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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.