Thursday, 31 October 2013

How To Set Up An Icon Corner at Home

Quantity and quality are two different things. It would be naive to assume that the more sacred images there are in an Orthodox Christian’s home, the more pious his life. A disorganized collection of icons, reproductions, and religious wall calendars covering a significant amount of living space can often have a contrary effect on one’s spiritual life.
A poorly thought-out collection of icons can turn into something simple and meaningless, in which the prayerful purpose of the icon has no place whatsoever.
Nonetheless, it is essential to have icons in one’s home in sufficient numbers, but within reasonable limits.
In the past, whether on a farm or in the city, every Orthodox family’s home would always have a shelf with icons, or an entire home iconostasis, located in the most visible place. The place where the icons were installed was known as the front corner, the beautiful corner, the holy corner, God’s place, or the kiot.
For Orthodox Christians, an icon is not just a depiction of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Mother of God, the Saints, or events from Sacred and Church History. An icon is a sacred image, i.e., it is outside the realm of ordinary reality; it is not to be confused with ordinary daily life; and it is intended only for communion with God. Thus, the primary purpose of icons is prayer. An icon is a window from our world, the earthly world, into the world above. It is God’s revelation in form and color.
In this way, an icon is not simply a family relic to be passed on from generation to generation, but a holy thing that unites all family members during communal prayer – for prayer in common can take place only if those standing before the icons have mutually forgiven one another’s offenses and achieved unity.
Today, of course, when the television set ­– which is itself a kind of a window into the motley world of human passions – has taken the place of icons in the home, the purpose of the family icon, the tradition of common prayer at home, and the consciousness of the family as the “little Church” have been lost.
Therefore, an Orthodox Christian today might ask: What icons should I have in my home? How should they be arranged? Can I use reproductions of icons? What do I do with old, dilapidated icons?
Some of these questions merit an unequivocal answer, while others do not demand any kind of strict recommendations.
Where should one place icons at home?
In a free and accessible place.
The terse nature of such an answer is prompted by the realities of life, rather than by the absence of canonical requirements.
Of course, it is preferable to place icons on the eastern wall of the room, because the “East” as a theological concept has special significance in Orthodoxy.
And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed (Genesis 2:8).
O Jerusalem, look about thee toward the east, and behold the joy that cometh unto thee from God (Baruch 4:36).
Moreover the spirit lifted me up, and brought me unto the east gate of the Lord’s house, which looketh eastward (Ezekiel 11:1).
For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matthew 24:27).
But what should one do if there are windows or doors on the eastern side of one’s home? In that case, use the southern, northern, or western walls.
One should not combine icons with decorative objects of a secular nature, such as statuettes, various types of pictures, etc.
It is inappropriate to put icons on a bookshelf next to books having nothing in common with the Orthodox faith or that conflict with Christian teaching on love and charity.
It is absolutely impermissible to have icons next to posters or calendars depicting rock musicians, athletes, or politicians – the idols of the current age. This not only diminishes reverence for the holy images to an unacceptable degree, but also puts holy icons on par with the idols of the contemporary world.
The home icon corner can be decorated with live flowers. Traditionally, larger icons are often framed with towels. This tradition dates back to antiquity and has a theological basis. According to tradition, an image of the Savior miraculously appeared on a towel during His earthly life to help a suffering man. After washing His Face, Christ wiped His Face with a clean towel, on which an image of His Face appeared. The towel was sent to King Abgar, who was afflicted with leprosy, in the city of Edessa in Asia Minor. Upon healing, the ruler and his subjects adopted Christianity and the Image-Not-Made-By-Hands of Jesus Christ was affixed to a “permanent panel” and raised above the city gates.
In times past, August 29 (new style), the day the Church commemorates the translation of the Image Not-Made-By-Hands of our Lord Jesus Christ from Edessa to Constantinople in 944, was known among the people as the feast of the “canvas” or “linen Savior,” and in some places fabric and towels made of homespun yarn were blessed.
These richly embroidered towels were reserved for use in the icon corner. Likewise, icons were framed by towels for use during weddings and the Blessing of Waters. Thus, for example, after the service for the Blessing of Waters, when the priest sprinkled the icons with abundant Holy Water, people would wipe the icons with special towels that they would incorporate into the icon corner.
There is a tradition that, following the celebration of the Lord’s Entry into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), pussy willow branches that have been blessed in church are kept near the icons until the following Palm Sunday.
It is customary that on Pentecost, the Day of the Holy Trinity, homes and icons are decorated with birch branches as a symbol of the flourishing Church, bearing the grace-filled power of the Holy Spirit.

Which icons should you have at home?

It is essential to have icons of the Savior and the Mother of God. The Image of the Lord Jesus Christ, which bears witness to the Incarnation and to the salvation of mankind, and of the Theotokos – the most perfect of those who have lived on earth, who was made worthy of deification, and who is venerated as more honorable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim – are an essential part of the Orthodox Christian home. The icon of Christ ordinarily selected for prayer at home is a waist-length depiction of Christ Pantocrator.
Those with room for a greater number of icons in the home may supplement their icon corner with depictions of various revered saints.
Russian Orthodoxy has a strong tradition of special veneration for St. Nicholas the Wonderworker; almost every Orthodox family has an icon of him. One should note that, together with the icons of the Savior and the Mother of God, the image of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker has always occupied a central place in Orthodox Christian homes. People revere St. Nicholas as a saint endowed with special grace. This stems in large part from the fact that, according to the Church’s Typikon, every Thursday, when the Church offers up prayers to the Holy Apostles, is also dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia.
Among the icons of the Holy Prophets of God, that of the Prophet Elias holds a prominent place; prominent among the icons of the Holy Apostles is that of the Sts. Peter and Paul, the chiefs among the Apostles.
Among the images of martyrs for Christian Faith, those encountered most often are icons of the Holy Great Martyr and Trophy-bearer George and the Holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon.
It is recommended to have depictions of the Holy Evangelists, of St. John the Baptist, of the Holy Archangels Gabriel and Michael, as well as icons of the Feasts, to make a home icon corner complete.
The selection of icons for one’s home is always an individual matter. The best person to help one make these choices is one’s priest – the family’s spiritual father – and it is to him, or to another clergyman, that one should turn for advice.
As for icon reproductions and color photographs, sometimes it makes more sense to have a good reproduction than a painted icon of poor quality.
An iconographer should maintain a very demanding attitude toward his work. Just as a priest does not serve the Liturgy without due preparation, the iconographer must approach his service with full awareness of his responsibility. Unfortunately, both in the past and today, one often encounters vulgar examples of images that bear no resemblance to icons. Thus, if a given depiction does not evoke a sense of piety and a sense of contact with the holy, or if it is theologically suspect and its technical execution is unprofessional, it would be best not to purchase such an item.
However, reproductions of canonical icons, mounted on a firm backing and blessed in church, can occupy a place of honor in the home iconostasis.

How and in what order should icons be arranged?

Are there strict rules in that regard?

In church, yes. As to the home prayer corner, we may limit discussion to a few principal rules.
For example, a collection of icons hung without a sense of symmetry, without a well thought-out arrangement, evokes a constant sense of dissatisfaction with the arrangement and a desire to change everything – something that often distracts from prayer.
It is likewise essential to remember the principle of hierarchy: for example, do not place an icon of a locally-venerated saint above an icon of the Holy Trinity, the Savior, the Mother of God, or the Apostles.
Just as on a classic iconostasis, the Icon of the Savior should be to the right, and the Mother of God to the left.

What should be our attitude toward holy things?

As one of the attributes of God (Isaiah 6:3), holiness is also reflected in God’s saints and in physical objects. Therefore, reverence for holy people and sacred objects and images, as well as personal striving for authentic communion with God, are manifestations of a single order.
And ye shall be holy unto me: for I the Lord am holy (Leviticus 20: 26).
Family icons have always been held in particular reverence. Following baptism, an infant was brought before and icon and the priest or master of the house would read prayers. Parents blessed their children with an icon to pursue studies, to go on extended journeys, or to engage in public service. As a sign of their approval of a wedding, parents likewise blessed newlyweds with icons. Moreover, a person’s departure from this life took place in the presence of icons.
It is improper to have arguments or to engage in rowdy or otherwise improper behavior before the images of the saints.
One should instill proper reverence for holy images in children from a very early age.

What should you do if an icon’s condition has rendered it unfit for use and it cannot be restored?

Under no circumstance should such an icon, even one that has not been blessed, simply be thrown away. A holy item, even if it has lost its original appearance, should always be treated with reverence.
If the condition of the icon has deteriorated with age, it should be taken to church to be burned in the church furnace. If that proves impossible, you should burn the icon yourself and bury the ashes in a place that will not be sullied or disturbed, e.g., in a cemetery or under a tree in the garden.
The faces that look at us from icons belong to eternity. Gazing upon them, raise up your prayers to them, asking for their intercessions. We, the inhabitants of the earthly world, should never forget our Savior’s eternal call towards repentance, perfection, and the deification of every human soul.

Source: Russian Orthodox Cathedral of St. John the Baptist

π. Ανδρέας Κονάνος-"Αγαπώ το παιδί μου"

"Αγαπώ το παιδί μου" λέει μια μάνα και το παίρνει συνέχεια τηλέφωνο. Λέει ότι το κάνει από αγάπη. "Να δω τι κάνει, πού είναι". Η πραγματικότητα δεν είναι αυτή. Το κάνει διότι δεν αντέχει να της φύγει το παιδί μέσα απ' τα χέρια και ν' ανοιχτεί στη δική του ζωή. "Και με ποιους είσαι; Και γιατί αργείς; Και ποιός μιλάει δίπλα σου, ποια είναι αυτή;" Πρόκειται για καχυποψία κι αρρωστημένη σχέση. Αυτό δεν είναι αγάπη. Αγάπη θα πει δόσιμο, θα πει "θέλω ν' ανοίξεις τα φτερά σου. θέλω το καλό σου".

Αν έχεις την αληθινή αγάπη, θες μόνο το καλό αυτού που αγαπάς. Κι αυτό, ξέρεις τι κάνει τον άνθρωπό σου; Να σ' αγαπά ακόμα πιο πολύ. Να μη ξεκολλά από πάνω σου. Γιατί δεν ξεκολλά; Γιατί εσύ τον αφήνεις να ξεκολλήσει. Όταν αφήνεις κάποιον να ξεκολλήσει από πάνω σου, δεν ξεκολλά. Όταν τον τραβάς με το ζόρι, γίνεσαι απωθητικός και απωθητική. Και πετυχαίνει το αντίθετο. Η αγάπη πάει μαζί με την ελευθερία. "Σ' αγαπώ, και σ' αφήνω ελεύθερη, και σ' αφήνω ελεύθερο να κάνεις ό,τι θέλεις". Και λες εσύ τότε: "με τόση αγάπη που μου δείχνεις, με κάνεις και σε θέλω πιο πολύ. Διότι με σέβεσαι".

Ο Θεός αυτό κάνει. Μας σέβεται κάθε στιγμή της ζωής μας. Και μας αγαπά, σαν το φως του ήλιου και σαν τη βροχή, που πέφτει παντού. Κάθε μέρα ο ήλιος ανατέλλει για όλο τον κόσμο υπενθυμίζοντας διαρκώς την αιώνια θεϊκή αγάπη. Όταν βλέπεις τον ήλιο να λάμπει, είναι σα να σου λέει ο Χριστός: "Και σήμερα πάλι σ' αγαπώ και ας ήσουν ό,τι ήσουν χθες. Και σήμερα σου δίνω ευκαιρία για νέες επιλογές. Κι όταν πέφτει η βροχή Μου, δεν ξεχωρίζει καλούς και κακούς. Όλους τους δροσίζει. Όλα τα σπίτια τα ποτίζει. Όλα τα χωράφια. Και το δικό σου...".

 Από το βιβλίο «Αγάπη για πάντα» - του π. Ανδρέα Κονάνου

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Elder Arsenie of Romania- On Getting rid of one's pride

A hideous and impure passion! All evil catches a fish in this murky water! God does not even want to hear about a proud person! He takes all grace away from him, so that he might stumble—maybe then he will become humble, as the Scripture says (cf. 1 Pet. 5:5).

He abandons him, and that person becomes a great abomination; He takes from him all sense of beauty, leaves him to roam around in chaos, in all manner of filthy back alleys of the world. He has no image, or likeness, or healthy reason. The holy fathers say truly, “Wherever there was a fall, pride first did its work.” No other passion will liken you to a devil like pride.
All passions can, let’s say, be excused due to nature and bad life circumstances; but pride cannot be justified by anything! It has an unbearable insolence—it attaches itself to any virtue if it can, and it even hides behind humility, which serves as its shield. We see this very often, and to prove what I am saying, it is as one father said: “That proud one is so humble!”

Because it is so dangerous and so broadly present in all ages and ranks, it would be good if no one would disdain any person, no matter how unimportant he may be—for Christ is within him—and would even ask his opinion, even if it is for a lark. This would be the first step, one length along the path of the Gospels.

It would be good to ask everyone’s opinion, no matter who you are; for who knows? After all, God’s grace rests more often upon the simple and unnoticed. Make a prostration, as they say, if only for the sake of humbling the body—for this also shows good manners—and you will see how much you need these people with whom God has assigned you to live. You will see, and will be convinced in life that wisdom really does abide more in places where there is humility—for God is there.

Lucifer fell irreparably; his grandiose fall happened due to one word only: “I”. Having fallen, he became an adversary for eternity, an abomination of desolation. Let no one be deceived, thinking that without true purification in the only water of humility he can enter into the Kingdom from which the angels fell!

These are, in brief, my thoughts and exhortations about this, so that one might realize that God created us beautiful only for Himself!

~Elder Arsenie of Romania


 Άγιος Γρηγόριος Νύσσης

Όταν προσευχόμαστε στο Θεό:

«Δώσε μας το ψωμί», δεν ζητάμε την απόλαυση, ούτε τον πλούτο, ούτε τα στολισμένα με άνθη φορέματα, ούτε χρυσά στολίδια, ούτε ακόμη κοπάδια από άλογα και ζώα και βόδια και πλήθη από τ’ άλλα κοπάδια, ούτε μουσικά προγράμματα, ούτε τίποτα άλλο παρόμοιο. Γιατί όλα αυτά αποσπούν την ψυχή από την ιερότερη και σπουδαιότερη φροντίδα.

Αλλά ζητάμε από το Θεό το ψωμί. Βλέπεις πόση ευρύτητα έχει η διδασκαλία; Πόσες αλήθειες περικλείονται στη σύντομη αυτή φράση; Με το λόγο αυτό φωνάζει καθαρά σε κείνους που καταλαβαίνουν: «Σταθείτε, άνθρωποι και μην απλωνόσαστε σε πράγματα μάταια με τις επιθυμίες σας. Σταματήστε και μην πολλαπλασιάζετε σε βάρος σας τις αφορμές των πόνων. Μικρό είναι το χρέος σου προς τη φύση. Στο σαρκίο σου χρωστάς την τροφή, πράγμα που είναι μετρημένο κι εύκολα το προμηθεύεσαι, αν φυσικά αποβλέπεις στην ικανοποίηση της ανάγκης.
Γιατί αυξάνεις σε βάρος σου τους φόρους; Για ποιο λόγο έφερες τον εαυτό σου και τον υποδούλωσες σε τόσα χρέη; Και ψάχνεις για ασήμι στα μεταλλεία, και βγάζεις το χρυσάφι κι αναζητάς τη διάφανη ύλη; Μόνο και μόνο για να καλοτρώει το στομάχι σου, αυτός ο εισπράκτορας που αδιάκοπα εισπράττει τους φόρους; Στο στομάχι είναι απαραίτητο το ψωμί που θ’ αναπληρώσει το αναγκαίο για το σώμα.
Εσύ όμως κάνεις εμπορικά ταξίδια στην Ινδία και θαλασσοδέρνεις στη θάλασσα των βαρβάρων και παραδίνεις τον εαυτό σου σε θαλασσινά ταξίδια που διαρκούν ολόκληρο χρόνο, για να κάμεις απολαυστική την τροφή με όσα μπορείς να μεταφέρεις από εκεί. Και δεν σκέφτεσαι πως η αίσθηση εκείνων που προκαλούν την ευχαρίστηση τελειώνει στον ουρανίσκο. Ακόμη και κείνο που έχει καλή όψη και καλή ευωδία και είναι εύγεστο προσφέρει στην αίσθηση στιγμιαία και φευγαλέα την ευχαρίστηση. Ο καλός σπόρος του νοικοκύρη είναι το σιτάρι. Κι από το σιτάρι γίνεται το ψωμί. Ενώ η απόλαυση είναι το ζιζάνιο, που έσπειρε ο εχθρός δίπλα στο σιτάρι. Όταν όμως οι άνθρωποι παραμελούν να υπηρετούν τη φύση με όσα είναι απαραίτητα, τότε πραγματικά «συμπνίγονται» με τις φροντίδες για τα μάταια και μένουν πνευματικά υποανάπτυκτοι, επειδή η ψυχή απασχολείται διαρκώς με αυτά.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

ST. JOHN CASSIAN - On The Spirit of Anger

Saint John Cassian


-- We have heard that some people try to excuse this most destructive disease of the soul by attempting to extenuate it by a rather detestable interpretation of Scripture. They say that it is not harmful if we are angry with wrongdoing brothers, because God Himself is said to be enraged and angered with those who do not want to know Him or who, knowing Him, disdain Him. For example: "The Lord was angry and enraged against His people" (Psalms 106:40). And when the prophet prays and says: "Lord, do not rebuke me in your fury, nor in your anger correct me" (Psalms 6:1). They do not understand that, in their eagerness to concede human beings the opportunity for pernicious vice, they are mixing the injustice of fleshly passion into the divine limitlessness and the source of all purity.

-- And so the monk who is on the way to perfection and who wishes to engage lawfully in the spiritual struggle must in every respect be free of the vice of anger and wrath. He should listen to what the vessel of election (Acts 9:15) commands of him: "All anger and indignation and uproar and blasphemy should be removed from you, as well as all malice" (Ephesians 4:31). When he says: "All anger should be removed from you," he makes no exception at all for us as to necessity and utility. He should strive to cure a wrongdoing brother, if need be, in such a way that, while bringing relief to one who is perhaps laboring under a rather slight fever, he does not get angry and bring upon himself the more baleful malady of blindness, so that as he sees the speck in his brother's eye he does not see the beam in his own eye (Matthew 7:3-5). For it behooves the one who wishes to heal someone else's wound to be healthy and untouched by any disease or illness, lest the gospel saying be applied to him: "Physician, heal yourself first" (Luke 4:23). And how will a person see to remove the speck from his brother's eye if he carries about a beam of wrath in his own eye?

-- For any reason whatsoever the movement of wrath may boil over and blind the eyes of the heart, obstructing the vision with the deadly beam of a more vehement illness and not allowing the sun of righteousness to be seen. It is irrelevant whether a layer of gold or one of lead or of some other metal is placed over the eyes; the preciousness of the metal does not change the fact of blindness.

-- Yet we have a function for anger placed quite appropriately within us, and for this purpose alone it is useful and beneficial for us to take it up -- when we wax indignant against the wanton movements of our own heart and are angered at things that we are ashamed to do or to say in the sight of human beings but that have found their way into the recesses of our heart, as we tremble with utter horror before the presence of the angels and of God Himself, whose eye penetrates everywhere and everything and from whom our consciences can hide no secrets at all.

-- And so we are commanded to get angry in a healthy way, at ourselves and at the evil suggestions that make an appearance, and not to sin by letting them have a harmful effect. The following verse opens itself to this same understanding in clearer fashion: "Be struck with compunction on your beds for what you say in your hearts" (Psalms 4:5). That is, whatever you think in your hearts when unexpected and deceitful suggestions rush in upon you, amend and correct with the most salutary compunction, removing all the noise and disturbance of wrath by means of moderate counsel, as if you were peacefully in bed.

When the blessed Apostle made use of the text of this verse and said: "Be angry, and do not sin," he added: "The sun should not go down on your anger, and you should not give room to the devil" (Ephesians 4:26). If it is dangerous to let the sun of righteousness go down on our anger, and if we immediately give room to the devil in our heart when we are angry, why did he previously command us to get angry, when he said: "Be angry, and do not sin"? Does he not clearly mean that you should be angry at your vices and your rage lest you grow dark on account of your wrath and Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, begin to go down in your dusky minds and, once He departs, you offer room in your hearts to the devil?

 -- But what is to be said of those persons (and this I am unable to mention without shame) on whose implacability even sundown itself place3s no limits and who draw it out for days on end? They maintain a rancorous spirit against those with whom theyare upset and, although they deny orally that they are angry, they manifest the deepest anger by their actions. They neither approach them with an appropriate word nor speak to them with ordinary civility, and in this regard they do not consider themselves in the wrong because they do not demand vengeance for their annoyance. Yet, because they do not dare to or at any rate cannot bring it out into the open, they turn the poison of their wrath back to their own destruction, brooding over it in their hearts and in glum silence digesting it within themselves. They do not at once and with strength of mind cast out their bitter sadness; instead they mull it over, and eventually as time goes on they deal with it equably.
-- How could the Lord wish to be held onto for even a moment when in fact he does not even allow the spiritual sacrifices of our prayers to be offered if we know that someone else is angry with us? As he says: "If, then, you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift" (Matthew 5:23-24). How, then, are we permitted to be annoyed with our brother even until sundown -- not to mention for several days -- when, if he has something against us, we are not allowed to offer our prayers to God? We are commanded by the Apostle: "Pray without ceasing" (I Thessalonians 5:17). And: "In every place lifting up pure hands without anger and dissension" (I Timothy 2:8). It follows, therefore, that either we keep this kind of poison in our hearts and never pray, thus disobeying the apostolic and gospel precept by which we are commanded to pray ceaselessly and everywhere, or, if we deceive ourselves and dare to make prayer contrary to his prohibition, we realize that it is not prayer that we are offering to the Lord but a stubborn and rebellious spirit.

-- But why do we tarry for so long over gospel precepts and those of the Apostle when even the old law, which seems to be somewhat less demanding, warns of the very same thing? As it says: "you shall not hate your brother in your heart" (Leviticus 19:17). And again: "you shall not be mindful of the offense of your fellow citizens" (Leviticus 19:18). And again: "The ways of those who preserve the memory of a misdeed lead to death" (Proverbs 12:28). There as well you see that wickedness is checked not only in deed but even in secret thoughts, when not only hatred and vengefulness but even the recollection of an offense are commanded to be uprooted and cast out of the heart.

-- Sometimes, when we have been overcome by pride or impatience and are unwilling to correct our unseemly and undisciplined behavior, we complain that we are in need of solitude, as if we would find the virtue of patience in a place where no one would bother us, and we excuse our negligence and the causes of our agitation by saying that they stem not from our own impatience but from our brothers' faults. But, as long as we attribute our own wrongdoing to other people, we shall never be able to get near to patience and perfection.

-- The sum total of our improvement and tranquility, then, must not be made to depend on someone else's willing, which will never be subject to our sway; it comes, rather, under our own power. And so our not getting angry must derive not from someone else's perfection but from our own virtue, which is achieved not by another person's patience but by our own forbearance.

-- It is right, on the other hand, for those who are perfect and cleansed of all vice to search out the desert and, having been purged of vice in the community of the brothers, to go into it not as a refuge for their weak-spiritedness but with a view to divine contemplation and out of a desire for that deeper insight which can be grasped in solitude only by the perfect. For if we have brought any vices into the desert that we have not attended to, they will not be abolished but will lie hidden in us. For just as solitude can disclose the purest contemplation to those whose behavior has been corrected and from its unclouded perspective reveal a knowledge of spiritual mysteries, it is likewise accustomed not only to preserve but even to exaggerate the vices of those who have not corrected themselves. A person may seem patient and humble to himself as long as he has nothing to do with anyone else, but he will soon revert to his former nature should some disturbing event occur. Indeed, vices that have lain hidden emerge at once there, and like unbridled horses nourished by a long period of quiescence they eagerly break out of their restraints, all the more violently and savagely endangering their charioteer. For when contact with other human beings ce3ases, along with the discipline that that provides, the vices grow wilder in us if they have not previously been purged, and through slothful security we lose even the pretense of patience that we gave the appearance of possessing at least for the sake of our brothers' respect and our own good reputation when we lived among them.

-- It should be known, however, that in those manuscripts where it reads: "Whoever is angry with his brother without cause shall be liable to judgment," the phrase "without cause" is superfluous and was added by persons who did not think that anger needed to be cut off for a just cause, since in fact no one, however irrationally upset he was, would say that he had no cause for anger. It appear, therefore, that this was added by those who did not understand the intention of Scripture, which seeks to cut off completely the growth of anger and to maintain no occasion for indignation whatsoever lest, in ordering us to get angry with cause, an occasion for getting angry without cause also be offered us. For patience does not achieve its goal in righteous anger; it consists, rather, in not getting angry at all. I know, though, that the phrase "without cause" is interpreted in such a way as to mean that he is angered without cause who, when he is angry, is not allowed to seek revenge. Yet it is better to take it as it is found to be written both in many new manuscripts and in all the old ones.

-- Hence it behooves the athlete of Christ, who is contending lawfully, to root out the movements of wrath. The perfect medicine for this disease is that we realize, first, that in no way are we permitted to get angry, whether for an unjust or a just cause, knowing that we shall at once lose the light of discretion and firm and correct counsel, as well as goodness itself and the restraints of righteousness, if the guiding principle of our heart is obscured by darkness; and then, that the purity of our mind will soon be driven out and that it can never become a temple of the Holy Spirit as long as the spirit of wrath dwells in us. Lastly, we should understand that we are never allowed to pray or to make petition to God when we are angry. Above all, we should keep before our eyes the uncertain state of our human condition, daily realizing that we shall depart from our bodies and that our chaste abstinence, the renunciation of all our property, the contempt of wealth, and the toil of fasting and keeping vigil will confer nothing on us if eternal punishment is being readied for us by the Judge of all on account of wrath and hatred alone. 

St. John Cassian, The Institutes, (New York: The Newman Press, 2000)

Γιατί λες «Δόξα τω Θεώ»;

Έξω βροχή, πλημμύρα. Άνθρωποι λίγοι αλλά βιαστικοί προσπαθούν να αποφύγουν τις ουράνιες στάλες νερού. Ο ήλιος έχει μέρες να φανεί. Τα φώτα του δρόμου δεν καίνε πια, σημείο ότι είναι ημέρα…μα είναι σαν να μην ξημέρωσε ποτέ.

Το δωμάτιο σκοτεινό με ανταύγειες χρωμάτων από το φως του καντηλιού. Και εγώ ομιλώ με μια γλυκιά μελαγχολία, με την θυγατέρα του φθινοπώρου και της σιωπής.

Ρουφώ τον χρόνο παρατηρώντας το τρέμουλο της φλόγας του καντηλιού, το οποίο καθώς χορεύει λες και παρασύρει μαζί του και τα πρόσωπα τα άγια, τα σώματα εκείνων που στέκουν καθαρμένα με την μετάνοια, αποτυπωμένα στα χρώματα του αγιογράφου.

Δέρνουν αλύπητα οι στάλες το παράθυρο. Παράθυρο παλαιό, που από μέσα του ζήσανε πολλοί γείτονες και περαστικοί. Κάνω να το πλησιάσω, να ζήσω και εγώ λίγο από την ζωή των άλλων. Πλησιάζω. Το ακουμπώ, μα τα χνώτα μου εμποδίζουν την όρασή μου. Απομακρύνομαι λίγο.

Στον δρόμο δεν βλέπω πρόσωπα, μόνο σιλουέτες ανθρώπινες με ομπρέλες που τις σκέπουν.

Ξάφνου μία σιλουέτα μες στα μαύρα, μα φωτεινή. Χωρίς ομπρέλα. Χωρίς βιασύνη. Με μια ειρήνη στο βήμα και στο βλέμμα. Κοντοστέκεται στην γωνιά του πεζοδρομίου. Κοντοστέκεται σαν να ψάχνει κάτι. Απλώνει το χέρι του και αφήνει κάτι δίπλα σε κάτι σκουπίδια.

Μα όχι, δεν είναι σκουπίδια μόνο. Κάποιος άστεγος τυλιγμένος με εφημερίδες δίπλα σε σακούλες σκουπιδιών. Δεν τον είδα. Κανείς δεν τον βλέπει, μάλλον κανείς μας δεν θέλει να τον δει. Τα βλέμματα τον προσπερνούν. Δεν θεωρείται άνθρωπος, αποφεύγεται σαν σκουπίδι, μήπως μας λερώσει, μήπως μας αγγίξει και μας αφήσει κάποιο ανεξίτηλο σημάδι της ταλαιπώριας του.

Εκείνη όμως η μαύρη σιλουέτα, εκείνος ο άνθρωπος σταμάτησε. Σπαταλά λίγο χρόνο μαζί του. Μέσα στη βροχή. Βρίσκεται ακόμα εκεί, όταν αισθάνομαι την ανάσα μου να με προδίδει. Λες και με άφησε και αυτή και πήγε να δει από κοντά τι συμβαίνει.

Ο μαυροφορεμένος γονατίζει. Δεν του αρκεί που άφησε κάτι σε εκείνον τον ταλαίπωρο. Του μιλά. Του δίνει το χέρι του και ο ρακένδυτος άνδρας σηκώνεται όρθιος. Η βροχή, το παλιό τζάμι,δεν με αφήνουν να δω το πρόσωπό του. Είναι αδύνατος, καμπουριασμένος, μα θαρρείς ότι είναι νέος.

Κοιτώ τουλάχιστον δέκα λεπτά. Στέκομαι όρθιος μέσα στο σκοτεινό μα ζεστό δωμάτιό μου χωρίς να σκέφτομαι τίποτα, χωρίς να κάνω τίποτα…μόνο παρατηρώ.

Ξάφνου ο μαυροφορεμένος άνδρας γυρίζει προς το παραθύρι μου. Λες και ξέρει τι κάνω, λες και με βλέπει εδώ και ώρα. Παίρνει από το χέρι τον άρρωστο και προσπαθούν να περάσουν, τον γεμάτο από νερό, δρόμο. Θέλουν να περάσουν απέναντι, να έρθουν κάτω από το κατώφλι του σπιτιού μου.

Αποτραβιέμαι λίγο. Φοβάμαι μήπως με δουν τα μάτια εκείνου του άνδρα. Μα καθώς περνά η μοναδική αυτή σκέψη από το νου μου ο κτύπος του κουδουνιού με καθηλώνει. Ένα ρίγος περνά το κορμί μου. Το βλέμμα μου χαμένο προς την πόρτα, αγωνιά. Αγωνιά μήπως…«ντριν», το κουδούνι ξαναχτυπά. Ακίνητος, κόβω ακόμα και την ανάσα μου που ψιθυρίζει φόβο.

«Αδελφέ, βοήθησέ μας», μία φωνή ακούγεται κάτω από το σπίτι μου. «Αδελφέ…». Μάλλον κάποιον άλλο θα θέλουνε, κάποιον άλλο θα φωνάζουν, σκέφτομαι, και η φωνή μου απαντά, «Αδελφέ, για όνομα του Θεού, βοήθησέ μας…». Η βροχή δυναμώνει, ο θόρυβος που παράγει πλέον δεν ηχεί στα αυτιά μου όμορφα. Ηχεί σαν πόνος και απελπισία...

Αντί να πάω προς την πόρτα, κάθομαι στην βελούδινη πολυθρόνα μου. Ακουμπώ την πλάτη μου αναπαυτικά πίσω και περιμένω. Η ώρα περνά. Ησυχία. «Δόξα τω Θεώ» είπα μέσα μου…

Περιμένω λίγο ακόμα. Η βροχή σταμάτησε. Σηκώθηκα. Πλησιάζω το παράθυρο. Τα σκουπίδια ήταν ορφανά, ο ταλαίπωρος δεν βρισκόταν πλέον εκεί. Οι ομπρέλες είχαν πια κλείσει. «Δόξα τω Θεώ…» είπα κοιτώντας ψηλά στον ουρανό και ακούμπησα το μέτωπό μου στο παράθυρο.

Μα εκείνη την ώρα που ο ήλιος πολεμούσε να ξεπροβάλει, την στιγμή εκείνη που πίσω από την πλάτη μου το καντηλάκι αγωνιούσε μήπως σβήσει, εκείνη η σιλουέτα εμφανίστηκε στο απέναντι πεζοδρόμιο. Ήταν εκείνος, ο μαυροφορεμένος, ένας ιερέας, μούσκεμα, ακίνητος να με κοιτάζει. Δύο μάτια γεμάτα παράπονο, γεμάτα καλοσύνη και ενδιαφέρον. Δύο μάτια καθάρια που κρεμάστηκαν στο πρόσωπό μου.

Καθόμουν εκεί ακίνητος.
Καθόταν εκεί ακίνητος.

«Γιατί λες, δόξα τω Θεώ; Για την βοήθεια που δεν μας έδωσες, για την απραξία σου, για την ατολμία σου, την αναισθησία σου; Γιατί λες, δόξα τω Θεώ;» Δεν μίλησε, αλλά αυτά μου είπε. Δεν κούνησε τα χείλη του, απλά μου έγνεψε και χάθηκε μέσα στους περαστικούς. Μπορούσα να βοηθήσω. Που το ήξερε; Πως με γνώριζε; Ποιος ήταν αυτό ο ιερέας; Δεν ξέρω. Δεν θα μάθω μάλλον ποτέ.

Ήταν κάποιο υπαρκτό πρόσωπο, ή η ενσαρκωμένη μου συνείδηση; Μπορούσα να βοηθήσω μα δεν το έκανα, απλά παρατηρούσα...

Εκείνη την ημέρα, έκλαψα πολύ. Έκλαψα για εμένα, έκλαψα για το κατάντημά μου.

Έκλαψα, που δεν είπα ούτε ένα συγνώμη.

Αρχιμ. Παύλος Παπαδόπουλος


Monday, 28 October 2013

"Δεν είσαι μόνος"-"You're not alone" ( Μέγας Βασίλειος, Ντοκυμαντέρ-Saint Basil The Great,Documentary with English Subtitles)

Το λιοντάρι του Χριστού. Το επεισόδιο της καταπληκτικής σειρά της ΕΡΤ1 "ΔΕΝ ΕΙΣΑΙ ΜΟΝΟΣ" που αναφέρεται στον Μέγα Βασίλειο. Το ανεβάζουμε με αγγλικούς υπότιτλους για να γίνει προσιτό στους αγγλόφωνους και αγγλομαθείς ανά τον κόσμο. Η μετάφραση είναι ευγενική προσφορά της Κατερίνας "Ozlander".

Τῆς Ἁγίας Σκέπης . Ἡ θρησκευτικότης τῶν Ἑλλήνων. (+Μητροπολίτου Φλωρίνης Αυγουστίνου Καντιώτου)

Ἡ θρησκευτικότης τῶν Ἑλλήνων.
Ἀδελφοί, «εἶχε μὲν οὖν καὶ ἡ πρώτη σκηνὴ δικαιώματα λατρείας τό τε Ἅγιον κοσμικόν…» (Ἑβρ. 9,1)
(Ομιλία του †Επισκόπου Φλωρίνης Αυγουστίνου Καντιώτου)
Ἡ θρησκεία μας, ἀγαπητοί μου, ἔχει ἐχθρούς, ποὺ ἀφρίζουν ἅμα ἀκούσουν τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ Χριστοῦ καὶ τῆς Παναγίας. Τοὺς ἐνοχλεῖ. Ἂν ἦταν στὸ χέρι τους –δὲν ξέρουμε, μπορεῖ νὰ τὸ ἐπιτρέψῃ ὁ Θεὸς σύμφωνα μὲ τὴν Ἀποκάλυψι (βλ. Ἀπ. 11,7-10· 13,3-8,12-17· 17,6)–, θὰ ἔβαζαν δυναμίτη νὰ τινάξουν ὅλες τὶς ἐκκλησίες. Νομίζουν οἱ ταλαίπωροι, πὼς ἔτσι θὰ ξερριζώσουν τὴ θρησκεία τοῦ Χριστοῦ. Πόσο σφάλλουν! «Ἱνατί ἐφρύαξαν ἔθνη, καὶ λαοὶ ἐμελέτησαν κενά;» (Ψαλμ. 2,1).
θρησκεία μας δὲν εἶνε, ὅπως λένε μερικοί, ἐφεύρεσι τῶν παπάδων καὶ δεσποτάδων· εἶνε, ὅπως ἀποδεικνύει ἔρευνα τῆς ψυχῆςσυναίσθημα ἔμφυτο. Ὅπως ἡ μητρικὴ στοργή· ὁ Θεὸς φύτεψε στὴν καρδιὰ κάθε μάνας τὴν ἀγάπη στὸ παιδὶ καί, ὅσα διατάγματα κι ἂν ἐκδοθοῦν νὰ μὴν τὸ ἀγαπᾷ, αὐτὴ θὰ τὸ ἀγαπᾷ. Ἔτσι καὶ γιὰ τὴ θρησκεία· ὅσα διατάγμα τα κι ἂν ἐκδοθοῦν νὰ μὴ θρησκεύῃ ὁ ἄνθρωπος, αὐτὸς θὰ ἐξακολουθῇ νὰ θρησκεύῃ. 

ἄνθρωπος εἶνε ὂν κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν θρησκευτικό, φύσις του εἶνε θρησκευτική. Αὐτὸ τὸ ἀποδεικνύει ἱστορία, ποὺ διαπιστώνει ὅτι ἀπὸ τὴν ὥρα ποὺ παρουσιάστηκε πάνω στὴ γῆ, ἀπὸ τότε ἄρχισε νὰ λατρεύῃ τὸ Θεό, νὰ ἐκδηλώνῃ ποικιλοτρόπως τὰ θρησκευτικά του συναισθήματα. Ὅπως λέει Πλούταρχος (ἐπιστ. πρὸς Κολώτην ΧΧΧΙ,4), ἂν περιοδεύσῃς τὴ γῆ, μπορεῖ νὰ βρῇς πόλεις χωρὶς κάστρα, χωρὶς δρόμους, χωρὶς πλατεῖες, χωρὶς σχολεῖα, χωρὶς πολιτισμό· ἀλλὰ πόλι χωρὶς θρησκεία δὲν θὰ βρῇς, ἀσχέτως ἂν αὐτὸ ποὺ πιστεύει εἶνε ἀληθινὸ ὄχι· πάντως δὲν ὑπάρχει λαὸς χωρὶς θρησκεία. Καὶ αὐτὸ ποὺ λέει ἀρ χαῖος Πλούταρχος, αὐτὸ ἐπανέλαβε στὶς ἡμέρες μας ἕνας μεγάλος ξένος ἱστορικός. Μίλησε στὴν αἴθουσα τοῦ Πανεπιστημίου Ἀθηνῶν. Καὶ ἐνῷ δικοί μας καθηγηταὶ ντρέπονται ν᾽ ἀναφέρουν τὴ λέξι Θεός, αὐτὸς κατ᾿ ἐπανά ληψιν εἶπε· Ὅλοι οἱ πολιτισμοὶ ποὺ ἄνθησαν πάνω στὴ γῆ ἔχουν ῥίζα θρησκευτική· δὲν ὑπάρχει πολιτισμὸς ποὺ νὰ μὴν ἔχῃ θρησκευτικὴ ῥίζα. Ὥστε λοιπὸν παλαιοὶ καὶ νέοι ἱστορικοὶ καὶ ἀρχαιολόγοι καὶ περιηγηταὶ βεβαιώνουν, ὅτι ὁ ἄνθρωπος εἶνε ἐκ φύσεως θρησκευτικός.
Ὅλοι ἀνεξαιρέτως οἱ λαοὶ θρησκεύουν. Ἀλλ᾽ ἂν ὑπάρχουν κάποιοι ποὺ διακρίνονται γιὰ τὴ θρησκευτικότητά τους, λαοὶ ποὺ κατ᾽ ἐξοχὴν θρήσκευαν καὶ θρησκεύουν, εἶνε δύο· πρῶτος ὁ Ἰουδαϊκὸς καὶ δεύτερος ὁ Ἑλληνικός.
  Γιὰ τοὺς Ἰουδαίους δὲν χρειάζεται ἄλλη ἀπόδειξις· διαβάστε τὸν σημερινὸ ἀπόστολο. Κάποτε ὁ λαὸς αὐτὸς δὲν κατοικοῦσε σὲ πόλεις, δὲν εἶχε σπίτια· ζοῦσαν ὡς νομάδες σκηνῖτες. Σαράντα χρόνια περιπλανόνταν στὴν ἔρημο, ὅπως λέει ἡ ἁγία Γραφή (βλ. Ἔξοδος). Καὶ ὅμως στὸ διάστημα αὐτὸ εἶχαν ναό. Τί ναό;  Ὄχι ἀπὸ πέτρες ἢ μάρμαρα, ἀλλὰ φορητό, λυόμενο. Ὅπως ὁ τσοπᾶνος ἔ χει τὴν κάππα του καὶ σκεπάζεται, ὅπως ὁ στρατιώτης λύνει τὴ σκηνή του, τὴ μεταφέρει καὶ τὴ στήνει ὅπου σταθμεύσῃ, ἔτσι κι αὐτοί. Ὁ ναὸς ἐκεῖνος ἦταν ἡ «σκηνὴ» τοῦ μαρτυρίου (Ἑβρ. 9,1). Ἦταν φτειαγμένος ἀπὸ βαρύτιμα ὑλικά, δέρματα ζῴων (αἰγῶν καὶ τράγων, προβάτων καὶ κριῶν, δορκάδων), ἀπὸ χοντρὰ ὑφάσμα τα κεντημένα μὲ χρυσάφι καὶ ἀσήμι καὶ στολισμένα μὲ πετράδια. Εἶχε μεγάλη ἀξία· ὑπολογίζουν ὅτι στοίχιζε διακόσες χιλιάδες λίρες! Γιὰ νὰ γίνῃ αὐτὸς ὁ ναός, συνεισέφεραν ὅλοι, πλούσιοι καὶ φτωχοί. Ἔδωσαν ὅ,τι εἶχαν. Ἡ σκηνὴ διαιρεῖτο σὲ μέρη χωρισμένα μὲ κουρτίνα, τὸ «καταπέτασμα» (Ἑβρ, 9,3). Ἀλλοῦ στεκόταν ὁ λαὸς –καὶ κατόπιν οἱ προσήλυτοι, ὅσοι δηλαδὴ ἐκδήλωναν ἐπιθυμία νὰ εἰσαχθοῦν στὴν ἰουδαϊκὴ θρησκεία καὶ κατηχοῦνταν–, καὶ ἀλλοῦ οἱ ἱερεῖς καὶ οἱ λευῖτες (=ὑ πηρέτες καὶ νεωκόροι).
Μετὰ τὸ πρῶτο καταπέτασμα τὸ πρῶτο μέρος λεγόταν «Ἅγιον κοσμικὸν» ἢ  «Ἅγια». Μέσα ἐκεῖ ὑπῆρχαν «ἡ λυχνία», «ἡ τράπεζα» καὶ «ἡ πρόθεσις» ἐπάνω στὴν ὁποία βρίσκονταν οἱ ἄρτοι (Ἑβρ. 9,1-2). Τὸ σπουδαιότερο ὅμως μέρος τῆς σκηνῆς τοῦ μαρτυρίου ἦταν τὰ «Ἅγια (τῶν) Ἁγίων», ποὺ χωριζόταν ἀπὸ τὰ «Ἅγια» μὲ τὸ «δεύτερον καταπέτασμα» (ἔ.ἀ. 9,3). Ἐκεῖ δὲν ἐπιτρεπόταν ἡ εἴσοδος. Μέσα στὰ Ἅγια τῶν Ἁγίων οἱ Ἑβραῖοι εἶχαν τὰ ἱερώτερα ἀντικείμενα τῆς λατρείας τους· τὸ «χρυσοῦν θυμιατήριον» καὶ τὴν «κιβωτὸν τῆς διαθήκης» καλυμμένη ἀπὸ παντοῦ μὲ φύλλα χρυσοῦ, μέσα στὴν ὁποία φυλάσσονταν μιὰ στάμνα χρυσῆ ποὺ περιεῖχε τὸ μάννα, τὸ ῥαβδὶ τοῦ Ἀαρὼν ποὺ εἶχε βλαστήσει θαυματουργικά, καὶ οἱ δύο πλάκες ποὺ ἐπάνω τους ἦταν γραμμένες οἱ Δέκα Ἐντολές. Πάνω ἀπὸ τὴν κιβωτὸ ὑπῆρχαν δύο χρυσᾶ Χερουβίμ, «ποὺ ἀνάμεσά τους ἐμφανιζόταν καὶ μιλοῦσε ὁ Θεός» (μτφρ. Τρεμπ.), τὰ ὁποῖα μὲ τὶς ἀγγελικὲς φτεροῦγες τους σκίαζαν «τὸ ἱλαστήριον», τὸ χρυσὸ δηλαδὴ κάλυμμα τῆς κιβωτοῦ (ἔ.ἀ. 9,4-5). Αὐτὰ ἦταν τὰ ὅσια καὶ ἱερὰ τῶν Ἰουδαίων. Καὶ ἐνῷ στὸ «κοσμικὸν Ἅγιον» ἔμπαιναν κάθε μέρα οἱ ἱερεῖς καὶ προσέφεραν τὶς θυσίες, στὰ «Ἅγια (τῶν) Ἁγίων» ἔμπαινε μόνος του ὁ ἀρχιερεὺς καὶ μόνο μιὰ φορὰ τὸ χρόνο, καὶ τὰ ῥάντιζε ὅλα μὲ αἷμα ἀπὸ σφαγμένο ζῷο. Αὐτὸ ἦταν μιὰ σκιὰ τῆς Μεγάλης Παρασκευῆς, προτύπωσις τῆς μεγάλης θυσίας τοῦ Γολγοθᾶ.
-Μετὰ τοὺς Ἰουδαίους, ὁ ἄλλος λαὸς ποὺ διακρίνεται γιὰ τὴν θρησκευτικότητά του εἶνε ὁ Ἑλληνικός. Οἱ Ἕλληνες, ἀπὸ ἀρχαιοτάτης ἐποχῆς ἐκδηλώνουν ζωηρὸ τὸ θρησκευτικὸ συναίσθημα. Ἔχτισαν ναοὺς λαμπρούς, ὅπως τὸν Παρθενῶνα στὴν Ἀκρόπολι, μνημεῖα τέχνης ποὺ φανερώνουν προχωρημένη ἱκανότητα. Μηχανικοί, τεχνῖτες, γλύπτες, ζωγράφοι ἔστυψαν τὰ μυαλά τους καὶ μὲ τὰ σπάνια χαρίσματά τους ἀποτύπω σαν τὴ δίψα τῆς ψυχῆς τους. Αὐτὸς ὁ λαός, οἱ εἰδωλολάτρες πρόγονοί μας, πίστευε βαθειά – ἄσχετο ἂν ἡ θρησκεία του δὲν ἦταν ἀληθινή. Δὲν ἔκαναν τίποτα, οὔτε πόλεμο οὔτε εἰρήνη, ἂν δὲν ρωτοῦσαν τοὺς θεούς τους. Στὴν ἀρχαία Ἀθήνα δὲν ἐπέτρεπαν νὰ βλαστημήσῃ κανεὶς τὰ θεῖα. Ὅποιος τολμοῦσε νὰ ἀσεβήσῃ σὲ κάποιον ἀπὸ τοὺς ψεύτικους θεούς, δὲν μποροῦσε πιὰ οὔτε μιὰ μέρα νὰ ζήσῃ ἀνάμεσά τους· δὲν ἐπέτρεπαν τὴν παραμικρὴ ἀσέβεια. Κι αὐτὸν τὸν Σωκράτη, ἐπειδὴ θεώρησαν ὅτι βλαστήμησε τὸ θεό τους, τὸν καταδίκασαν σὲ θάνατο.
Αὐτοὶ ἦταν οἱ Ἕλληνες στὴν ἀρχαιότητα. Κι ὅταν ὁ λαὸς αὐτὸς ἄκουσε γιὰ τὸν ἀληθινὸ Θεό, τότε βρῆκε αὐτὸ ποὺ ζητοῦσε. Ὁ ἀπόστολος Παῦλος στὸν Ἄρειο πάγο εἶπε στοὺς Ἀθηναίους· «Ἀπ᾿ ὅσους γνώρισα ἐσᾶς βρίσκω πιὸ εὐλαβεῖς σὲ ὅλα» (βλ. Πράξ. 17,22). Κι ἀφοῦ οἱ Ἕλληνες πίστεψαν στὸν ἀληθινὸ Θεό, τὸ θρησκευτικό τους συναίσθημα πῆρε τὸ σωστὸ δρόμο καὶ εἶχε λαμπρὲς ἐκδηλώσεις. Ὁ Ἑλληνικὸς λαὸς εἶνε ἐκεῖνος, ποὺ ἔχτισε τὸν περίλαμπρο ναὸ τῆς Ἁγίας Σοφίας στὴν Κωνσταντινούπολι καὶ στὰ ἐγκαίνιά του ὁ αὐτοκράτορας Ἰουστιανιανὸς εἶπε «Νενίκηκά σε, Σολομῶν».
Ἕλληνες ἔχτισαν στὸ Ἅγιο Ὄρος τὰ περίφημα μοναστήρια, ποὺ ἔχουν ζωὴ πάνω ἀπὸ χίλια χρόνια. Ἕλληνες ἔχτισαν στὴν κορυφὴ τοῦ Σινὰ τὸ μοναστήρι τῆς Ἁγίας Αἰκατερίνης. Ἕλληνες γέμισαν τὸν Πόντο καὶ τὴ Μικρὰ Ἀσία μὲ χιλιάδες ναοὺς μικροὺς καὶ μεγάλους. Κι ὅταν πάλι τὸ 1922 ὁ λαὸς αὐτὸς ἔφευγε ἀπὸ ᾽κεῖ μὲ τὴν ψυχὴ στὰ δόντια κι ἄφηνε τὰ πάντα (σπίτια, χωράφια, περιουσίες), τίποτε ἄλλο δὲν πῆρε μαζί του παρὰ τὶς εἰκόνες καὶ τὰ λείψανα τῶν ἁγίων (π.χ. τοῦ ἁγίου Ἰωάννου τοῦ ῾Ρώ σου, τοῦ ἁγίου Γρηγορίου τοῦ Ναζιανζηνοῦ κ.ἄ.).
Ἡ θρησκευτικότης, ἀδελφοί μου, εἶνε ἡ ἀναπνοὴ τοῦ ἔθνους μας. Τὸ ψάρι δὲν ζῇ ἔξω ἀπὸ τὴ θάλασσα, κι ὁ Ἕλληνας δὲν ζῇ χωρὶς τὴ θρησκεία του. Ἄλλοι λαοὶ μποροῦν ἴσως νὰ σταθοῦν καὶ κάπως ἀλλιῶς – μολονότι κανένας δὲν ζῇ χωρὶς θρησκεία· κι αὐτὸς ὁ ῾Ρωσικὸς λαὸς θρησκεύει βαθύτατα, παρ᾽ ὅλη τὴν ἀθεϊστικὴ προπαγάνδα ποὺ δέχθηκε.
Πολὺ περισσότερο ἐμεῖς. Ἡ θρησκεία εἶνε ἡ ἀναπνοή μας, τὸ ζωτικὸ στοιχεῖο, ἡ σκέπη, τὸ ὅπλο, ἡ ζωή μας.
Αὐτὴ δημιούργησε τὸ Βυζάντιο μὲ πολιτισμὸ ποὺ βάσταξε χίλια χρόνια. Αὐτὴ μᾶς παρηγόρησε πεντακόσα χρόνια κάτω ἀπὸ τὴ σκλαβιὰ τῶν Τούρκων. Αὐτὴ ἔδωσε τὸ σύνθημα τῆς ἐπαναστάσεως τοῦ ᾿21. Αὐτὴ τὸ 1912-13 μᾶς ἔδωσε φτερὰ καὶ ἀνήμερα τοῦ ἁγίου Δημητρίου τὰ παιδιὰ τῆς Ἑλλάδος μπῆκαν στὴ Θεσσαλονίκη καὶ ὕψωσαν τὴν ἑλληνικὴ σημαία. Αὐτὴ μᾶς κράτησε τὸ 1940 καὶ στὴν κατοχή. Νὰ τὴν κρατήσουμε λοιπόν. Νὰ φράξουμε τὰ αὐτιά μας νὰ μὴν ἀκοῦμε τί λένε ἐναντίον της. Βέβαια πρέπει νὰ φροντίσουμε ν᾿ ἀποκτήσουμε κλῆρο, ν᾽ ἀνακαινίσουμε τὴν ἐκκλησία μας, νὰ ἔλθῃ ἀναγέννησις· ἀλλὰ νὰ μὴ φύγουμε ἀπὸ τὴν Ἐκκλησία τοῦ Χριστοῦ μας. Νὰ ζήσουμε ἀξίως τῆς πίστεως, ἀξίως τῶν προγόνων μας, ἀξίως ὅλου τοῦ ἱστορικοῦ μεγαλείου τῆς φυλῆς μας, γιὰ νὰ μποροῦμε νὰ λέμε «Εἰ ὁ Θεὸς ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν, τίς καθ᾽ ἡμῶν;» (῾Ρωμ. 8,31)· «γνῶτε ἔθνη καὶ ἡττᾶσθε …ὅτι μεθ᾿ ἡμῶν ὁ Θεός» (Ἠσ. 8,9-10).

(†) ἐπίσκοπος Αὐγουστῖνος-

Ἀπομαγνητοφωνημένη ὁμιλία, ἡ ὁποία ἔγινε στὸν ἱ. ναὸ Προφήτου Δανιὴλ Βοτανικοῦ - Ἀθηνῶν τὴν Κυριακὴ 28-10-1962. Καταγραφὴ καὶ σύντμησις 21-9-2013.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Saint Theophylact of Ochrid- Jairus' Daughter and the Woman With an Issue of Blood


Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Jairus' Daughter and the Woman With an Issue of Blood

Luke 8:41-56

From The Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke

by Blessed Theophylact, Archbishop of Ochrid and Bulgaria

40-44. And it came to pass, that, when Jesus was returned, the multitude gladly received Him: for they were all waiting for Him. And, behold, there came a man named Jairus, and he was ruler of the synagogue: and he fell down at Jesus feet, and besought Him that He would come into his house: for he had one only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she lay a dying. But as he went, the multitude thronged Him. And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, who had spent all her living upon physicians, and could not be healed by any, came behind Him, and touched the border of His garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched. Jesus returned from the country of the Gadarenes, and the multitude was waiting for Him, eager for both His teaching and His miracles. Then He was approached by a certain ruler of the synagogue, a man who was neither poor nor insignificant, but the foremost of society. The Evangelist even gives the man's name, so that the miracle might become the more renowned through this confirmable evidence of its truth. In his great need this man falls down before Jesus, although even without the urgency of this need, he ought to have fallen down and acknowledged Jesus as God. Nevertheless, affliction can compel a man to turn to what is better, as David says when he speaks of the horse or mule which has no understanding, whose jaws thou must afflict with bit and bridle when they come not nigh unto thee (Ps. 31:9). (1) But as Jesus went along the way to the house of Jairus, a woman drew near to Him who showed exceedingly great faith. She approached and touched the border of His garment with the firm faith that if she could only touch His clothing, she would be made whole. Immediately the flow of blood stopped. Like a man who brings his eye close to a bright light, or brings a dry stick close to fire, and they immediately react, so also the woman brought her faith close to Him Who has power to heal—and immediately she obtained healing. She gave no thought to anything else, neither the many years of her illness, nor the failure of her doctors. She only believed and was made whole. Understand that first she touched Jesus noetically, and only then did she touch Him bodily.
45-48. And Jesus said, Who touched Me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with Him said, Master, the multitude throng Thee and press Thee, and sayest Thou, Who touched Me? And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched Me: for I perceive that power is gone out of Me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before Him, she declared unto Him before all the people for what cause she had touched Him, and how she was healed immediately. And He said unto her, Daughter, take courage: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace. The Lord desires to show the womans faith to all the people so that they might become imitators of her, and also so that Jairus might have good hope for his daughter. Therefore He makes manifest what had happened in secret and asks who it was that touched Him. Peter, being bold, scolds the Lord for His question, saying, "So many people throng Thee, and yet sayest Thou, Who touched Me?" But he did not understand what the Lord was asking. The Lord was inquiring, "Who touched Me with faith?" and not simply, "Whose hand touched Me?" Just as one man has ears with which he hears, while another has ears but does not hear, so also one man touches with faith, while another may draw near but his heart is far away. The Lord knows that it was the woman, but He asks the question, as I have said, in order to reveal her faith and to give hope to the ruler of the synagogue. He asks, and thus draws attention to the woman. For I perceive that power is gone out of Me, He says, and rightly so. The prophets did not have power that went out from them; instead, they worked miracles by the grace of God. But Jesus is the source of every good thing and the source of all power, and He indeed has power that goes out from Him. The Lord grants the woman a double healing: He first heals her sickness and then dispels the fear from her trembling soul by saying, Daughter, take courage.
49-56. While He yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogues house, saying to Him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master. But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, Fear not: only believe, and she shall be made whole. And when He came into the house, He permitted no man to go in, save Peter, and James, and John, and the father and the mother of the maiden. And all wept, and bewailed her: but He said, Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to scorn, knowing that she was dead. And He put them all out, and took her by the hand, and called, saying, Maid, arise. And her spirit came again, and she arose straightway: and He commanded to give her food. And her parents were astonished: but He charged them that they tell no man what was done. When Jesus heard a man say to the ruler of the synagogue, trouble not the Master, He did not wait for the ruler of the synagogue to speak to Him, but speaks first Himself, so that the ruler of the synagogue could not say, "I have no need for You; the evil deed has already happened; behold she has died, the one whom we expected You to heal," or any such words as these. For he did not believe, and was a Jew. Christ, therefore, speaks first and says, "Fear not; only believe. Consider the woman who had the issue of blood. Imitate her and you will not miss the mark." He permits only Peter, John, and James to enter because they were the Lords favorites and chief of the Apostles, and because they were able to keep silent concerning the miracle. The Lord did not want to reveal Himself to many before it was time, perhaps because of the spite of the Jews. Thus He hid most of His deeds so that the Jews would not become inflamed with envy and thus liable to judgment. We ought also to do the same; when someone becomes envious of us, let us not reveal our accomplishments to him, so as not to wound him and cause him to be even more envious and cast him into sin. Instead, we should strive to go unnoticed by him. The Lord said, she is not dead, but sleepeth, calling death sleep because He was about to raise her from the dead as if from sleep. Those who heard Him laughed Him to scorn, so that the miracle would be all the more miraculous. In order that later they would not be able to claim that she was not dead, but had been asleep, the Lord arranged by divine economy that He should first be mocked when He said that she was not dead but asleep. Thus He shut the mouths of those who wanted to slander Him, for it was so clear that she was dead that they even mocked Him when He said that she was not dead. He put them all outside, perhaps to teach us not to crave glory and not to do anything for show, and also to teach that when someone is about to work a miracle, he ought not to be in the midst of many people, but alone and undistracted. Then the Lord brought back the spirit of the young girl. He did not put another soul into her but made the same soul which had slipped away return to her body again. He commanded that she be given something to eat, to provide even greater assurance and confirmation that she had risen from the dead. These things may also be understood in this manner: the woman with the issue of blood represents every soul which pours forth bloody and murderous sin. For each and every sin is the murderer and slayer of the soul. When this soul, therefore, touches the clothing of Jesus, when it touches, that is, His Incarnation, believing that the Son of God took on human flesh, then the soul is healed. And this is possible even if someone should be a ruler of the synagogue, that is, if someone has a mind which rules over the many things it has collected in its greed. (2) Then the daughter of that mind, its thought, is sick. But let that mind only call upon Jesus and believe, and his thought will be made whole.

1. . The translation here of this particular verse differs somewhat from that of the Psalter published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery, which we usually cite. See the Introduction, p. 1, of the present volume.
2. The word synagogue [synagoge] is derived from the verb synago which means to bring together, whether it be people in an assembly or things in a collection. Bl. Theophylact here plays on both senses of the word.

Τα βήματα που μετράει ο άγιος άγγελος…

Κάποτε τον Άγιο Νήφων (Επίσκοπος Κωνσταντιανής της κατ’ Αλεξάνδρειαν) τον βασάνισε ο εξής λογισμός:

«Μήπως, αντί να τρέχω στους ναούς, είναι καλύτερα να κάθομαι σ’ ένα μέρος και να ζητάω το έλεος του Θεού;».

Δεν άργησε ο φιλάνθρωπος Θεός να του αποκαλύψει, ότι κάθε φορά πού ένας άνθρωπος πάει σε εκκλησία για να προσευχηθεί, είτε μέρα είναι είτε νύχτα, τα βήματά του μετριούνται από τούς αγίους αγγέλους, για να μετατραπούν σε ουράνιο μισθό την ημέρα της Κρίσεως.

Είπε πάλι: Ο Θεός δεν κρίνει τον χριστιανό, επειδή αμαρτάνει, αλλά επειδή δεν μετανοεί. Γιατί το να αμαρτάνει κανείς και να μετανοεί είναι ανθρώπινο, ενώ το να μη μετανοεί είναι γνώρισμα του διαβόλου και των δαιμόνων του. Επειδή δεν ζούμε συνεχώς στη μετάνοια γι΄ αυτό θα κριθούμε.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Saint Tikhon Of Zadonsk-On Holy Baptism

Saint Tikhon Of Zadonsk
"He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16). Our Lord and Saviour gave us this saying for our confirmation and consolation. For what is more comforting to a faithful and baptized soul than this saying that promises it eternal salvation?

Beloved Christians, glory be to God that we both believe in the Gospel and are enlightened with holy Baptism. But let us look at the power of holy Baptism and we shall see what we were before Baptism and what we became after Baptism, that we may receive lively consolation from this.
Through holy Baptism we were delivered from every calamity and we received all true blessedness by the grace of God. Before Baptism we were far from God, but through Baptism we became close to God. Before Baptism we were enemies of God, but through Baptism we became reconciled to God, and God was reconciled to us. Before Baptism we were children of God's wrath, but through Baptism we were made vessels of God's mercy. Before Baptism we were children of darkness and children of the devil, but through Baptism we were made children of light and children of God. Before Baptism we were defiled in sins, but through Baptism we were washed, sanctified and justified.
Before Baptism we were lost, but through Baptism we were saved. Before Baptism the doors to everlasting life and the Kingdom of Heaven were closed to us, but through Baptism they were opened and those that preserve the grace of holy Baptism enter in unhindered. We receive these and other benefits of God through holy Baptism. We receive them freely without any merit on our part, solely from His love for man, for what can he deserve who is lost? Glory to the goodness of God! Glory to His love for mankind! Glory to His compassion! Glory to His generosity! "Blessed be the name of the Lord from henceforth and for ever more!" (LXX-Ps. 112:2 [KJV-Ps. 113:2]).
The Only-Begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ our Saviour, earned this supreme mercy from God for all of us. He earned it through His most precious Blood and His death. Beloved Christians, let us remember holy Baptism, and let us consider whether we live worthily of holy Baptism, lest that holy Baptism be to our greater condemnation on the day of Christ's Dread Judgement, where every iniquitous word, deed, and thought will be judged.
Holy Baptism is like a door by which those that are baptized enter into the holy Church and become "fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God" (Eph. 2:19). But not just so, but before Baptism there are renunciations and vows:
1.We then renounced Satan and all his evil works. Satan is a wicked and evil spirit. He was created good by God, but he and those of like mind with him apostatized from Him, and so from light they became dark, and from good they became evil and wicked. His works are idolatry, pride, deceit, falsehood, flattery, guile, envy, malice, plunder, adultery, prodigality, all uncleanliness, slander, blasphemy and every sin; for he is the inventor of sin, and he beguiled our ancestors in paradise and led them into sin and apostasy from God. We renounce this wicked spirit and all his evil works before Baptism.
2.We renounce every vanity, pride and pomp of this world, as ones called to and renewed for everlasting life.
3. We promise to serve Christ the Son of God in faith and in truth together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and to follow in His footsteps.
4. Thus we establish a covenant between God and us. We, who have renounced Satan, promise to serve God and be faithful to Him. God accepts us in His supreme mercy and promises us an inheritance in everlasting life and the Kingdom, and washes us who are defiled by sin in the laver of Baptism. He sanctifies and justifies us, as the priest says over everyone who is baptized, "Thou art washed, thou art sanctified, thou art justified" (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11).
Beloved Christians, let us remember these renunciations and vows, and consider whether we keep them; for it is a grave thing to lie to God, and it is very dangerous to be found false before Him. Let us consider, then, whether any of us have not gone back to Satan, whether we have not renounced Christ and abandoned Him? Let us consider on whose side we find ourselves, on Satan's or on Christ's. One serves and belongs to him whose will he performs. He renounces Christ not only he who renounces His holy name and does not confess Him to be the Son of God and his Saviour, but also he who sins against conscience and recklessly breaks His holy commandments. This is the teaching of the Apostles. For the Apostle says, "They profess that they know God; but in works they deny Him, and the rest" (Tit. 1:16).
Do you see that people reject God in works too, and not just with their lips? Is anyone a prodigal, and does he commit adultery? He rejects Christ. Does anyone hate his neighbor and seek him out to harm him? He has apostatized from Christ. Does anyone steal; does he rob and take away his neighbor's goods? He has departed from Christ. Does anyone deceive and flatter his neighbor? He is no longer with Christ, but in all these things he submits to the enemy of salvation, and so he does not stand in the promises which he made to God, and so he has lied to God. Let us examine then, beloved, our conscience and our life. To which side do we belong, to Christ's or to His enemy's? To the good, or to the evil? To the lot of the saved or to that of the lost? He that is not with Christ is the enemy of Christ. For Christ Himself said, "He that is not with Me is against Me" (Mt. 12:30).
Beloved, let us watch ourselves and let us be with Christ here in this world, as we have vowed at Baptism: let us be with Christ here that we may be with Christ in the age to come, according to His promise that cannot lie, "Where I am, there shall also My servant be" (Jn. 12:26). Let us serve Him here as our King and God, that on the Day of Judgement He will acknowledge us as His laborers and number us with His faithful servants and open unto us the doors of everlasting joy. Remember the vows made at Baptism.So that you may act on the aforementioned points, you must remember the vows you made at holy Baptism. For though not you yourself but your sponsor made those vows before God on your behalf, you promised then, spitting on Satan, and on his pride, and on his service, and on his evil works - you promised, I say - and vowed to serve Jesus Christ your Lord and Redeemer in faith and in truth, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.Consider, Christian, what vows you made and to Whom. It is a grievous thing to lie to a man, how incomparably more grievous it is to lie to God. "God is not mocked" (Gal. 6:7). When a Christian does not stand on his promises and does not keep them, what mercy, then, should he expect from God, to Whom he lied? He that keeps his promises shall find himself in God's mercy and in His Kingdom. He remains faithful to God, and God will hold him in mercy and in His protection as His own. And this is what the prophet sings to God, "With the holy man wilt Thou be holy, and with the innocent man wilt Thou be innocent. And with the elect man wilt Thou be elect, and with the perverse wilt Thou be perverse" (LXX-Ps. 17:26-27 [KJV-Ps. 18:25-26]).
Christians! All they that commit iniquity and act against their conscience do not keep their vows. These include fornicators, adulterers, and all defilers, robbers, thieves, brigands, the sly, the crafty, deceivers and the guileful, revilers and men of evil speech, drunkards, fault finders, the hateful, and the malicious, they that live in the pride and pomp of this world, and all that do not fear God. They have all lied to God and have not kept their vows, and are outside of the holy Church, though they may even go to churches and pray and receive the Mysteries and build churches and adorn them and display other signs of a Christian. Since they shall be powerfully put to the test at the Judgement of Christ and tormented more there than Turks and idolaters, avoid these deeds, Christian, and do not imitate the aforementioned doers of iniquity, lest you be condemned with them to eternal fire by the just judgement of God, "where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mk. 9:44, 46, 48), but by all means endeavor so to live and act as the word of God teaches, as was said above. Keep in mind those vows of yours, and this will guide you toward the Christian life and restrain you from every evil and do you good. If you notice that you yourself do not keep those vows, then repent and begin the Christian life anew, lest you appear before God in a lie, and perish with liars. "The fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Apoc. 21:8).It is impossible to adequately describe and weep over the unfortunate condition of that Christian who has given himself over to lawless acts after holy Baptism, and commits iniquity. He is deprived of all that blessedness of which he had been found worthy in Baptism by the grace of God, and of his own will he casts himself into that calamity from which he had been delivered. But rather, he falls into a greater calamity, for he had known the truth but he did not wish to live in it. He knew God, but he did not wish to worship Him.He knew the way that leads to eternal blessedness, but he did not wish to walk in it. He vowed to work for God, but he lied to Him. He was washed, he was sanctified, he was justified, but he was deprived of it all. He became a child of God, but he lost that most glorious nobility. He became an heir of everlasting life and the Kingdom, but he wasted that inheritance. And this is what the Apostle says about such ones, "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them" (2 Pet. 2:21).
See, O Christian, how great is the calamity of a Christian who has committed iniquity! It is not apparent now, since it is not seen with bodily eyes, but with spiritual: but it will become evident then, when all our secret and manifest deeds are revealed before the whole world, that is at the second coming of Christ.Then that poor Christian will know and will behold his great calamity and destruction. We must truly bewail the condition of such a Christian with much tears and weeping. For just as one washed in a bath is again sullied with dirt and mud, so likewise a Christian washed in the laver of Baptism is defiled again with iniquity.Just as one who out of filthy rags was clothed in purple and fine linen again takes off those beautiful garments and puts that foul rag on again, so everyone who commits iniquity after holy Baptism does likewise. For out of the rags of sin he was also clothed in Christ's robe of justification, but having spurned that beautiful garment he again puts on the rag of sin.Just as one who comes from the darkness into the light and again returns to the darkness, so it is likewise with him who came from the darkness of sin to the light of Christ, the true Light, and returned again to that same darkness. Just as one who was freed from slavery and captivity comes to freedom and again returns to that same bitter bondage, so likewise a Christian who commits iniquity was delivered by the grace of Christ from the bitter slavery and captivity of the devil, but he returns to that misfortune.Just as a man delivered from a deep pit falls again into that pit, so likewise a Christian that commits iniquity has been delivered from the pit of eternal perdition, but of his own will he casts himself again into that pit. "But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire" (2 Pet. 2:22). 
To this calamitous condition belong o Prodigals, fornicators, and all that defile themselves in any way. o Thieves, brigands, robbers, and all that in any way unjustly acquire another's goods. o Malicious people, and those that harm the lives of their neighbor. o The sly, the cunning, hypocrites, and those that deal deceitfully with their neighbor. o Blasphemers, revilers, and slanderers. o Judges that give judgement according to bribes and gifts, and not according to their oath and to justice. o Cruel masters. o Merchants that sell inferior material for better, cheap for expensive, rotten for good, and take higher prices for their wares than they are worth. o Those that work sorcery and those that summon them to their homes. o All those that act against conscience and recklessly break the Law of God.
 "To all such has happened - according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire."Beloved Christians, washed in the laver of holy Baptism, let us examine ourselves, whether any of us have not turned away from Christ and fallen into the calamitous condition mentioned above. Whoever opposes the law works for the devil and is already far removed from Christ.Woe to Christians that commit iniquity after holy Baptism! "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the Day of Judgement than for such Christians" (Mt. 10:15)!Poor Christian, examine yourself and beware lest you become the eternal captive of the devil and destruction. "Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mk. 9:44). O God, spare Thy rational creature, made in Thine own image!
 from: Journey to Heaven Counsels On the Particular Duties of Every Christian Our Father Among the Saints, Tikhon of Zadonsk, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 2004.
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