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Problems with relative or co-worker

April 21, 2019 | Instagram, Wisdom

Gentleness with others

April 14, 2019 | Wisdom

Elder Joseph the HesychastWhat­ev­er gen­tle­ness you use in speak­ing to oth­ers, the very same gen­tle­ness will Christ use with you. With what­ev­er mea­sure you mea­sure out with oth­ers, with that very same mea­sure will He appor­tion to you.”

Elder Joseph the Hesychast
Monas­tic Wis­dom, 71st Let­ter, pg. 307

An honor to speak to God

April 14, 2019 | Instagram, Wisdom

Christ the Physician

April 14, 2019 | Instagram, Wisdom

Fifth week of Great Lent: the Sacrament of Penitence

April 14, 2019 | Great Lent, Wisdom

It is easy to go to con­fes­sion. When we stand before the priest, there is usu­al­ly a list of sins avail­able. We can look at it and be remind­ed of our sins. An expe­ri­enced priest will be able to help us by sug­gest­ing pos­si­ble sins that we may have com­mit­ted. At the end of con­fes­sion the priest asks us: do we repent of our sins? Note the ques­tion, dear brethren! We are not asked: have you con­fessed your sins? But — do you repent of your sins?
Fr Ros­tislav She­niloff | 03 April 2009

And so, dear brethren, we have reached the fifth Sun­day of the Great Lent. Today the Holy Church offers us St. Mary of Egypt as a supreme exam­ple of repen­tance. Not every­one is able to under­stand why, pre­cise­ly, the Church has cho­sen her. “She led a most sin­ful life,” – they say, – “she was a ter­ri­ble sin­ner.” But such words can be said only by those who have not yet come to under­stand the sacra­ment of penitence.

Let us care­ful­ly con­sid­er this extra­or­di­nary sacra­ment. Let us first look at how it is revealed to us in the exam­ple of the ven­er­a­ble Mary. St. Mary of Egypt led a dis­solute way of life. Arriv­ing in Jerusalem, even there she con­tin­ued to engage in debauch­ery. But when she want­ed to go into the church and ven­er­ate the Lord’s pre­cious Cross, she was barred from enter­ing. Grad­u­al­ly she under­stood why that was hap­pen­ing and began weep­ing bit­ter­ly. Catch­ing sight of an icon of the Moth­er of God, she prayed to it, repent­ed her way of life and vowed, under the guid­ance of the Holy Vir­gin, to reform her life.

At first glance it may seem an easy thing to do. How­ev­er, let us think, dear brethren: how many of us have tru­ly repent­ed our sins? The Church calls us to pen­i­tence and com­mu­nion. And so we go, and we con­fess our sins, and we par­take of the Holy Mys­ter­ies. But… dur­ing con­fes­sion, do we tru­ly repent? or do we only list our sins?

It is easy to go to con­fes­sion. When we stand before the priest, there is usu­al­ly a list of sins avail­able. We can look at it and be remind­ed of our sins. An expe­ri­enced priest will be able to help us by sug­gest­ing pos­si­ble sins that we may have com­mit­ted. At the end of con­fes­sion the priest asks us: do we repent of our sins? Note the ques­tion, dear brethren! We are not asked: have you con­fessed your sins? But – do you repent of your sins? And when we answer: yes, I repent, – we must feel com­plete remorse in our hearts and tru­ly repent, repent in the same way that Mary of Egypt repent­ed her sin­ful life.

At least once in our life­time we receive encour­age­ment towards pen­i­tence. Mary of Egypt was barred from enter­ing the church. She under­stood the rea­son and spent the fol­low­ing 47 years in pen­i­tence. For us the doors of the church are not closed; how­ev­er, we close them our­selves. “How is that?” – you may well ask. – “I go to church, I con­fess, I take com­mu­nion.” Dear brethren! If we, know­ing that a ser­vice is going on in church, go out to amuse our­selves instead, or sit around the house in idle­ness, or if we, hav­ing tak­en com­mu­nion, imme­di­ate­ly begin to pass judg­ment on oth­ers and com­mit anew the sins that we have just con­fessed, – we close the doors of the church upon our­selves. Even if we enter the church phys­i­cal­ly, our con­stant and unre­pent­ed sins bar from our souls the grace, the puri­ty, the com­fort which we expect to receive in church.

We must under­stand the sacra­ment of pen­i­tence and immerse our-selves ful­ly in it. After St. Mary of Egypt real­ized her sins and her guilt, the Holy Vir­gin led her out of soci­ety into the desert, where she became com­plete­ly immersed in repen­tance and spent many years in this spir­i­tu­al labor. For her absolute repen­tance, her soul was total­ly healed and she ascend­ed to a lev­el of absolute sanc­ti­ty. When the ven­er­a­ble Zosi­mas found her in the desert, she was wait­ing for him. She had become like the angels.

St. Mary actu­al­ly con­fessed only three times in her life: the first time – before the icon of the Moth­er of God, when she became aware of her sins; the sec­ond time – in church before her depar­ture for the desert; and the last time – to the elder Zosi­mas, when she recount­ed her life to him. But she repent­ed for 47 years. Through her pen­i­tence she so puri­fied her soul, returned both her soul and her body to such a par­adis­al state, that she lay dead in the desert for a whole year, untouched by cor­rup­tion, or beasts, or the burn­ing sun, or the windswept sands, and when the elder Zosi­mas found her, a lion came out of the desert and helped bury her. Thus the Lord Him­self glo­ri­fied her and gave her to us as an exam­ple of supreme repentance.

Five weeks of the Great Lent have passed already, dear brethren. Let us ask our­selves: have I begun to repent as Mary of Egypt once repent­ed? Have I become aware of my sins? Have I tru­ly under­stood them and have I repent­ed of them with a sin­cere inten­tion of reform­ing myself? Let us not come to con­fes­sion sim­ply to list our sins, dear brethren, but let us come and repent of them in all earnest­ness, let us puri­fy our hearts, so that we could tru­ly sing: “The angels sing in the heav­ens of Thy Res­ur­rec­tion, O Christ our Sav­iour, and may we on earth glo­ri­fy Thee with a pure heart.” Amen.


Fourth Sunday of Great Lent

April 8, 2019 | Great Lent, Wisdom

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

More than once, brethren, the fact has been men­tioned that on each Sun­day in the Great Fast (i.e., Lent) there are oth­er com­mem­o­ra­tions besides that of the Res­ur­rec­tion. Thus, on this day, the Church glo­ri­fies the right­eous John of the Lad­der, one of the great­est ascetics, which the Church, in speak­ing of them, calls “earth­ly angels and Heav­en­ly men.”

These great ascetics were extra­or­di­nary peo­ple. They com­mand­ed the ele­ments; wild beasts will­ing­ly and read­i­ly obeyed them. For them, there were no mal­adies they could not cure. They walked on the waters as on dry land; all the ele­ments of the world were sub­ject to them, because they lived in God and had the pow­er of grace to over­come the laws of ter­res­tri­al nature. One such ascetic was St. John of the Ladder.

He was sur­named “of the Lad­der” (Cli­ma­cus) because he wrote an immor­tal work, the “Lad­der of Divine Ascent.” In this work, we see how, by means of thir­ty steps, the Chris­t­ian grad­u­al­ly ascends from below to the heights of supreme spir­i­tu­al per­fec­tion. We see how one virtue leads to anoth­er, as a man ris­es high­er and high­er and final­ly attains to that height where there abides the crown of the virtues, which is called “Chris­t­ian love.”

Saint John wrote his immor­tal work espe­cial­ly for the monas­tics, but in the past his “Lad­der” was always favorite read­ing in Rus­sia for any­one zeal­ous to live pious­ly, though he were not a monk. There­in the Saint clear­ly demon­strates how a man pass­es from one step to the next.

Remem­ber, Chris­t­ian soul, that this ascent on high is indis­pens­able for any­one who wish­es to save his soul unto eternity.

When we throw a stone up, it ascends until the moment when the pro­pelling force ceas­es to be effec­tu­al. So long as this force acts, the stone trav­els high­er and high­er in its ascent, over­com­ing the force of the earth’s grav­i­ty. But when this force is spent and ceas­es to act, then, as you know, the stone does not remain sus­pend­ed in the air. Imme­di­ate­ly, it begins to fall, and the fur­ther it falls the greater the speed of its fall. This, sole­ly accord­ing to the phys­i­cal laws of ter­res­tri­al gravity.

So it is also in the spir­i­tu­al life. As a Chris­t­ian grad­u­al­ly ascends, the force of spir­i­tu­al and asceti­cal labours lifts him on high. Our Lord Jesus Christ said: “Strive to enter in through the nar­row gate.” That is, the Chris­t­ian ought to be an ascetic. Not only the monas­tic, but every Chris­t­ian. He must take pains for his soul and his life. He must direct his life on the Chris­t­ian path, and purge his soul of all filth and impurity.

Now, if the Chris­t­ian, who is ascend­ing upon this lad­der of spir­i­tu­al per­fec­tion by his strug­gles and ascetic labours, ceas­es from this work and ascetic toil, his soul will not remain in its for­mer con­di­tion; but, like the stone, it will fall to the earth. More and more quick­ly will it drop until, final­ly, if the man does not come to his sens­es, it will cast him down into the very abyss of Hell.

It is nec­es­sary to remem­ber this. Peo­ple for­get that the path of Chris­tian­i­ty is indeed an asceti­cal labour. Last Sun­day, we heard how the Lord said: “He that would come after Me, let him take up his cross, deny him­self, and fol­low Me.” The Lord said this with the great­est empha­sis. There­fore, the Chris­t­ian must be one who takes up his cross, and his life, like­wise, must be an ascetic labour of bear­ing that cross. What­ev­er the out­ward cir­cum­stance of his life, be he monk or lay­man, it is of no con­se­quence. In either case, if he does not force him­self to mount upwards, then, of a cer­tain­ty, he will fall low­er and lower.

And in this regard, alas, peo­ple have con­fused thoughts. For exam­ple, a cler­gy­man drops by a home dur­ing a fast. Cor­dial­ly and thought­ful­ly, they offer him fast food (i.e., food pre­pared accord­ing to the rules of the Fast), and say: “For you, fast food, of course!” To this, one of our hier­ar­chs cus­tom­ar­i­ly replies: “Yes, I am Ortho­dox. But who gave you per­mis­sion not to keep the fasts?” All the fasts of the Church, all the ordi­nances, are manda­to­ry for every Ortho­dox per­son. Speak­ing of monas­tics, such ascetics as St. John of the Lad­der and those like him fast­ed much more rig­or­ous­ly than the Church pre­scribes; but this was a mat­ter of their spir­i­tu­al ardour, an instance of their per­son­al ascetic labour. This the Church does not require of every­one, because it is not in accord with everyone’s strength. But the Church DOES require of every Ortho­dox the keep­ing of those fasts which She has established.

Often­times have I quot­ed the words of Saint Seraphim, and once again shall I men­tion them. Once there came to him a moth­er who was con­cerned about how she might arrange the best pos­si­ble mar­riage for her young daugh­ter. When she came to Saint Seraphim for advice, he said to her: “Before all else, ensure that he, whom your daugh­ter choos­es as her com­pan­ion for life, keeps the fasts. If he does not, then he is not a Chris­t­ian, what­ev­er he may con­sid­er him­self to be.” You see how the great­est saint of the Russ­ian Church, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, a man who, bet­ter than we, knew what Ortho­doxy is, spoke con­cern­ing the fasts?

Let us remem­ber this. Saint John Cli­ma­cus has described the lad­der of spir­i­tu­al ascent: then let us not for­get that each Chris­t­ian must ascend there­on. The great ascetics ascend­ed like swift­ly-fly­ing eagles; we scarce­ly ascend at all. Nonethe­less, let us not for­get that, unless we employ our efforts in cor­rect­ing our­selves and our lives, we shall cease our ascent, and, most assured­ly, we shall begin to fall. Amen.

From St. John Cli­ma­cus, “The Lad­der of Divine Ascent,” (Boston: Holy Trans­fig­u­ra­tion Monastery, 1978), pp. xxxi — xxxiii.

Met­ro­pol­i­tan Phi­laret (Voz­ne­sen­sky)




Keeping silent

April 2, 2019 | Instagram, Wisdom

Homily on the third Sunday of Great Lent: On Carrying Your Cross

April 1, 2019 | Great Lent, Wisdom

Whoso­ev­er will come after me, let him deny him­self, and take up his cross, and fol­low me (Mk. 8:34), said the Lord to his dis­ci­ples, call­ing them unto Him, as we heard today in the Gospels.

Dear broth­ers and sis­ters! We too are dis­ci­ples of our Lord Jesus Christ, because we are Chris­tians. We too are called unto the Lord, to this holy tem­ple, to hear His teach­ing. We stand before the face of the Lord. His gaze is direct­ed at us. Our souls are laid bare before Him; our secret thoughts and hid­den feel­ings are open to Him. He sees all of our inten­tions; He sees the truth, and the sins we have com­mit­ted from our youth; He sees our whole life, past and future; even what we have not yet done is already writ­ten in His book.[1] He knows the hour of our pass­ing into immea­sur­able eter­ni­ty, and gives us His all-holy com­mand­ment for our sal­va­tion: Whoso­ev­er will come after me, let him deny him­self, and take up his cross, and fol­low me.

Through liv­ing faith, let us lift up the eyes of our mind to the Lord Who is present here with us! Let us open our hearts, rolling back the heavy stone of hard­ness from its entrance; let us hear, pon­der, accept, and assim­i­late the teach­ing of our Lord.

What does it mean to deny our­selves? It means leav­ing our sin­ful life. Sin, through which our fall occurred, has so encom­passed our nature that it has become as if nat­ur­al; thus, denial of sin has become denial of nature, and deny­ing nature is deny­ing our­selves. The eter­nal death that has struck our souls has become like life for us. It demands food: sin; it demands to be pleased—with sin. By means of such food and plea­sure, eter­nal death upholds and pre­serves its domin­ion over man. But fall­en man accepts the growth of the domin­ion of death in him­self as growth and suc­cess in life. Thus, he who is infect­ed with a fatal dis­ease is over­come by the force­ful demands of this dis­ease and looks for foods that would strength­en him. He seeks them as the most essen­tial foods, as the most need­ed and pleas­ant delights. The Lord pro­nounced His sen­tence against this eter­nal death, which mankind, sick with ter­ri­ble fal­l­en­ness, imag­ines to be life: For whoso­ev­er will save his life, cul­ti­vat­ing in it the life of fal­l­en­ness or eter­nal death, shall lose it; but whoso­ev­er shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it (Mk. 8:35). Plac­ing before our eyes the whole world with all its beau­ty and charm, the Lord says, For what shall it prof­it a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? What good is it for man, what has he real­ly acquired if he should come to pos­sess not only some minor thing, but even the entire vis­i­ble world? This vis­i­ble world is no more than man’s tem­po­rary guest­house! There is no item on the earth, not a sin­gle acquirable good that we could call our own. Every­thing will be tak­en from us by mer­ci­less and inevitable death; and unfore­seen cir­cum­stances and changes often take them away even before our death. Even our own bod­ies are cast aside at that sacred step into eter­ni­ty. Our pos­ses­sion and trea­sure is our soul, and our soul alone. What shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mk. 8:37), sayeth the word of God. There is noth­ing that can rec­om­pense the loss of the soul when it is killed by eter­nal death, which deceit­ful­ly calls itself life.

What does it mean to take up our cross? The cross was an instru­ment of shame­ful exe­cu­tion of com­mon­ers and cap­tives deprived of a citizen’s rights. The proud world, a world at enmi­ty with Christ, deprives Christ’s dis­ci­ples of the rights enjoyed by the sons of this world. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have cho­sen you out of the world, there­fore the world hateth you. Whoso­ev­er kil­leth you will think that he doeth God ser­vice. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me (Jn. 15:19; 16:2–3). Tak­ing up our cross means mag­nan­i­mous­ly endur­ing the mock­ing and deri­sion that the world pours out upon fol­low­ers of Christ—those sor­rows and per­se­cu­tions with which the sin-lov­ing and blind world per­se­cutes those who fol­low Christ. For this is thankwor­thy, says the Apos­tle Peter, if a man for con­science toward God endure grief, suf­fer­ing wrong­ful­ly. For even here­un­to were ye called (1 Pet. 2:19, 21). We were called by the Lord, Who said to his beloved ones, In the world ye shall have tribu­la­tion: but be of good cheer; I have over­come the world (Jn. 16:33).

Tak­ing up our cross means coura­geous­ly endur­ing dif­fi­cult unseen labor, agony, and tor­ment for the sake of the Gospels as we war with our own pas­sions, with the sin that lives in us, with the spir­its of evil who vehe­ment­ly make war against us and fran­ticly attack us when we resolve to cast off the yoke of sin, and sub­mit our­selves to the yoke of Christ. For we wres­tle not against flesh and blood, says the holy Apos­tle Paul, but against prin­ci­pal­i­ties, against pow­ers, against the rulers of the dark­ness of this world, against spir­i­tu­al wicked­ness in high places (Eph. 6:12). (For the weapons of our war­fare are not car­nal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Cast­ing down imag­i­na­tions, and every high thing that exal­teth itself against the knowl­edge of God, and bring­ing into cap­tiv­i­ty every thought to the obe­di­ence of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4–5). After gain­ing vic­to­ry in this unseen but labo­ri­ous war­fare, the Apos­tle exclaimed, But God for­bid that I should glo­ry, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is cru­ci­fied unto me, and I unto the world (Gal. 6:14).

Tak­ing up our cross means obe­di­ent­ly and humbly sub­mit­ting our­selves to those tem­po­rary sor­rows and afflic­tions that Divine Prov­i­dence sees fit to allow against us for the cleans­ing away of our sins. Then the cross will serve us as a lad­der from earth to heav­en. The thief in the Gospels who ascend­ed this lad­der ascend­ed from out of ter­ri­ble crimes into most radi­ant heav­en­ly habi­ta­tions. From his cross he pro­nounced words filled with humil­i­ty of wis­dom; in humil­i­ty of wis­dom he entered into the knowl­edge of God, and through the knowl­edge of God, he acquired heav­en. We receive the due reward of our deeds, he said. Lord, remem­ber me when thou comest into thy king­dom (Lk. 23:41–42). When sor­rows encom­pass us, let us also, beloved broth­ers and sis­ters, repeat the words of the good thief—words that can pur­chase par­adise! Or like Job, let us bless the Lord who pun­ish­es us, Who is just yet mer­ci­ful. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, said this suf­fer­er, and shall we not receive evil? As it hath pleased the Lord so is it done; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 2:10; 1:21). May God’s promise, which is true, be ful­filled in us: Blessed is the man that endureth temp­ta­tion: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. (Js. 1:12).

Tak­ing up our cross means will­ing­ly and eager­ly sub­mit­ting our­selves to depri­va­tions and ascetic labors, by which the irra­tional striv­ings of our flesh are held in check. The Apos­tle Paul had recourse to such a cru­ci­fix­ion of his flesh. He says, But I keep under [in Slavon­ic: “dead­en,” or “mor­ti­fy”] my body, and bring it into sub­jec­tion: lest that by any means, when I have preached to oth­ers, I myself should be a cast­away (1 Cor. 9:27). They that are in the flesh, that is, those who do not restrain their flesh, but allow it to over­come the spir­it, can­not please God (Rom. 8:8). There­fore, though we live in the flesh, we should not live for the flesh! For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die (Rom. 8:12) an eter­nal death; but if ye through the Spir­it do mor­ti­fy the deeds of the body, ye shall live (Rom. 8:13) an eter­nal, blessed life. The flesh is essen­tial­ly restrained by the spir­it; but the spir­it can only take con­trol of the flesh and rule it when it is pre­pared to sub­mit to its cru­ci­fix­ion. The flesh is cru­ci­fied by fast­ing, vig­il, kneel­ing in prayer, and oth­er bod­i­ly labors placed upon it wise­ly and with­in mea­sure. A bod­i­ly labor that is wise and with­in mea­sure frees the body from heav­i­ness and cor­pu­lence, refines its strength, keeps it ever light and capa­ble of activ­i­ty. They that are Christ’s, says the Apos­tle, have cru­ci­fied the flesh with the affec­tions and lusts (Gal. 5:24).

What does it mean to take up our cross, and take up specif­i­cal­ly our own cross? It means that every Chris­t­ian should patient­ly bear those very insults and per­se­cu­tions from the world that come to him, and not any oth­ers. This means that every Chris­t­ian should man­ful­ly and con­stant­ly war with those very pas­sions and sin­ful thoughts that arise in him. It means that every Chris­t­ian should with obe­di­ence and ded­i­ca­tion to God’s will, with con­fes­sion of God’s jus­tice and mer­cy, with thank­ful­ness to God, endure those very sor­rows and depri­va­tions that Divine Prov­i­dence allows to come upon him, and not some oth­er things paint­ed and pre­sent­ed to him by his proud dreams. This means being sat­is­fied with those bod­i­ly labors that cor­re­spond to our phys­i­cal strength, the ones that our flesh require in order to keep it in order, and not to seek after increased fast­ing and vig­il, or all oth­er ascetic feats beyond our mea­sure, which destroy our phys­i­cal health and direct our spir­it towards high self-opin­ion and self deceit, as St. John Cli­ma­cus describes.[2] All mankind labors and suf­fers upon the earth, but these suf­fer­ings dif­fer; the pas­sions dif­fer that war against us, the sor­rows and temp­ta­tions dif­fer that God sends us for our heal­ing, for the cleans­ing away of our sins. What dif­fer­ences there are in people’s phys­i­cal strength, in their very health! Pre­cise­ly: every per­son has his own cross. And each Chris­t­ian is com­mand­ed to accept this cross of his own with self-denial, and to fol­low Christ. He who has denied him­self and tak­en up his own cross has made peace with him­self and with his own cir­cum­stances, with his own posi­tion both inter­nal and exter­nal; and only he can rea­son­ably and cor­rect­ly fol­low Christ.

What does it mean to fol­low Christ? It means study­ing the Gospels, hav­ing the Gospels as the only guide of the activ­i­ty of our mind, heart, and body. It means adapt­ing our thoughts to the Gospels, tun­ing the feel­ings of our heart to the Gospels, and serv­ing as an expres­sion of the Gospels by all our deeds and move­ments, both secret and open. As we said before, only the per­son who has escaped deceit through vol­un­tary humil­i­ty (Col. 2:18), who has desired to obtain true humil­i­ty of wis­dom where it abides—in obe­di­ence and sub­mis­sion to God—is capa­ble of fol­low­ing Christ. He who has entered into sub­mis­sion to God, into obe­di­ence com­bined with com­plete self-denial, has tak­en up his own cross, and accept­ed and con­fessed this cross to be his own.

Beloved broth­ers and sis­ters! Bow­ing down bod­i­ly to wor­ship the pre­cious Cross of the Lord today accord­ing to the rule of the Holy Church, we bow down also in spir­it! We ven­er­ate the pre­cious Cross of Christ—our weapon of vic­to­ry and ban­ner of Christ’s glory—each con­fess­ing from his own cross, “I have received the due reward of my deeds! Remem­ber me, O Lord, when Thou comest into Thy King­dom!” By rec­og­niz­ing our sin­ful­ness with thank­ful­ness to God and sub­mis­sion to His will, we make our cross—that instru­ment of exe­cu­tion and mark of dishonor—an instru­ment of vic­to­ry and sign of glo­ry, like unto the Cross of the Lord. Through the cross we open par­adise to our­selves. Let us not allow our­selves any evil mur­mur­ing, and espe­cial­ly not any soul-destroy­ing blas­phe­my, which is often heard from the lips of the blind and hard­ened sin­ner, who writhes and thrash­es upon his cross, vain­ly endeav­or­ing to escape from it. With mur­mur­ing and blas­phe­my the cross becomes unbear­ably heavy, drag­ging to hell the one cru­ci­fied upon it. “What have I done?” cries the sin­ner in denial of his sin­ful­ness, accus­ing the just and mer­ci­ful God of injus­tice and mer­ci­less­ness, blam­ing and reject­ing God’s Prov­i­dence. The one who saw the Son of God cru­ci­fied, mock­ing­ly and evil­ly demand­ed of him, If thou be Christ, save thy­self and us (Lk. 23:39),—let him now come down from the cross (Mt. 27:42). But our Lord Jesus Christ was pleased to ascend the Cross in the flesh and to endure death[3] in order by the cross to make peace between God and man, and to save mankind by death from eter­nal death. Hav­ing pre­pared the holy Apos­tles for this great event—the incar­nate God-man’s suf­fer­ings and shame­ful death, potent to redeem the human race—the Lord informed the Apos­tles in good time that He must be giv­en over into the hands of sin­ners, must suf­fer much, be killed, and res­ur­rect­ed. This fore­warn­ing seemed strange and unlike­ly to cer­tain of the holy Apos­tles. Then the Lord called unto Him his dis­ci­ples and said to them: Whoso­ev­er will come after me, let him deny him­self, and take up his cross, and fol­low me. Amen.

St. Ignatius (Bri­an­chani­nov)
Trans­lat­ed by Nun Cor­nelia (Rees)




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