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Common Prayer

October 27, 2019 | Saint Theophan

[I Thess. 1:6-10; Luke 11:1-10] The Lord gave a com­mon prayer for ev­ery­one, com­bin­ing in it all of our needs, spir­i­tu­al and bodi­ly, in­ner and out­er, eter­nal and tem­po­ral. But since it is im­pos­si­ble to in­clude ev­ery­thing which one has to pray to God a­bout in life in on­ly one prayer, a rule is giv­en af­ter the com­mon prayer for pri­vate re­quests a­bout some­thing: Ask, and it shall be giv­en you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be o­pened un­to you. So it is done in the Church of God: Chris­tians pray in com­mon a­bout com­mon needs, but each pri­vate­ly sets his own needs and re­quire­ments be­fore the Lord. We pray in com­mon in church­es ac­cord­ing to es­tab­lish­ed rites, which are noth­ing oth­er than the Lord’s Prayer which has been ex­plain­ed and pre­sent­ed in var­i­ous ways; while pri­vate­ly, at home, ev­ery­one asks the Lord a­bout his own things in what­ev­er way he can. Even in church one can pray a­bout one’s own con­cerns, and at home one can pray with a com­mon prayer. We must con­cern our­selves a­bout on­ly one thing: that when we stand at prayer, at home or in church, we have true prayer in our soul, true turn­ing and lift­ing up of our mind and heart to God. Let ev­ery­one do this as he is able. Do not stand like a stat­ue, and do not mut­ter the pray­ers like a street or­gan wound up, play­ing songs. As long as you stand like that, and as long as you mum­ble the pray­ers, you are with­out prayer, the mind wan­der­ing and the heart full of vain feel­ings. If you al­ready stand in prayer and are ad­just­ed to it, is it dif­fi­cult for you to draw your mind and heart there as well? Draw them there, even if they have be­come un­yield­ing. Then true prayer will form and will at­tract God’s mer­cy, and God’s prom­ise to prayer: ask and it will be giv­en, it will be ful­fill­ed. Of­ten it is not giv­en be­cause there is no pe­ti­tion, but on­ly a pos­ture of pe­ti­tion­ing.


House of Prayer

August 8, 2019 | Saint Theophan

Fri­day. [I Cor. 14:26-40; Matt. 21:12-14, 17-20] My House shall be call­ed the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. Ev­ery­one knows that a church calls for rev­er­ence, for a col­lect­ing of thoughts, for deep think­ing a­bout God, and for stand­ing in the pres­ence of God, but who fulfils this? Peo­ple go to church with a de­sire to pray, to stand in it for a while with warm fer­vour; but then thoughts be­gin to wan­der, and bargaining be­gins in one’s head even louder than that which the Lord found in the Je­ru­sa­lem tem­ple. Why is this so? Be­cause the way one stands in church is a re­flec­tion of one’s en­tire life. As peo­ple live, so do they be­have in church. A church in­flu­ences and some­what sup­ports spir­i­tu­al move­ments; but then the usu­al course of one’s spir­i­tu­al con­sti­tu­tion takes over. There­fore if you want your time in church to con­sist of worthily stand­ing in the face of the Lord, pre­pare for this in your or­di­nary life; walk, as much as you can, in a prayer­ful frame of mind. This la­bour will bring you to the point that in church al­so you will stand rev­er­ent­ly all the time. This rev­er­ence will in­spire you to be rev­er­ent in your or­di­nary life as well. Thus you will walk ev­er higher and higher. Say, “O Lord, help” — and be­gin!


Be like little children

August 5, 2019 | Saint Theophan

Mon­day. [I Cor. 11:31-12:1; Matt. 18:1-11] Ex­cept ye be con­vert­ed, and be­come as lit­tle chil­dren, ye shall not en­ter in­to the King­dom of Heav­en. The struc­ture of a child’s heart is a mod­el for all. Chil­dren, be­fore egotistical striv­ings have come out in them, are a mod­el for im­i­ta­tion. What do we see In chil­dren? Com­plete faith, which does not rea­son; undebating obe­di­ence; sin­cere love; lack of wor­ry and peace un­der their par­ents’ roof; liveliness and fresh­ness of life, with ac­tive­ness and a de­sire to learn and be­come more per­fect. But the Sav­iour par­tic­u­lar­ly em­pha­sizes one of their vir­tues — hu­mil­i­ty: Who­so­ev­er shall hum­ble him­self as this lit­tle child, the same is great­est in the King­dom of Heav­en. For as soon as there is true hu­mil­i­ty, all of the vir­tues are there. It is re­veal­ed per­fect­ly when the oth­er vir­tues have al­ready bloomed in the heart and reach ma­tu­ri­ty; it is their crown and pro­tec­tion. This is the mys­tery of spir­i­tu­al life in our Lord Je­sus Christ. Who­ev­er is higher is more hum­ble, be­cause he more clear­ly and tan­gi­bly sees that it is not he who la­bours suc­cess­ful­ly, but the grace which is in him; and this is the mea­sure of the age of Christ’s ful­fil­ment. For the main thing in Christ Je­sus is that He hum­bled Him­self, and be­came obe­di­ent un­to death.


Prayer in ordinary life

August 5, 2019 | Saint Theophan

Fri­day. [I Cor. 14:26-40; Matt. 21:12-14, 17-20] My House shall be call­ed the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves. Ev­ery­one knows that a church calls for rev­er­ence, for a col­lect­ing of thoughts, for deep think­ing a­bout God, and for stand­ing in the pres­ence of God, but who fulfils this? Peo­ple go to church with a de­sire to pray, to stand in it for a while with warm fer­vour; but then thoughts be­gin to wan­der, and bargaining be­gins in one’s head even louder than that which the Lord found in the Je­ru­sa­lem tem­ple. Why is this so? Be­cause the way one stands in church is a re­flec­tion of one’s en­tire life. As peo­ple live, so do they be­have in church. A church in­flu­ences and some­what sup­ports spir­i­tu­al move­ments; but then the usu­al course of one’s spir­i­tu­al con­sti­tu­tion takes over. There­fore if you want your time in church to con­sist of worthily stand­ing in the face of the Lord, pre­pare for this in your or­di­nary life; walk, as much as you can, in a prayer­ful frame of mind. This la­bour will bring you to the point that in church al­so you will stand rev­er­ent­ly all the time. This rev­er­ence will in­spire you to be rev­er­ent in your or­di­nary life as well. Thus you will walk ev­er higher and higher. Say, “O Lord, help” — and be­gin!


Struggling with Passions

July 30, 2019 | Saint Theophan

Wednes­day. [I. Cor. 10:12-22; Matt. 16:20-24] When the Ho­ly A­pos­tles con­fess­ed the Sav­iour to be the Son of God, He said, I must… suf­fer… and be killed. The work had rip­en­ed; it re­main­ed on­ly to com­plete it through the death on the cross. The same thing oc­curs in the course of a Chris­tian’s mor­al prog­ress. While he is strug­gl­ing with his pas­sions, the en­e­my still hopes some­how to tempt him; but when pas­sions have set­tled down and the en­e­my no long­er has e­nough pow­er to awak­en them, he pres­ents ex­ter­nal temp­ta­tions, all sorts of wrong­ful ac­cu­sa­tions, more­over, the most sen­si­tive. He tries to plant the thought: “So what did you work and strug­gle for? No good will come of it for you.” But when the en­e­my thus pre­pares a war from with­out, the Lord sends down the spir­it of pa­tience to his strug­gler, there­by pre­par­ing a live­ly read­i­ness in his heart for all sorts of suf­fer­ing and hos­til­i­ty be­fore the en­e­my can man­age to stir up trou­ble. As the Lord said a­bout Him­self, I must suf­fer, spir­i­tu­al strug­glers al­so feel a sort of thirst for sor­rows. And when the suf­fer­ing and hos­til­i­ty come, they meet them with joy, and drink them in like a thirsting man drinks cooling wa­ter.


Take No Thought

July 8, 2019 | Saint Theophan

[Rom. 2:28–3:18; Matt. 6:31–34; 7:9–11] Take no thought (Matt. 6:31). Then how is one to live? We have to eat, drink, and wear clothes. But the Sav­iour does not say, “do noth­ing,” but rath­er, take no thought. Do not wea­ry your­self with care that con­sumes you both day and night, and gives you not a mo­ment of peace. Such care is a sin­ful dis­ease. It shows that a man is re­ly­ing up­on him­self and has for­got­ten God; that he has lost hope in the Prov­i­dence of God, wants to ar­range ev­ery­thing for him­self sole­ly by his own ef­forts, to pro­cure all that is nec­es­sary, and to pre­serve what he has pro­cured by his own means. He has be­come chained in his heart to his prop­er­ty, and thinks to rest on as if it were a sol­id foun­da­tion. Love of pos­ses­sions has bound him and he on­ly thinks of how to get more in­to his hands. This mam­mon has re­placed God for him. Work by all means, but do not wea­ry your­self with evil cares. Hope for ev­ery suc­cess from God and com­mit your lot in­to His hands. Ac­cept all that you ob­tain as a gift from the Lord’s hand, and wait with a firm hope that He con­tin­ue His gen­er­ous giv­ing. Know that if God so de­sires, a rich man can lose all he has in one min­ute. All is de­cay and dust. Is it worth it to wea­ry your­self for that? So, take no care!


No True God Without The Son

May 31, 2019 | Saint Theophan

Fri­day. [Acts 19:1–8; John 14:1–11] If ye had known me, ye should have known my Fa­ther al­so (John 14:7). There­fore, deists do not know God, in spite of the fact that they bear His name (Deus means God; from here comes the word deist), and rea­son el­o­quent­ly a­bout Him. There is no true God with­out the Son and with­out the Ho­ly Spir­it. He who be­lieves in God, but does not con­fess Him as the Fa­ther of the Son, does not be­lieve in a god that is the true God, but in some per­son­al in­ven­tion. The true God gave His Son, gave pow­er to be­come the sons of God (John 1:12), loves them, and hears each of their pray­ers, for the sake of the Son. That is why he who has the Son has the Fa­ther; and he who does not have the Son, does not have the Fa­ther. No one comes to the Fa­ther ex­cept through the Son, and re­ceives noth­ing from the Fa­ther, ex­cept through the Son. A­part from the Son there is no path to the true God; and he who thinks to in­vent Him is de­luded.


My Sheep Hear My Voice

May 23, 2019 | Saint Theophan

Fri­day. [Acts 15:5–34; John 10:17–28]emYe be­lieve not, be­cause ye are not of my sheep/em says the Lord to the un­be­liev­ing Jews. emMy sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they fol­low Me/em (John 10:26–7). Un­be­liev­ers are not of Christ’s fold. At that time, the un­be­liev­ers were those who had not yet en­ter­ed in­to the fold; but now the un­be­liev­ers are all those who have fallen from the faith or who lag be­hind the fold of Christ. The Lord is the shep­herd: all of His sheep go af­ter Him, fol­low­ing His teach­ing and ful­fill­ing His ho­ly com­mand­ments. Sin­ners are sheep that are sick and weak, but still plod a­long to­geth­er with the fold. But those who have lost the faith are those who have to­tal­ly fallen be­hind, and have been aban­doned to be eaten by wild beasts. These are the ones who are tru­ly back­ward. They are not from the fold of Christ and they do not hear His voice; and He does not know them, be­cause they do not let them­selves be known as did the wom­an with the is­sue of blood. And at the judg­ment it will be said to them: emI know you not, de­part/em (cf. Matt. 25:12).


Be Silent

May 19, 2019 | Saint Theophan

Tues­day. [Acts 17:19–28; John 12:19–36] Ex­cept a corn of wheat fall in­to the ground and die, it a­bid­eth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit (John 12:24). And so, if you want to be fruit­ful, die. Die in a re­al way, bear­ing al­ways the feel­ing in your heart that you have al­ready died. Just as a dead man does not re­spond to any­thing sur­round­ing him, so do the same: if they praise you — be si­lent, and if they re­buke you — be si­lent, and if you make a prof­it — be si­lent; if you are full — be si­lent, or hun­gry — be si­lent. Be this way to all ex­ter­nal things; in­ward­ly a­bide in the place where all the dead a­bide — in the oth­er life, be­fore the all-righ­teous face of God, pre­par­ing to hear the fi­nal sen­tence. You may say, what fruit can come ev­ery­thing dy­ing? No, noth­ing will die. Rath­er, abun­dant en­er­gy will ap­pear! “I have but one min­ute re­main­ing,” you will say to your­self. “Now will come the ver­dict; let me hur­ry to do some­thing;” and you will do it. And thus con­tin­ue ev­ery min­ute.


The Light of the World

May 10, 2019 | Saint Theophan

Thursday. [Acts 10:34–43; John 8:12–20] I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12) says the Lord. Conse?quently, he who turns away from the Lord, turns away from the light and is headed into darkness, and therefore he is a true obscurant.[1] You know what the teaching of Christ demands; and look: as soon as someone puts forth thoughts con?trary to this teaching, do not fear calling him an obscurant; this is his real name. The Lord teaches that God is one in essence and three in persons: this is the ray of the super?natural light of truth. Whoever preaches the contrary is headed in?to darkness from the light, and he is an obscurant. The Lord teaches that God has three hypostases; and hav?ing created the world by His word, guides it through His providence. This is the Divine light, which illuminates the gloomy paths of our life, but not with an earthly, com?forting light. He who preaches con?trary to this is heading into dreary darkness — he is an obscurant. The Lord teaches that God created man according to His image and likeness and set him to live in paradise. When man sinned, God righteously drove him out of paradise to live on this earth, which is full of sorrows and want. However, He was not an?gered with him unto the end, but it was His good will to arrange salva?tion for him through the death on the cross of the incarnate Only-Be?gotten Son of God — and this is the spiritual light, illuminating the mor?al gloom that enshrouds our souls. He who preaches contrary to this is headed into darkness and is an ob?scurant. The Lord teaches. Believe, and upon receiving the power of grace in the Divine mysteries, live according to His commandments and you will be saved — this is the only way for the light of God to en?ter us and make us enlightened. He who teaches something to the con?trary wants to keep us in darkness and therefore is an obscurant. The Lord teaches: enter in at the strait gate of a strict life of self-denial, and this is the only path to the light. Whoever is travelling the broad path of self-pleasure is headed into darkness, and is an obscurant. The Lord teaches: remember the last things: death, judgment, hell, heav?en. This is a light that illuminates our future. Whoever teaches that death is the end of all casts darkness over our fate, and is thus an obscur?ant. Lovers of the light! Learn by this to distinguish where the dark?ness is, and depart from it.

[1] During St. Theophan’s time there was already much talk amongst “progressive” people about Chris?tian “obscurantism.” The Orthodox faithful were often accused of “obscuring” the enlightenment of more progressive groups; i.e., they were called reactionaries.