Sunday, 26 May 2013

Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh -SUNDAY OF THE PARALYTIC

In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.

How tragic today's story of the life of Christ is. A man had been paralysed for years. He had lain at a short distance from healing, but he himself had no strength to merge into the waters of ablution. And no one - no one in the course of all these years - had had compassion on him.

The ones rushed to be the first in order to be healed. Others who were attached to them by love, by friendship, helped them to be healed. But no one cast a glance at this man, who for years had longed for healing and was not in himself able to find strength to become whole.

If only one person had been there, if only one heart had responded with compassion, this man might have been whole years and years earlier. As no one, not one person, had compassion on him, all that was left to him - and I say all that was left to him with a sense of horror - was the direct intervention of God.

We are surrounded by people who are in need. It is not only people who are physically paralysed who need help. There are so many people who are paralysed in themselves, and need to meet someone who would help them. Paralysed in themselves are those who are terrified of life, because life has been an object of terror for them since they were born: insensitive parents, heartless, brutal surroundings. How many are those who hoped, when they were still small, that there would be something for them in life. But no. There wasn't. There was no compassion. There was no friendliness. There was nothing. And when they tried to receive comfort and support, they did not receive it. Whenever they thought they could do something they were told, 'Don't try. Don't you understand that you are incapable of this?' And they felt lower and lower.

How many were unable to fulfil their lives because they were physically ill, and not sufficiently strong… But did they find someone to give them a supporting hand? Did they find anyone who felt so deeply for them and about them that they went out of their way to help? And how many those who are terrified of life, lived in circumstances of fear, of violence, of brutality… But all this could not have taken them if there had been someone who have stood by them and not abandoned them.

So we are surrounded, all of us, by people who are in the situation of this paralytic man. If we think of ourselves we will see that many of us are paralysed, incapable of fulfilling all their aspirations; incapable of being what they longed for, incapable of serving others the way their heart speaks; incapable of doing anything they longed for because fear, brokenness has come into them.

And all of us, all of us were responsible for each of them. We are responsible, mutually, for one another; because when we look right and left at the people who stand by us, what do we know about them? Do we know how broken they are? How much pain there is in their hearts? How much agony there has been in their lives? How many broken hopes, how much fear and rejection and contempt that has made them contemptuous of themselves and unable even to respect themselves - not to speak of having the courage of making a move towards wholeness, that wholeness of which the Gospel speaks in this passage and in so many other places?

Let us reflect on this. Let us look at each other and ask ourselves, 'How much frailty is there in him or her? How much pain has accumulated in his or her heart? How much fear of life - but life expressed by my neighbour, the people whom I should be able to count for life - has come in to my existence?

Let us look at one another with understanding, with attention. Christ is there. He can heal; yes. But we will be answerable for each other, because there are so many ways in which we should be the eyes of Christ who sees the needs, the ears of Christ who hears the cry, the hands of Christ who supports and heals or makes it possible for the person to be healed.

Let us look at this parable of the paralytic with new eyes; not thinking of this poor man two thousand years ago who was so lucky that Christ happened to be near him and in the end did what every neighbour should have done. Let us look at each other and have compassion, active compassion; insight; love if we can. And then this parable will not have been spoken or this event will not have been related to us in vain. Amen.


Elder Ephraim of Arizona - On Silence, Idle Talk, and Boldness

Elder Ephraim of Arizona(Philotheou ,Athos) 
Chapter Nine.

Compel yourself in silence, the mother of all godly virtues. Keep silent in order to say the prayer. For when one speaks, how is it possible to avoid idle talk, which gives rise to every evil word, which weighs the soul down with blame? At your work, flee conversation; only speak in moderation when necessary. Let the hands work for the needs of the body, and let the nous say the sweetest name of Christ, so that the need of the soul, which we must not forget even for a moment, will also be provided for.

2. Do not grieve for me, my child, but struggle ardently. Struggle in silence, prayer, and mourning, and you will find the elements of eternal life. Compel yourself; close your mouth both in joy and in mourning. This is a mark of experience, so that both states are kept safely. For the mouth does not know how to guard riches. Silence is the greatest and most fruitful virtue; for this reason the God-bearing Fathers called it sinlessness. Silence and stillness, one and the same thing. The first divine fruit of silence is mourning—godly sorrow, joyful sadness. Afterwards come luminous thoughts, which bring the holy flow of life-streaming tears, through which the second baptism* occurs and by which the soul is purified, shines, and becomes like the angels. Where shall I place, child of Jesus, the spiritual visions springing forth from silence? How the eyes of the intellect are opened and see Jesus with sweetness greater than that of honey! What a novel wonder is worked from lawful silence and an attentive intellect! You know these things, so struggle. I have revealed a little to you; compel yourself and you will find yet greater. I keep you in my prayers just as I promised you. I wonder, are you ready?
*The Holy Fathers speak of four “baptisms”: (1 ) the Mystery of Baptism; (2 ) the baptism of tears of repentance; (3 ) the baptism of tonsure into the monastic schema; and (4 ) the baptism of blood, i.e., martyrdom.

3. Do not speak unnecessary words, my child, for they chill your soul’s divine zeal. Love silence, which gives birth to all virtues and fences in the soul so that the devil’s evil does not approach it. “Better to fall from a height than with the tongue”. The tongue does the greatest harm to man.

4. Salvation is not gained when we speak idly or when we pass our days without keeping accounts. Be careful with your tongue and your thoughts, for guarding them fills the soul with the light of God. But he whose mouth is unbridled deposits various impurities in his soul.

5. Flee from idle words and laughter if you want your prayer to have boldness through tears and grace! Constantly say the prayer intensely, with zeal, with longing; only thus does one become strong in soul. Avoid idle words at all costs, for they weaken the soul and then it does not have the strength to struggle. This is no time for daydreaming, but a season for spiritual profit. Who can guarantee that after going to sleep, we shall wake up? Therefore, let us compel ourselves.

6. When one keeps silent, he is given time and freedom for prayer and concentration; but when he passes his hour carelessly, he does not have time to pray. Furthermore, through his careless speech he accumulates various sins. For this reason the Holy Fathers placed the virtue of silence at the summit of the virtues, for without it no virtue is able to remain in the soul of man.

7. Always be prudent in your words; that is, first think and then speak; do not let your tongue run ahead before you think what you have to say. Do not become bold in talking much, my child; many are the evils from this evil boldness. Flee from it as from fire or a viper!

8. Guard yourself from boldness in talking and untimely words; they dry up the soul of man. Silence, meekness, and the prayer, on the other hand, fill the soul with heavenly dew, with mourning full of sweetness. Despise idle talk as the mother of coldness and dryness*, for idle talk drives the tears away from our eyes; that is, it takes them away from us and our soul withers.

9. My child, have patience, humility, and love, and guard your tongue, for when it defeats a person, it becomes an irrepressible evil for him, sweeping away also other people in its course and casting them down into the abysses of sin. Yes, my child, you must guard your mouth so that your heart may be kept pure. And when it stays pure, God comes and dwells in it, and then it becomes a temple of God. The holy angels rejoice to be in such a heart! Likewise, drive away filthy thoughts with anger and the prayer; the prayer is a fire that burns and expels the demons.

10. Be careful with your mouth, but primarily with your mind; do not let evil thoughts start talking with you. Do not let your mouth say words that could perhaps wound your brother. Let your mouth put forth words which are fragrant: words of consolation, courage, and hope. It is a person’s mouth that reveals his interior, his inner man.

11. Struggle, my child, as much as you can to become forceful—force yourself in everything, especially in silence and in mournful tears. When silence is practiced with knowledge and maintained with tears, the foundation stone of monasticism is set, on which the secure house will be built wherein the soul will find spiritual warmth and comfort. It is a bad omen for the soul’s future if silence is not kept, since one who is not silent scatters whatever he gathers; for a monk who is free with his mouth will be disorderly in everything. When we are silent, we have the time for interior prayer, which brings full assurance, and the time for luminous thoughts, which fill the intellect and heart with light. Therefore, my child, compel yourself in everything, for the good beginning is praised, but the negligent beginning is censured, for its end is most lamentable.

12. We have so much material offered by the devil, the world, and our carelessness to talk about idly, so many events and stories that are taking place and will take place, that we have plenty to occupy ourselves with; while “the one thing needful”, to approach God through prayer, we have laid aside. Our need for this spiritual turning to God is so urgent that nothing else should preoccupy us other than how to be close to God by means of prayer and holy thoughts, which also greatly help us achieve this goal.

Taken from the book "Counsels from the Holy Mountain" By Elder Ephraim of Arizona+Philotheou(Mt.Athos)

Father Ioan Guțu

 Father Ioan Guțu 
Father Ioan Guțu was one of the most important Romanian praying Fathers who lived on Mount Athos. Born in 1906, in the Bessarabian* region of Soroca and reposed in the Lord on December 5, 1996, in his cell at the Holy Mountain, Fr. Ioan Guțu lived and died in complete humility.
Fr. Ioan Guțu left us a few words that can be looked upon as his true spiritual ”will”, according to which he himself worked his good deeds: “Let us love all good works equally; however, we should start with the fear of God and finish with our love for Him, which is the wreath of all good works. Prayer should lead the way in all our good works. More prayer, more humility, more love for God – will easily lead us to the Kingdom of Heaven. Let us pray for one another and hope that God will not leave us. That said, we need to be aware that we cannot acquire salvation without temptations, patience, and contrition.”

* * *

Fr. Ioan Guțu was born in 1906, in the Bessarabian town of Popești, region of Soroca. In 1926, after having graduated elementary school, at only 19 years of age, young Ioan left for the Holy Mountain, where he settled at the Vatopedi skete of Colciu, in a cell that was consecrated to the birth of St. John the Baptist.

Later on, after a visit that he made in his Athonite cell at Colciu, his father, glad to see his son’s pure life, told him: “See that you will die here.” Thus, it was in his cell at Colciu that the Fr. Ioan would spend the rest of his life in spiritual effort, namely over seventy years. All throughout that time, he never left the Holy Mountain except one time, when he did obedience to his Spiritual Father, Hieromonk Ilie Vulpe.

Speaking of this humble Hieromonk, Fr. Dionisie Ignat, who lived in St. George’s cell at Colciu, said: “His Spiritual Father was Ilie Vulpe. However, within a short time, the Elders around him died and he was left alone for tens of years. We lived next to Fr. Ioan as if we were brothers: there was no difference whatsoever between our two cells. We would spend all the holy days and great feasts together. Fr. Ioan Guțu was the most rigorous observer of monastic life I have ever met: one of the best monks ever and a very zealous and good man. Others tried to live next to him, too, but they weren’t able to. He was only a Priest; not a Spiritual Father. The moment the last Spiritual Father in his cell died, he stopped performing the service, out of humility.”

To all those who met him – although he never confessed people – Fr. Ioan Guțu was truly a great spiritual father: he would fast all the time, eating only once every few days; he would keep vigil at all times, sleeping only a few hours a night; and he would pray all the time, while doing countless prostrations.

Once, a younger brother asked him for some words of spiritual profit. Fr. Ioan told him: “I am a simple man and have no such words. I, too, ask for spiritual advice and counseling from others, who are more advanced spiritually. Yet I can say this much: if we fulfill our monastic vows and complete our life’s journey as we have started it, we can hope for salvation.”

During the last years of his life, because of his efforts and his long years, Fr. Ioan got ill. Yet even so, he didn’t call for any doctors and continued his monastic canon all the way to the end, without sparing himself any part of it. As a result of that, well over two months ahead of his repose, he told his apprentice the date of his departure from this world.

Fr. Ioan Guțu reposed in the Lord on December 5, 1996, aged 91, after having led a holy life. On December 3, he confessed to Fr. Dionisie Ignat, took part in the day’s services and received the Holy Mysteries. Then after having asked for forgiveness from all the monks living at Colciu, he withdrew peacefully into his cell. According to his apprentice, Hieromonk Augustin, Fr. Ioan Guțu was “a model of humility in everything: from clothing, to food, his cell, his way of speaking… everything. We have learnt a lot from him”.

* Bessarabia = the current Republic of Moldova

* * *

Between 1906 and 1996 (December 5), for 90 years, Abba Ioan amassed so much grace and humility, that he attained a most profound innocence. He was a great faster (as he would eat every two days) and a great ascetic worker (as he would sleep three hours a night, at most, sitting on a stool), and a great prayer (he would do prostrations even when his legs started to bleed, in his old days), and he never used medicines. He didn’t speak much, because if you did not take profit from his silence, there would be no reason for you to ask for any of his advice (and isn’t it that we can learn about humility only by looking at it?). He always thought that “we must start with the fear of God and finish with our love for Him – and put much humility and prayer in between these two and we will get to the Kingdom of Heaven”.

For his efforts, God revealed him the hour of his departure ahead of time, so he took care of everything else that needed to be put straight in his life, two months beforehand, asked for forgiveness from all his brethren – including the ones in St. George’s cell, where Fr. Dionisie Ignat lived (and who also confessed him) – and, on the day of Holy Savvas, he went to the Lord.

Fr. Ilie of Colciu used to recall that one year, they had nothing left to celebrate the patron saint/feast of the cell. They went down to the sea and laid out their nets but caught nothing. Since it was already St. John’s eve, they went to Abba Ioan and with a saddened heart, asked for his advice. Geronta told them: “Go back to the shore and bring that big fish.” The fathers would have liked to tell him that that is where they were coming from, but they kept quiet and did obedience. As soon as they got back to the shore, they were surprised to see quite a large fish, heading towards them, which would have been enough to feed all of them for two days. They took it out of the shallow water with their bare hands and praised the Lord.

In one of the last years of his life (in November 1996), Abba Ioan Guțu met with a young man who later on became Minister of the Department of Cults in Romania […]. The young man asked him: “Father, what do you deem that you have acquired during your 70 years of prayer at Mount Athos?” And the Elder told him: “I have acquired boldness before God”…

As he was working in the garden with Abba Ioan once, Fr. Augustin, his apprentice during his last years, told him in a slightly jesting tone: “Father, please pray to God, as you have acquired credit before Him, to send us a spring that would be closer to our cells, so that we don’t need to carry the water all the way up here from the valley”. The Elder didn’t say anything then, but towards that autumn, as the apprentice had all but forgotten his comment, fresh water sprung one day on the coast above the cell, just a few meters away from their garden plot… It is from that spring that the monks take their water from to this day.

Once, a Greek brother came over from the Vatopedi Monastery, to hear a word of profit from the Elder. And upon receiving his blessing, he meant to take his leave, but the Elder greeted him: “Kalos taxidis, pater Athanasios”. The brother wasn’t even a monk at that time, but when he tried to point that out, Abba told him: “It isn’t according to your will, but according to God’s will in your regard”. Today, one can find Father Athanasios living in that same community at Vatopedi.

Elder Ioan made himself inconspicuous, casting off his own will, but upon doing that he also cast off all worries, thus amassing peace for himself and also providing rest to his brethren…

George Crăsnean

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...