Thus the icon illustrates the past and the future.  

But if someone in an icon or a fresco is painted without a halo it does not necessarily mean that he is an ‘unfavorable personage.’ For instance, in Serbia and Greece there is a tradition to paint frescos of church wardens, the philanthropists, and the embellishers of the church or the monastery. The Saviour sits on His throne, Our Lady and John the Baptist next to Him, and following them in modern clothes are the church wardens, the princes, carrying their gift to God – their prayers for their whole nation. In the icon ‘The Joy of All Who Sorrow,’ there are paupers, cripples, the sick, the mourning ones surrounding Our Lady entreating Her for help and intercession; however, they are all depicted without halos. And in the icon ‘The Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem,’ they depict playing children who are overwhelmed with joy, throwing up their clothes, pushing each other, with their shoelaces undone, with their hair unkempt, the donkey trotting over someone’s foot. It is done so as to make the spectator at least emotionally respond to what he or she sees. Naturally, it is the external, but through this there can appear the internal, the more profound, the spiritual.  

Translated by Olga Lissenkova
Edited by Yana Samuel

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