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Evil thoughts go be­fore a fall

March 25, 2019 | Saint Theophan

emA haugh­ty spir­it goeth be­fore a fall/em(Prov. 16:18).[1] There­fore, do not al­low evil thoughts to come in, and there will be no falls. And yet what are peo­ple most care­less a­bout? A­bout their thoughts. They al­low them to seethe as much and how­ev­er they like, not even think­ing to sub­due them, or to di­rect them to ra­tio­nal pur­suits. Mean­while, with­in this in­ner tur­moil the en­e­my ap­proach­es, places evil in the heart, se­duces it and in­clines it to­ward evil. And the per­son un­no­tice­ab­ly pre­pares him­self for evil. It re­mains for him to ei­ther car­ry out the evil fixed to his heart, or to strug­gle with it. But this is our sor­row: that al­most no­body takes on the strug­gle; while all are led to the evil as if bound.[1] The Sla­von­ic for Prov. 16:18 reads: emEvil thoughts go be­fore a fall./emProb­a­bly St. The­o­phan used the Sla­von­ic ver­sion as he wrote, but the ed­i­tor used the Rus­sian ver­sion, and so the ed­i­tor add­ed the words, “evil thoughts” in pa­ren­the­ses in my ver­sion of the text)

God wants to soft­en our stony heart

March 11, 2019 | Saint Theophan

Tues­day. emAnd Cain said un­to the Lord, My pun­ish­ment is great­er than I can bear/em (Gen. 4:13). Was it pos­si­ble to talk like this be­fore the coun­te­nance of God, Who is strict of course in righ­teous­ness, but is al­ways read­y to have mer­cy up­on a sin­ner who tru­ly re­pents? En­vy ob­scured sen­si­ble thoughts, de­lib­er­ate trans­gres­sion hard­en­ed his heart, and be­hold, Cain rude­ly an­swers to God Him­self: emAm I my broth­er’s keep­er?/em (Gen. 4:9). God wants to soft­en his stony heart with the ham­mer of His strict judge­ment; but Cain does not give in, and locked in his coarse­ness, he com­mits him­self to the lot which he pre­pared for him­self through his en­vy and mur­der. What is a­maz­ing is that af­ter this he lived like any­one else: he had chil­dren, es­tab­lish­ed a house­hold and main­tain­ed earth­ly re­la­tions. Yet the mark of be­ing out­cast and of his de­spair still lay on him. So it is an in­ner af­fair, which oc­curs in the con­science, out of the re­al­i­za­tion of one’s re­la­tion to God, un­der the in­flu­ence of bur­den­some pas­sions, sin­ful hab­its, and deeds. Let peo­ple heed this now es­pe­cial­ly! But to­geth­er with this let peo­ple res­ur­rect their be­lief that there is no sin great­er than God’s mer­cy; how­ev­er, both time and work are need­ed to soft­en the heart. But it is ei­ther sal­va­tion, or ru­in!

Great Lent Has Come

March 4, 2019 | Saint Theophan

Mon­day (1st Week of Lent). “Lent has come, O moth­er of chas­ti­ty.” What was the time be­fore this day? A time of for­ni­ca­tion.[1] The soul for­ni­cat­ed with all that struck its eye as pleas­ant — both with peo­ple and with things: more ful­ly, with sin­ful pas­sions. Ev­ery­one has his pas­sion which he pleas­es in all he does. It is time to put an end to this. May each of you com­pre­hend your De­li­lah, who binds you and hands you over to evil en­e­mies, and aban­don her. Then you will be giv­en more than Sam­son: not on­ly shall your hair grow, but so al­so shall good thoughts; and not on­ly shall your strength re­turn, but so al­so your strength of will. Your eyes shall al­so o­pen, your mind shall have sight and it shall see the Lord, your­self, and ev­ery­thing a­round you in the prop­er light. This is the fa­vour­able time! This is the day of sal­va­tion![1] “A time of for­ni­ca­tion.” For­ni­ca­tion here has a dou­ble mean­ing in Rus­sian, both of for­ni­ca­tion and roam­ing.

Parable of the ten pounds

December 5, 2014 | Saint Theophan, Uncategorized

Fri­day. [II Tim. 1:1–2, 8–18; Luke 19:12–28] The par­a­ble of the ten pounds por­trays the en­tire his­to­ry of man­kind un­til the sec­ond com­ing of Christ. In it the Lord speaks of Him­self, of His suf­fer­ings, death, and res­ur­rec­tion to the Heav­en­ly Fa­ther, to reign over man­kind — all of which is His birth­right. Those who re­main on the earth are di­vid­ed in­to two parts: ser­vants, serv­ing the Lord through obe­di­ence to the faith, and those who do not want to have Him as king and serve Him, be­cause of their un­be­lief. To those who ap­proach the Lord through faith, with a read­i­ness to serve Him, are giv­en the gifts of the Ho­ly Spir­it in the ho­ly mys­ter­ies: this is a pound — and ev­ery per­son num­bered a­mongst the be­liev­ers re­ceives it for serv­ing. When ev­ery­one from the hu­man race ca­pa­ble of sub­mit­ting to the Lord sub­mits to Him, then He will come again, as One who has re­ceiv­ed the King­dom. His first job will be to judge a­mong the ser­vants: who ac­quired what with the grace giv­en. Then will fol­low judg­ment al­so over those who did not want to have Him as king; that is who ei­ther did not be­lieve, or who fell from faith. Im­print these truths in your mind and do not lose at­ten­tion to them, for then there will be a de­ci­sion — do not ex­pect any chang­es. Flee un­be­lief, nei­ther be­lieve idly, but bring forth the fruits of faith. Find­ing you faith­ful over a few things, the Lord will make you rul­er over man­y things (cf. Matt. 25:21).

The saying was hidden from them

December 4, 2014 | Saint Theophan, Uncategorized

Thurs­day. [I Tim. 6:17–21; Luke 18:31–34] The Lord told the dis­ci­ples a­bout His suf­fer­ing, but they did not un­der­stand any­thing He was say­ing; This say­ing was hid from them. Lat­er, the faith­ful de­ter­mined not to know any thing, save Je­sus Christ, and him cru­ci­fied (I Cor. 2:2). The time had not come, they did not un­der­stand any of this mys­tery; but when the time came — they un­der­stood, and taught ev­ery­one, and in­ter­pret­ed for ev­ery­one. This hap­pens with ev­ery­one, not on­ly with re­la­tion to this mys­tery, but to all the oth­er mys­ter­ies as well. What is not un­der­stood in the be­gin­ning, with time be­comes un­der­stood; it is as if a ray of light en­ters the con­scious­ness and bright­ens what was for­mer­ly dark. Who elu­ci­dates it? The Lord Him­self, the grace of the Spir­it that lives in the faith­ful, one’s guard­ian an­gel — on­ly in no way the per­son him­self. He is a re­cip­i­ent, and not the cause. On the oth­er hand, an­oth­er thing may re­main in­com­pre­hen­si­ble for one’s whole life — not on­ly for in­div­id­u­als, but for all of hu­man­i­ty. Man is sur­round­ed by things he does not un­der­stand — some are ex­plain­ed to him in the course of his life, while oth­ers are left un­til the next life, where it will be seen. This ap­plies even to minds en­light­ened by God. Why is it not re­veal­ed here? Be­cause some things are in­com­pre­hen­si­ble, so there is no point in talk­ing a­bout them; oth­ers are not told out of con­sid­er­a­tions for health — that is, it would be harm­ful to know pre­ma­ture­ly. Much will be­come clear in the oth­er life, but oth­er sub­jects and oth­er mys­ter­ies will be re­veal­ed. For a cre­ated mind there is nev­er a sur­plus of in­scru­ta­ble mys­ter­ies. The mind rebels a­gainst these bonds: but wheth­er you reb­el or not, you can­not sev­er the bonds of mys­tery. Be­come hum­ble, proud mind, be­neath the strong hand of God — and be­lieve!

Stray Sheep

November 27, 2014 | Saint Theophan, Uncategorized

Wednes­day. [I Tim. 1:18–20, 2:8–15; Luke 15:1–10] The par­a­ble a­bout the stray sheep and the lost sil­ver piece. How great is the Lord’s mer­cy to­ward us sin­ners! He leaves all those who are prop­er and turns to the im­prop­er to cor­rect them; He seeks them, and when He finds them, He Him­self re­joic­es and calls all the heav­ens to re­joice with Him. How is it that He seeks them? Does He not know where we are who have step­ped a­way from Him? He knows and sees all; but if it were on­ly a mat­ter of tak­ing and trans­fer­ring them to His own, all sin­ners would im­me­di­ate­ly re­ap­pear in the same ranks. But one must first dis­pose them to re­pen­tance, so that their con­ver­sion and re­turn to the Lord would be free; and this can­not be done by com­mand or oth­er ex­ter­nal or­der. The Lord seeks a sin­ner by guid­ing him to re­pen­tance. He ar­ranges ev­ery­thing a­round him so that the sin­ner comes to his sens­es, and, see­ing the a­byss in­to which he has been rush­ing, re­turns. All the cir­cum­stances of life are di­rect­ed in this way, all meet­ings with mo­ments of sor­row and joy, even words and looks. And the in­ner ac­tions of God through the con­science and oth­er right thoughts ly­ing in the heart nev­er cease. How much is done to con­vert sin­ners to the path of vir­tue, while sin­ners still re­main sin­ners!… The en­e­my cov­ers them in dark­ness and they think that ev­ery­thing is all right, and all will pass. If wor­ries a­rise they say, “To­mor­row I will stop,” and re­main in their for­mer state. Thus day af­ter day pass­es; in­dif­fer­ence to their sal­va­tion grows and grows. A bit more and it will hard­en in­to sin. Who knows if con­ver­sion will come?

Whoever confesses the Lord, confesses God

October 29, 2014 | Saint Theophan, Uncategorized

Wednes­day. [Col. 3:17–4:1; Luke 9:44–50] Who­so­ev­er shall re­ceive Me, re­ceiv­eth Him that sent Me, said the Lord, while He that sent Him is God. Con­se­quent­ly, who­so­ev­er con­fess­es the Lord, con­fess­es God; where­as who­so­ev­er does not con­fess Him, does not con­fess God. You will say: I con­fess Christ to be a great, most wise, uni­ver­sal teach­er. No, con­fess Him as He Him­self speaks of Him­self, that He and the Fa­ther are one, per­sons of one Di­vine na­ture, sep­a­rate, but one in hon­our and co­reign­ing. If one does not con­fess thus, no mat­ter how much he has hon­oured the Lord, it is the same as if he does not con­fess Him; while not be­ing His con­fes­sor, he does not con­fess the Fa­ther ei­ther, he does not con­fess God. That is why, no mat­ter what dis­plays you make of hon­our­ing God, you do not hon­our Him if you do not con­fess the Lord Je­sus Christ as the On­­ly-Be­­got­ten Son of God, in­car­nate for our sake, and Who saved us through His death on the cross. It is not all the same which God one con­fess­es as long as one con­fess­es: those who wor­ship the sun and stars, or in­vent­ed crea­tures, are not call­ed hon­our­ers of God, be­cause they did not con­sid­er as God what is God. Thus, who­so­ev­er does not con­fess the Lord is not an hon­our­er of God, be­cause he does not con­fess the God who is the true God. The true God does not ex­ist with­out the Son co-eter­­nal and co-un­o­ri­gi­­nate. There­fore, once you cease to con­fess the Son, you no long­er con­fess the true God. On­ly God will dis­cern what your con­fes­sion is worth; but since for us God is re­veal­ed as the true God, a­part from this rev­e­la­tion one can­not have the true God.

Demonic possession

September 11, 2014 | Saint Theophan, Uncategorized

Thurs­day. [Gal. 1:1–10, 20–2:5; Mark 5:1–20] My name is Le­gion: for we are man­y. Spir­its are bodi­less, and there­fore they do not fill or take up space like bod­ies. This ex­plains why it is phys­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble for man­y spir­its to re­side in one per­son. That it is pos­si­ble mor­al­ly on the part of the spir­its is un­der­standable from their amor­ality, or ab­sence of all mor­al prin­ci­ples; while on the part of the per­son it is un­der­standable from the man­y-sided con­tact of the con­sti­tu­tion of one’s soul with the dis­mal realm of un­clean pow­ers. But this on­ly ex­plains what is pos­si­ble; the re­al­i­ty of de­mon­ic pos­ses­sion is sub­ject to con­di­tions which we do not have the abil­i­ty to de­ter­mine. We can on­ly say that spir­its do not al­ways en­ter in a vis­i­ble way, and it is not al­ways shown through the pos­sessed per­son’s ac­tions. There is an un­seen, hid­den de­mon­ic pos­ses­sion; there is al­so a pow­er of spir­its over minds, a­part from the bod­y, when the de­mons lead them wher­ev­er they wish, through pas­sions work­ing in them. Peo­ple think that they are act­ing them­selves, but they are ac­tu­al­ly the laugh­­ing-stocks of un­clean pow­ers. What can we do? Be a true Chris­tian and no en­e­my pow­er shall over­come you.

Do not rely upon yourselves

February 18, 2014 | Saint Theophan, Uncategorized

Tues­day. [I John 3:11–20; Mark 14:10–42] Saint Pe­ter so en­thu­si­as­tically in­sist­ed that he would not re­ject the Lord; but when it came down to it, he de­nied Him, and three times no less. Such is our weak­ness! Do not re­ly up­on your­self, and when you en­ter in­to the midst of en­e­mies, place all your hope to over­come them on the Lord. For this pur­pose such a fall was al­low­ed to such a great per­son — so that af­ter­wards no­bod­y would dare on his own to do some­thing good or to over­come some en­e­my, ei­ther in­ner or out­er. You must hope in the Lord, but not stop try­ing. Help from the Lord joins our ef­forts, and thus makes them pow­er­ful. If these ef­forts are not there, God’s help has no­where to de­scend, and it will not de­scend. But again, if you are fill­ed with self-re­li­ance, and con­se­quent­ly you have no need for help and seek no help — again, God’s help will not de­scend. How is it to de­scend when it is con­sid­ered un­nec­es­sary?! Nei­ther, in this case, is there any­thing with which to re­ceive it. It is re­ceiv­ed by the heart. The heart o­pens up to re­ceive through a feel­ing of need. So both the for­mer and the lat­ter are need­ed. Say, “Help, O God!” But don’t just lie a­round.

Difference of opinions

January 16, 2014 | Saint Theophan, Uncategorized

Thurs­day. [James 1:19–27; Mark 10:17–27] Some­one turn­ed to the Lord with a ques­tion: emGood Mas­ter, what shall I do that I may in­her­it eter­nal life?/em What ne­ces­si­tated this ques­tion? Were there no scrip­tures? Was the law not read ev­ery Sat­ur­day for ev­ery­one? There was ev­ery­thing — both Scrip­ture and its in­ter­pret­ers; but in so­ci­e­ty dif­fer­ence of opin­ion went a­round and mud­dled ev­ery­one. The Phar­i­sees said one thing, the Sad­du­cees an­oth­er, the Es­senes, their own thing, the Sa­mar­i­tans their own. In Gal­i­lee, per­haps even pa­gan teach­ings were heard, and each put forth their own with a tone of con­vic­tion. Any­one who was zeal­ous for sal­va­tion nat­u­ral­ly came to the ques­tion: What should I do? What should I fol­low, that my soul not be de­stroy­ed? Our sit­u­a­tion now is very sim­i­lar those times. What teach­ings are not go­ing a­round our schools, in so­ci­e­ty, and in lit­er­a­ture! For the in­dif­fer­ent it is noth­ing; but they for whom ev­ery teach­ing is not the same can­not but seek an an­swer to the ques­tion, “What should I do?” So what is the so­lu­tion? The one the Sav­iour gave: Be­lieve and live as God com­mand­ed, and do not lis­ten to peo­ple’s talk; let them talk. The talk of sci­en­tists is like ru­mours and fash­ion: to­day they say one thing, to­mor­row an­oth­er. But you should heed on­ly God’s word, which a­bides un­to the ages. What the Lord com­mand­ed no phi­los­o­phiz­ing can re­voke. Ev­ery­thing must be done, and can­not be put off. The judg­ment in­deed will be ac­cord­ing to the word of the Lord, and not ac­cord­ing to our phi­los­o­phiz­ing.