Monday, 14 October 2013

ST. NICODEMUS OF THE HOLY MOUNTAIN -On Guarding the Sense of Touch

An excerpt from "Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain: A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel," 

We have reached in our discussion the fifth sense, which is the sense of touch. Even though the activity of this sense is generally considered to be concentrated in the hands, it actually encompasses the entire surface of the body so that every feeling and every part and every organ of the body both external and internal becomes an instrument of this sense of touch. Guard yourself then with great attention from such tender touches that arouse strong feelings, feelings that are mostly in the body and most vulnerable to sin. St. Gregory of Nyssa, in interpreting a passage in the Song of Songs, commented that the sense of touch is the subservient sense, the one most likely created by nature for the blind. It is most difficult for one to be free from the power of this sense, once it has been activated. This is why one must be careful to guard it with all his power.
Even though the power of the other senses seems to be active, it nevertheless seems to be far from the enactment of sin. But the sense of touch is the closest to this enactment and certainly the very beginning and the initial action of the deed.


Be careful not to bring your hands and your feet close to other bodies, especially of the young. Be especially careful not to stretch your hands to touch anything, unless it is necessary, nor upon members of your body, or even to scratch yourself, as St. Isaac the Syrian and other holy Fathers have taught. Even from such minor activities, the sense of touch becomes accustomed, or to put it more correctly, the devil seeks to arouse us toward sin and at the same time to raise up into our mind improper images of desire that pollute the beauty of prudent thoughts. This is why St. John Climacus wrote: "It so happens that we are polluted bodily through the sense of touch." Even when you go out for the natural needs of your body respect your guardian angel, as St. Isaac has reminded us. Elsewhere this same father has written: "Virgin is not one who has merely preserved one's body from sexual intercourse, but one who is modest unto oneself even when alone."

The pagan Pythagoras taught that even if there were no other spectator of human evils in heaven or earth, man should have a sense of modesty and shame for himself. When someone does evil, he dishonors and degrades himself. The ancient Athenians had a temple dedicated to the goddess of modesty that would act in the place of God upon the true conscience. Now, if these pagans taught this and had such shame for themselves, when alone, how much more should we Christians be ashamed of ourselves when we are alone in a closed room, or in an isolated lonely place or even in the darkness of night? For it is only right that the modesty and reverence we feel when in a holy temple be also felt for ourselves, since we are a temple of God and the grace of the Holy Spirit. "For we are the temple of the living God" (II Corinthians 6:16).

Again St. Paul wrote: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God?" (I Corinthians 6:19). St. John Chrysostom has taught us also that our bodies are even more honorable and more revered than a temple. We are a living and rational temple, while a building- temple is lifeless and irrational. Moreover, Christ died for us and not for temples. Therefore it follows that more shame and modesty should be kept for ourselves and for our bodies than for the temple. For this reason, then, anyone who would dare to degrade the holy temple of his body by committing some sinful deed will in truth be more sinful than those who would desecrate the most famous temple.

Again, our pagan forefathers sought to teach men to avoid shameful deeds by asking them to imagine the presence of some important and revered person. If the imaginary presence of mortal men can avert one from doing evil when found alone, how much more can the true and abiding presence of the true and omnipresent and immortal God, who not only sees the external deeds of men but also knows the inner thoughts and feelings of the heart?

Most foolish then are those who are by themselves alone in an isolated or dark place and who have no self-respect and shame, nor remember the presence of God. They may say: "I am now in this darkness, who can see me?" God condemns such persons as being foolish. "Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? . . . Do I not fill heaven and earth?" (Jeremiah 23:24). "A man who breaks his marriage vows says to himself, "Who sees me? Darkness surrounds me, and the walls hide me, and no one sees me. Why should I fear? The most High will not take notice of my sins." His fear is confined to the eyes of men, and he does not realize that the eyes of the Lord and ten thousand times brighter than the sun" (Sirach 23:18 - 19).


The use of soft and fine clothing is another matter that we can relate to the sense of touch. Now, if I may be permitted to be more blunt, I want to emphasize especially to hierarchs and priests that they not fall into the error of fantastic apparel which unfortunately many experience because of their bad habits from childhood and the bad examples of others. St. John Chrysostom, first of all, reminded us that the very custom of covering the body with clothing is a perpetual reminder of our exile from Paradise and our punishment, which we received after our disobedience. We who were previously in Paradise, covered by the divine grace and having no need of clothing, find ourselves now in need of covering and clothing for our bodies. The forefathers were naked before the disobedience but not ashamed; after the disobedience they sewed fig leaves together and coverings for their bodies (Genesis 3:7).

Therefore, what is the reason for this reminder of our sin and punishment to be done with bright and expensive clothing? "The use of clothing has become a perpetual reminder for us of our exile from the good things of Paradise and a lesson of our punishment which the human race received as a consequence of the original sin of disobedience. There are those who are so affected in their vain imaginations that they say to us that they no longer know the clothing that is made by the wool of the sheep and that they now wear only clothes made of silk . . . . Tell me now, for whom do you so clothe your body? Why are you glad over your particular set of clothing? Why don't you heed St. Paul who wrote: "If we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content" (I Timothy 6:8).


In this sense of touch we must also include the soft and comfortable beds and everything that has to do with our comfort. Inasmuch as these may contribute to our spiritual harm, they must be avoided by all, but especially the young. Such comforts weaken the body; they submerge it into constant sleep; they warm it beyond measure, and therefore kindle the heat of passion. This is why the prophet Amos wrote: "Woe to those who lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches" (Amos 6:4). Once a young monk asked an elder (monk) how to guard himself against the carnal passions. The elder replied that he should avoid overeating, avoid slander and all those activities which excite carnal passions. The monk however was unable to find the cure for his passion even after observing carefully all the admonitions of the elder. He would return to the elder again and again for advice until he became a burden for the elder. Finally, the patient elder got up and followed the brother to his cell. Upon seeing the soft bed where he slept, the elder exclaimed: "Here, here, is the cause of your struggle with carnal desire, dear brother!" . . . 

From Chamberas, Peter A. (trans.), "Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain: A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel," (New York: Paulist Press, 1989), pp. 120 - 131

Γ.Αιμιλιανός Σιμωνοπετρίτης -Ὅταν ἁμαρτάνει τὸ παιδί;

  Γέροντας Αἰμιλιανός Σιμωνοπετρίτης

Ὅταν ἁμαρτάνει τὸ παιδί;

Τὸ σκοτάδι, ὡς συνέπεια τῆς πτώσεως τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, δὲν βγάζει ποτὲ στὸ φῶς. Τὸ φῶς διαλύει τὸ σκοτάδι, διότι τὸ σκοτάδι εἶναι ἀνυπόστατο, δὲν ἔχει οὐσία. Ὑπάρχει ὅμως μία περίπτωσις τὴν ὁποία πανσόφως ἐκμεταλλεύεται ὁ παντουργὸς Θεὸς γιὰ τὸ καλό μας, βγάζοντας καὶ ἀπὸ τὸ κακὸ καλό, ἀπὸ τὸ σκοτάδι φῶς.
Πῶς; Διὰ τῆς μετανοίας. Βλέπω τὴν κακία μου, τὴν ἁμαρτία μου, μετανοῶ, κλαίω, θρηνῶ, ὁδηγοῦμαι στὸν Θεόν, ἀναλαμβάνω τὶς εὐθύνες μου, νήφω, καρτερῶ, καὶ μέσα μου καλλιεργεῖται ὁ καινούργιος ἄνθρωπος ποὺ βγαίνει ἀπὸ τὴν μετάνοια.
Ἄρα, τὸ καλὸ δὲν βγαίνει ἀπὸ τὸ κακό, ἀλλὰ ἀπὸ τὴν μετὰνοια, ποὺ εἶναι ἄλλος νοῦς, ὁ νοῦς ποὺ τὸν παρέχει ὁ Θεὸς μέσα στὴν καρδιά.
Ὅταν ἀνησυχῆ, λόγου χάριν, ὁ πατέρας ἢ ἡ μητέρα, ἐπειδὴ ἁμαρτάνει τὸ παιδί, καὶ τὸ κτυπᾶ, ὁπωσδήποτε θὰ βγάλη ἀντίθετο ἀποτέλεσμα. Διότι, ἐὰν τὸ παιδὶ κάνη ἁμαρτίες, σημαίνει ὅτι ζητάει τὴν ἁμαρτία καὶ θὰ τὰ βάλη μὲ σένα, ποὺ γίνεσαι κήρυξ τῆς ἀρετῆς. Καὶ τώρα μὲν φοβᾶται νὰ ἁμαρτήση, ἀλλὰ μόλις ἀπελευθερωθῆ ἀπὸ σένα, θὰ ὁδηγηθῆ ἀμέσως στὸ κακό. Ἡ βία, τὸ κακό, δὲν μπορεῖ νὰ βγάλη καλό.

Πὲς λοιπὸν στὸ παιδάκι σου τὸ καλό, μάθε του τί εἶναι ὁ Θεός. Μίλησέ του ἀπὸ τὸ πλήρωμα τῆς δικῆς σου καρδιᾶς, φώτισέ του λίγο τὴν συνείδησι μὲ τὴν δική σου λαχτάρα καὶ θεία ἐμπειρία, καὶ μπαίνοντας μέσα του ὁ Θεός, θὰ τὸν ἀγαπήση.

Μπορεῖ νὰ βρίζη, μπορεῖ νὰ κάνη ἁμαρτίες, ἀλλὰ ἔχοντας τὰ σπέρματα τοῦ Θεοῦ, ποὺ εἶναι τόσο ἰσχυρά, ὁ Θεὸς τὰ καλλιεργεῖ καὶ βγαίνει ἡ καινούργια φύτρα, τὸ καινούργιο βλαστάρι, τὸ ὁποῖο δίδει καινούργια ζωή. Αὐτὴ εἶναι ἡ μετάνοια.
Τὸ παιδὶ δηλαδὴ αὐτό, ἐπειδὴ τὸ ἀφήνεις ἐλεύθερο, ἐπειδὴ τὸ σέβεσαι, ἐπειδὴ τοῦ εἶπες τὴν ἀλήθεια, ἐπειδὴ τοῦ ἀπεκάλυψες τί ἔχει ἡ καρδούλα σου καὶ τί κόσμοι ὑπάρχουν μέσα σὲ αὐτήν, λέγει μετά: Μά, τί φρικτὴ ζωὴ ποὺ κάνω!
Τί εἶναι αὐτὴ ἡ ἁμαρτία! «Ἀναστήσομαι καὶ ἐπιστρέψω εἰς τὸν Πατέρα» (Λουκ. 15, 18). Καὶ ὁ βλαστὸς τῆς μετανοίας βγάζει τὸν καρπὸ τῆς καινῆς ζωῆς. Ἔτσι τὰ καταφέρνει ὁ Θεὸς νὰ βγάζη καὶ ἀπὸ τὸ στόμα τοῦ λύκου τὴν σωτηρία.
Ὁ Ἰώβ, ἀπὸ τὴν κατάρα στὴν ὁποία εἶχε πέσει, ἔβγαλε τὴν εὐλογία τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ ἀνεκαινίσθη. Ὁ Μωυσῆς ὁ Αἰθίοψ, ἀπὸ τὰ ἐγκλήματα καὶ τὶς ληστεῖες, ἔβγαλε τὴν καινούργια ἀσκητικώτατη ζωὴ καὶ ἔγινε ἀγνώριστος. Δὲν τὸν γνώρισαν κἄν οἱ παλαιοὶ σύντροφοί του καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι ληστὲς· τόσο «ἀνεκαινίσθη ὡς ἀετοῦ ἡ νεότης του» (Ψαλμ. 102, 5), ἔγινε καινούργια ἡ ζωή του.
Ἑπομένως, μποροῦμε νὰ ποῦμε: Ὅποιος εἶναι θυμώδης, ἂς στρέψη ὅλον τὸν θυμό, ὅλη τὴν ἐσωτερικὴ ἔντασί του πρὸς τὴ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ, πρὸς τὴν εἰρήνη, πρὸς τὰ σωτήρια λόγια, πρὸς τὸ «Κύριε Ἰησοῦ Χριστέ, ἐλέησόν με, τὸν ἁμαρτωλόν», χρησιμοποιώντας ὅποιον τρόπο τὸν βοηθεῖ. Κάποιος τὸ ἔλεγε, κτυπώντας τὰ χέρια του.
Τὸν εἶδα καὶ τὸν ρώτησα: Τί κάνεις ἐκεῖ; Καὶ μοῦ ἀπήντησε: Εἶχα μάθει μὲ τὰ μηχανήματα νὰ κουνῶ τὰ χέρια μου καὶ δὲν μπορῶ τώρα νὰ κάνω ἀλλοιῶς. Μπράβο, τοῦ λέγω, συγχαρητήρια. Βλέπετε πῶς τὸ κακό, ὁ θόρυβος, ποὺ εἶναι τὸ χειρότερο κακό, μπορεῖ νὰ βγάλη καὶ καλό; Κάποιος θαλασσινὸς τὸ ἔλεγε, ἔχοντας τὴν ἐντύπωσι ὅτι ἔπιανε τὰ κουπιά, γι' αὐτὸ καὶ κουνοῦσε τὰ χέρια του. Πραγματικὰ ἔπιανε τὸ κουπί, τὸν Χριστόν.
Ἄρα, τὸ πᾶν μποροῦμε νὰ χρησιμοποιήσωμε. Ὅ,τι μᾶς δίνει ὁ Θεός, ὅ,τι μᾶς κάνουν οἱ ἄλλοι, ὅ,τι παθαίνομε μέσα μας καὶ γύρω μας, ὅλα εἶναι μεταγωγικὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν. Τόσο ἀπέραντη εἶναι ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ Θεοῦ. Μόνον τὰ ἀποβράσματα τοῦ ἐγώ μας δὲν εἶναι σωτήρια. Αὐτὰ μᾶς ἀπομακρύνουν ἀπὸ τὸν Θεόν.
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