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The Fifteenth Instruction. On the holy forty days of Lent

March 20, 2019 | Books & Articles, Wisdom

In the Law it is writ­ten that God com­mand­ed the sons of Israel to give a tenth part of all they had acquired dur­ing each year, and there­by bring a bless­ing upon all their deeds. With this in mind, the Holy Apos­tles estab­lished and com­mit­ted to us as a help and bene­fac­tion for our souls some­thing yet greater and more exalted–that we should set apart a tenth por­tion of the very days of our lives and devote them to God. There­by might we also receive a bless­ing for all our deeds, and year­ly cleanse the sins we have com­mit­ted over the course of the whole year. Thus dis­cern­ing, they have sanc­ti­fied for us out of the 365 days of the year these sev­en weeks of Holy Great Lent. So they set apart these sev­en weeks; but lat­er the Fathers deemed it wise to add yet anoth­er week: first of all, so that those wish­ing to ini­ti­ate them­selves in the asce­sis of the fast over the course of this week might accus­tom them­selves to it and pre­pare them­selves for it; and sec­ond­ly, in order to ren­der hon­or to the num­ber of days of the Great Fast which our Lord Jesus Christ fast­ed. For after sub­tract­ing Sat­ur­days and Sun­days from the eight weeks we have forty days; the fast on Great Sat­ur­day is par­tic­u­lar­ly hon­ored, because it is most sacred, and the only Sat­ur­days through­out the year on which a fast it kept. Sev­en weeks minus Sat­ur­days and Sun­days make thir­ty-five days, then to this is added the fast of Holy and Great Sat­ur­day and half of the Bright and Light-bear­ing night; thus we have thir­ty-six and a half days, which equals exact­ly a tenth part of the 365 days of the year. For the tenth part of three hun­dred is thir­ty, the tenth part of six­ty is six, and a tenth part of five is one-half (of the Bright Day). So, as we have said, there are thir­ty-six and a half days–the tenth por­tion of the whole year which, as I have said, the Holy Apos­tles have sanc­ti­fied for us for repen­tance and the cleans­ing of the sins of the whole year.

So blessed, O brethren, is he who pre­serves him­self well in these holy days as he should. For though it might hap­pen that being human we sin out of infir­mi­ty or neg­li­gence, still God has giv­en these holy days in order that, striv­ing with heed­ful­ness and humil­i­ty of wis­dom, we take care for our­selves and repent for all of our sins, and we will be cleansed of the sins we com­mit­ted dur­ing the whole year. Then our souls will be deliv­ered from their weight, and we will arrive at the Holy Day of the Res­ur­rec­tion cleansed, receive Com­mu­nion of the Holy Mys­ter­ies uncon­demned, hav­ing become new through the repen­tance of the Holy Fast. In spir­i­tu­al rejoic­ing, with God’s help, we will cel­e­brate the entire Holy Pen­te­cost season–for the Pen­te­cost sea­son, as the Holy Fathers say, is the repose and res­ur­rec­tion of the soul. This is sig­ni­fied by our not kneel­ing dur­ing whole Holy Pen­te­cost sea­son.

Thus he who desires dur­ing these days of Lent to be cleansed of the sins he has com­mit­ted over the course of the whole year should first of all refrain from eat­ing much food, for the lack of lim­i­ta­tion in food, as the Fathers say, gives birth to every evil in man. Then he should also take care not to vio­late the fast with­out great need, not to seek tasty foods, nor weigh him­self down with excess food or drink. For there are two kinds of glut­tony. The first kind is when a man seeks pleas­ant foods, and does not always wish to eat much, but desires some­thing tasty. It hap­pens that when this type tastes a dish he likes, he is so won over by its pleas­ant taste that he holds the food in his mouth, chews it for a long time, and regret­ting to part with its pleas­ant taste, he delays swal­low­ing it. This is called in Greek “lemargia,”–the demon of the throat. The oth­er type is assailed by the desire to eat a large quantity–he does not desire good food and is not con­cerned about its taste, but only wants to eat, whether the dish­es are tasty or not, and he makes no dis­tinc­tion. His is only con­cerned with fill­ing his bel­ly. This is called “gastri­mar­gia,” that is, the demon of the bel­ly.

I will tell you also about the ety­mol­o­gy of these words. The word “mar­genin,” demon­ic pos­ses­sion, is the word used by Hel­lenic schol­ars to describe those who are pos­sessed by demons, and the pos­sessed per­son is called mar­gos. So when any­one has this infir­mi­ty, that is, a demon­ic com­pul­sion to fill the bel­ly, then their infir­mi­ty is called gastri­mar­gia, from the words indi­cat­ing demon­i­cal­ly-pos­sessed, and belly–that is, to be demon­i­cal­ly pos­sessed with regard to the bel­ly. And when the demon­ic pos­ses­sion regards only the throat it is called lemar­gia, form the words mean­ing throat, and demon­ic pos­ses­sion. There­fore he who wish­es to be cleansed of his sins must take great care to flee these kinds of glut­tony; they sat­is­fy not the needs of the body, but pas­sion; and if one sur­ren­ders him­self to them it will be account­ed unto him as sin. The act in law­ful mar­riage and for­ni­ca­tion is one and the same, but the aim con­sti­tutes the dif­fer­ence of the mat­ter; for one acts to con­ceive chil­dren, while the oth­er acts to sat­is­fy his love of plea­sure. It is the same in rela­tion to food: to eat out of need and to eat in order to delight one’s taste is one and the same act, but the sin is to be found in the inten­tion. Some­one eats accord­ing to need when he deter­mines for him­self how much food to take in a day; and if he sees that this quan­ti­ty of food he has deter­mined weighs him down and should be a lit­tle decreased, he there­fore decreas­es it. If it does not weigh him down, but is rather insuf­fi­cient for the body and his body requires a lit­tle more, he adds a lit­tle more. Thus hav­ing test­ed well his need, he holds there­after to a deter­mined mea­sure and eats food not in order to delight his taste but rather to main­tain his body’s strength.

How­ev­er, even the lit­tle food that some­one eats should be received with prayer, and he should con­demn him­self men­tal­ly as unwor­thy of any food or con­so­la­tion. He should like­wise pay no atten­tion to oth­ers who out of some cur­rent require­ment or need receive some com­fort in this regard, so that he might not desire com­fort for him­self, and in gen­er­al he should not think that the repose of the body is an easy thing for the soul.

Once, when I was still in the com­mu­ni­ty, I went to vis­it one of the elders–for there were many great elders there–and I found that the broth­er who was serv­ing him took food togeth­er with him. See­ing this I told him sep­a­rate­ly, “Do you not know broth­er, that these elders who, as you see, eat and make cer­tain con­de­scen­sions for them­selves accord­ing to their needs, are like peo­ple who have acquired store­hous­es; and after work­ing for a long time, they have stored there­in what they have earned until they have filled them. Once they have filled and sealed the store­hous­es, they begin again to work now for their own expens­es, and they col­lect anoth­er thou­sand gold-pieces so that they will have some­thing to use in time of need, pre­serv­ing what they have set aside in the store­hous­es. So also these elders, after work­ing a long time, have gath­ered in their youth trea­sure for them­selves, and hav­ing sealed it up, they have worked a lit­tle longer, to have some­thing in the time of their old age and infir­mi­ty to take from, and pre­serve what they have gath­ered as a trea­sure trove. But we have not even acquired the store­house itself. What shall we have to spend?” Where­fore we should, as I have said, when tak­ing food out of bod­i­ly neces­si­ty, con­demn our­selves and con­sid­er our­selves unwor­thy of any con­so­la­tion and even of the monas­tic life itself, and we should not take food with­out restrain, so that it will not be to our con­dem­na­tion.

We have said this con­cern­ing restraint of the bel­ly. How­ev­er we must not lim­it our tem­per­ance to food, but refrain also from every oth­er sin. Just as we fast with our stom­achs, we should fast also from every oth­er sin; just as we fast with the bel­ly, we should fast also with the tongue, restrain­ing it from slan­der, from lying, idle-talk­ing, from belit­tle­ment, from anger, and in a word, from every sin that is per­formed by the tongue. We must like­wise fast with the eyes, that is, not look at vain things, not give free­dom to our eyes, not look at any­one shame­less­ly and with­out fear. The hands and feet should also be con­strained from every evil deed. Hav­ing fast­ed, as St. Basil the Great says, by a favor­able fast, remov­ing our­selves from all the sins of all of our sens­es, we shall attain to the holy day of the Res­ur­rec­tion, hav­ing become as we have said, new, pure and wor­thy of Com­mu­nion of the Holy Mys­ter­ies. But first let us go out and meet our Lord Jesus Christ Who comes to suf­fer, and with olive and palm branch­es let us receive Him sit­ting upon the foal of a don­key, enter­ing the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Why did the Lord sit upon a foal? He sat upon a foal so that He as the Word of God might sub­due and con­vert our souls–which as the Prophet says are like irra­tional and unthink­ing animals–to His Divin­i­ty. What does it sig­ni­fy that He is met with palm and olive branch­es? When some­one goes to bat­tle with his ene­my and returns vic­to­ri­ous, all his sub­jects greet him as vic­tor with palm branch­es, for palm branch­es are a sym­bol of vic­to­ry. Like­wise when a man suf­fers offense from anoth­er and wish­es to appeal to a some­one who can defend him, he brings him olive branch­es, cry­ing out and entreat­ing for mer­cy and aid, for olive branch­es are a sym­bol of mer­cy. There­fore we meet our Mas­ter Christ with palm branch­es for He is Vic­tor, for He has con­quered our ene­my; and with olive branch­es ask­ing of Him mer­cy, entreat­ing that just as He has con­quered for us, so we might con­quer through Him–that we might be bear­ers of the sign of vic­to­ry not only for the sake of the vic­to­ry He has won for us, but also for the vic­to­ry we have won through Him, by the prayers of all the saints. For to Him is due every glo­ry, hon­or and wor­ship unto the ages. Amen.

Abba Doroth­e­os



Sts. Sebastian & Mardarije Orthodox Institute III — Psychology in the Service of God

March 6, 2019 | Media, Wisdom

Use prayer rope to pray for the departed

December 3, 2016 | Wisdom

GERONDA ADVISED all of us: Use your prayer-ropes to pray for the depart­ed so that they may be com­fort­ed and saved, too. Pray for every­one you knew, your grand­par­ents, your rel­a­tives.

From: My Elder Joseph the Hesy­chast, Pg. 536

Avoid Fantasies

November 3, 2016 | Instagram, Wisdom

The Rich Man Who Gives

November 1, 2016 | Instagram, Uncategorized, Wisdom

Nature of Angels

October 21, 2016 | Instagram, Uncategorized, Wisdom

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“The nature of angels is in some ways quite dif­fer­ent from the nature of man, and in oth­er ways sim­i­lar to it. On the one hand, the dif­fer­ences are these: The angels are bod­i­less and, as such, invis­i­ble to our phys­i­cal eyes. Hav­ing no body, they con­se­quent­ly have no bod­i­ly needs or desires and pas­sions, no cares about food, drink, clothes or shel­ter. Nor do they pos­sess the impulse and crav­ings for pro­cre­ation. They nei­ther mar­ry nor are giv­en in mar­riage (Matt. 22:30). They have no wor­ries about the future either, and no fear of death. For, though God cre­at­ed them before man, they are nei­ther aged nor aging, but unchang­ing­ly youth­ful, beau­ti­ful and strong. They have no anx­i­ety about their sal­va­tion and no strug­gle for immoral­i­ty, being already immor­tal. Unlike men, they are not fal­ter­ing between good and evil, being already good and holy as when God cre­at­ed them. On the oth­er hand, the angels are sim­i­lar to men in that they are per­son­al­i­ties, every­one being indi­vid­u­al­ly con­scious of him­self. Like men, they have intel­li­gence, emo­tions, free will and act­ing capac­i­ty. And with­al they bear per­son­al names like men. Some of their names we know either from Scrip­ture or Church Tra­di­tion. They are: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Salathiel, Barachiel, Jere­miel, Jegudiel.” — St. Nicholai Velimirovic #The­O­rtho­doxWay #Ortho­dox­Chris­t­ian #East­er­nOrtho­dox #Chris­t­ian #TheChurch #Christ #Lord #Mer­cy #Love #Light #Faith #Prayer #Philo­ti­mo #The­Cross #World #Sal­va­tion #Angels

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Correct your own sins

October 18, 2016 | Instagram, Uncategorized, Wisdom

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“Do not be irri­tat­ed either with those who sin or those who offend; do not have a pas­sion for notic­ing every sin in your neigh­bour, and for judg­ing him, as we are in the habit of doing. Every­one shall give an answer to God for him­self. Every­one has a con­science; every­one hears Gods Word, and knows Gods Will either from books or from con­ver­sa­tion with oth­er peo­ple. Espe­cial­ly do not look with evil inten­tion upon the sins of your elders which do not regard you; “to his own mas­ter he standeth or fal­l­eth.” Cor­rect your own sins, amend your own life.” — St. John of Kro­n­stadt #The­O­rtho­doxWay #Ortho­dox­Chris­t­ian #East­er­nOrtho­dox #Chris­t­ian #TheChurch #Christ #Lord #Mer­cy #Love #Light #Faith #Prayer #Philo­ti­mo #The­Cross #World #Sal­va­tion

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Do not hate the sinner

October 18, 2016 | Instagram, Uncategorized, Wisdom

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Do not hate the sin­ner; for we are all laden with guilt. If for the sake of God you are moved to oppose him, weep over him. Why do you hate him? Hate his sins and pray for him, that you may imi­tate Christ Who was not wroth with sin­ners, but inter­ced­ed for them. Do you not see how He wept over Jerusalem? We are mocked by the dev­il in many instances, so why should we hate the man who is mocked by him who mocks us also? Why, O man, do you hate the sin­ner? Could it be because he is not so right­eous as you? But where is your right­eous­ness when you have no love? Why do you not shed tears over him? But you per­se­cute him. In igno­rance some, who are con­sid­ered to be dis­cern­ing men, are moved to anger against the deeds of sin­ners. — St. Isaac the Syr­i­an #ortho­dox #ortho­doxy #ortho­dox­church #chris­t­ian #wis­do­mofthe­fa­thers #sti­saac­thesyr­i­an

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Enduring Affliction

October 18, 2016 | Instagram, Uncategorized, Wisdom

Temptations Heal Passions

October 13, 2016 | Instagram, Uncategorized, Wisdom