Tuesday, 19 February 2013

St. John Damascene-On Facing East

St. John of Damascus 676-749
It is not without reason or by chance that we worship towards the East. But seeing that we are composed of a visible and an invisible nature, that is to say, of a nature partly of spirit and partly of sense, we render also a twofold worship to the Creator; just as we sing both with our spirit and our bodily lips, and are baptized with both water and Spirit, and are united with the Lord in a twofold manner, being sharers in the mysteries and in the grace of the Spirit.
Since, therefore, God is spiritual light 1 John 1:5, and Christ is called in the Scriptures Sun of Righteousness Malachi 4:2 and Dayspring , the East is the direction that must be assigned to His worship. For everything good must be assigned to Him from Whom every good thing arises. Indeed the divine David also says, Sing unto God, you kingdoms of the earth: O sing praises unto the Lord: to Him that rides upon the Heavens of heavens towards the East. Moreover the Scripture also says, And God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed Genesis 2:8: and when he had transgressed His command He expelled him and made him to dwell over against the delights of Paradise , which clearly is the West. So, then, we worship God seeking and striving after our old fatherland. Moreover the tent of Moses Leviticus 16:14 had its veil and mercy seat towards the East. Also the tribe of Judah as the most precious pitched their camp on the East. Numbers 2:3 Also in the celebrated temple of Solomon the Gate of the Lord was placed eastward. Moreover Christ, when He hung on the Cross, had His face turned towards the West, and so we worship, striving after Him. And when He was received again into Heaven He was borne towards the East, and thus His apostles worship Him, and thus He will come again in the way in which they beheld Him going towards Heaven Acts 1:11; as the Lord Himself said, As the lightning comes out of the East and shines even unto the West, so also shall the coming of the Son of Man be Matthew 24:27 .
So, then, in expectation of His coming we worship towards the East. But this tradition of the apostles is unwritten. For much that has been handed down to us by tradition is unwritten. (An Exposition of the Orthodox Faith Bk. IV.12)

St. Nikodemos the Hagiorite-On Stasidia

St. Nicodemus the Hagiorite 1749-1809
Compunction and tears are engendered by the outwards postures of the body; that is, when one prays with head uncovered; when he has the attitude of a condemned man standing before the judge; when he smites his breast like the Publican; when he keeps his eyes inclined downwards; when he gathers his thoughts in his heart; when he stands upright in his Stasidion. Indeed, Stasidia were designed for this very purpose, to support the arms of Christians and to maintain them in the posture of one praying throughout the time that they are standing in Church. This would be impossible if there were no Stasidia, since the arms of those at prayer would become weary if held up to God for a long period of time. That lifting the hands in prayer was a custom of the Prophets and Apostles is attested, on the one hand, by the Divine David, who says, “Let my prayer be set forth before Thee as incense, the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice,” (Ps. 140:2) and, on the other hand, by the great Paul, who says, “I desire therefore that men pray in every place, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and disputing” (1 Tim. 2:8). To put it briefly, Stasidia sustain Christians in Church in the form of one crucified, and through such a form of the Cross Christians overcome the passions and the demons, invoking the help of the crucified Savior. In this way, Moses, held up by Hur and Aaron in the form of a Cross, overcame the Amalekites (Exo. 17:11-12). These outward and venerable postures, I say, give rise to compunction and tears in prayer. For the soul within conforms to the outward postures of the body, according to St. John the Ladder, who says: “The soul imitates the activities of the body, is molded in accordance with what the whole body does, and is made to conform thereto” (Ladder, 25). (Christian Morality pg. 492)

How the enemy keeps in his nets those who have realised their perilous position and wish to be free of it, but make no move. And the reason why our good intentions are so often not fulfilled

Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite- Unseen Warfare

Those, who have realised how dangerous and evil is the life they lead, the devil succeeds in keeping in his power, mainly by the
following simple but all-powerful suggestion: ‘Later, later; tomorrow, to-morrow.” And the poor sinner, deluded by the appearance
of good intention accompanying this suggestion, decides: ‘Indeed, to-morrow; to-day I shall finish what I have to do, and then, free
of all care, will put myself in the hands of Divine grace and will follow unswervingly the path of spiritual life. To-day I shall do this
and that; to-morrow I shall repent.” This is the net of the devil, my brother, with which he catches a great many, and holds the
whole world in his hands. The reason why this net catches us so easily is our negligence and blindness. Nothing but negligence and
blindness can explain why, when the whole of our salvation and all the glory of God are at stake, we fail to use immediately the most
easy and simple and yet the most effective weapon, namely: to say to ourselves, resolutely and energetically: ‘This moment! I shall
start spiritual life this moment, and not later; I shall repent now, instead of to-morrow. Now, this moment is in my hands, tomorrow
and after is in the hands of God. Even if God will grant me’ to-morrow and after, can I be sure that I shall have to-morrow
the same good thought urging me to mend my ways?’ Moreover, how senseless it is when, for example, a sure remedy is offered for
curing one’s illness, to say: ‘ Wait, let me be sick a little longer!” And a man who delays the work of salvation does exactly this.
So, if you wish to be free of the prelest of the enemy and to over come him, take up at once this trusty weapon against him and
obey immediately in actual deed the good thoughts and promptings coming from the Lord and calling you to repent. Do not allow
the slightest delay, do not permit yourself to say: ‘I have made a firm resolve to repent a little later and I shall not abandon this
intention.” No, no, do not do this. Such resolutions have always proved deceptive and many people, who relied on them, have for
many reasons remained unrepentant to the end of their lives.
(a) The first of these reasons is that our own resolutions are not based on distrust of ourselves and a firm trust in God. Therefore
we are not devoid of high opinion of ourselves, the inevitable consequence of which is always withdrawal from us of the blessed
Divine help and our consequent inevitable downfall. This is why a man, who decides in himself: ‘ To-morrow I shall abandon the
path of sin without fail ‘, always meets with the opposite effect— that is, instead of rising up he falls down worse than before, which
is followed by downfall after downfall. God sometimes allows this to happen deliberately, in order to bring the self-reliant to the
realisation of his weakness and urge him to seek Divine help, renouncing and abandoning all trust in himself, since God’s help alone
can be trusted. Do you want to know, 0 man, when your own decisions will be firm and reliable? When you abandon all trust in
yourself and when all your hopes are based on humility and a steadfast trust in God alone.
(b) The second reason is that in making such resolutions we mostly have in view the beauty and radiance of virtue, which attract our
will, however weak and impotent it may be; and so naturally the difficult side of virtue escapes our attention. To-day this side
escapes notice, because the beauty of virtue strongly attracts our will; but to-morrow, when the usual works and cares present
themselves, this attraction will not be so strong, although the intention is still remembered. When desire weakens, the will also
becomes weaker or relapses into its natural impotence, and at the same time the difficult side of virtue stands out and strikes the eye;
for the path of virtue is by its nature hard, and is hardest of all at the first step. Now let us suppose that the man, who decided
yesterday to enter upon this path, today does so; he no longer feels any support for carrying out his decision. The desire has lost its
intensity, the will has weakened, nothing but obstacles are in sight—in himself, in the habitual course of his life, in the usual
relationships with others. And so he decides: ‘I shall wait a while and gather my strength.” Thus he goes on waiting from day to day,
and it is no wonder if he waits all his life. And yet had he started work yesterday, when the inspiring desire to mend his ways came
upon him, had he done one thing or another in obedience to this desire, had be introduced into his life something in this spirit—
today his desire and will would not be so weak as to retreat in the face of obstacles. There must be obstacles, but if the man had
something to lean on in himself, he would have overcome them, be it with difficulty. Had he been occupied all day with overcoming
them, the next day he would have felt them far less; and on the third day still less. Thus going further and further he would have
become established on the right path.
(c) The third reason is that if the good of awakening from sinful sleep is not translated into practice, such awakenings do not easily
come again; and even if they do come, their effect on the will is less strong than the first time. The will is no longer as quick in
inclining towards following them and so, even if the resolve to do so is there, it is weak and lacks energy. Consequently, if a man was
able to put off till to-morrow obedience to a stronger impulse and then lost it altogether, how much more easily will he do this a
second time, and still more easily the third. And so it goes on: the more often obedience to good impulses is put off, the weaker
their effect. After a time they lose their effect altogether, come and go without leaving a trace, and finally cease to come at all.
 The man surrenders himself to his downfall: his heart hardens and he begins to feel an aversion from good impulses. Thus delay
becomes a straight road to final perdition.
I shall add also that delays occur not only when an inner impulse is felt to exchange one’s bad life for a better, but also when a man
already leads a good life. For instance, when an opportunity presents itself to do good and a man puts it off till to-morrow or till
some other indefinite time. All that was said about the first form of delay applies to this second one, and it may lead to the same
consequences. Know that if someone misses a chance to do good, he not only deprives himself of the fruit of the good he might
have done, but also offends God. God sends him a man in need, and he says: ‘Go away, later!’ Although he says this to a man, it is
the same as saying it to God, Who has sent him. God will find him another benefactor; but the man who refused will have to

Taken from "Unseen Warfare" By St.Nikodemos the Hagiorite
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