Orthodox Thought for the Day


Friday, March 30, 2012

On the grace of the Saints and their icons

The saints, during their earthly life, are filled with the grace of the Holy Spirit.  After their departure the same grace remains in their souls as in their bodies.  The very same grace is present and active in their sacred images and icons.  St. John of Damascus

Thursday, March 29, 2012

On prayer and Christian fasting

Prayer and fasting, but Christian fasting, is useful as a means of examining ourselves, of diagnosing our true ethical state, of precisely appraising our sins, and of our understanding their true character.  Without fasting and prayer we are deprived of the means to self-knowledge; we are unable to acquire a true picture of our sins and complete consciousness and contrition of heart, and, consequently, true and fruitful confession.  Therefore, since Christian fasting and prayer is the only method of preparation for true confession, we are obligated to observe these commandments of the Church diligently, we are obligated to confess truly and with faith to reconcile with God, so that we do not fail to reach the goal but achieve the desired ultimate good. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

On possessions and wealth

Cheerfulness consists in not regarding these things as our own, but as entrusted to us by God for the benefit of our fellow-servants. It consists in scattering them abroad generously with joy and magnanimity, not reluctantly or under compulsion (II Cor.9:7ff). Further, we ought cheerfully to empty ourselves of that which we stored up in the hope of the true promise God has made to us of giving us a hundredfold reward for this. For since God knows that we are all wholly possessed by the lust for possessions and mad desire for wealth and how difficult it is for us to tear ourselves loose from them, and how those who in various ways have been deprived of them despair of life itself, He has made use of the corresponding remedy. He has promised to give us, as we have said, a hundredfold reward for that which we spend on the poor. This He has done, first, that we may be set free in this matter from the condemnation of covetousness, and second that we may cease to put our trust and hope in possessions and find our hearts set free from such bonds.

Once we have been set free we can proceed without hindrance to the practice of His commandments and 'serve Him with fear and trembling' (Ps.2:11), not as though we were doing Him some favor, but as receiving a benefit by being admitted into His service. Otherwise it would be impossible for us to be saved! The rich have been commanded to lay aside their wealth as being some kind of burden and hindrance to a life pleasing to God, and thus to take up the Cross on their shoulders and follow the Master in His footsteps (Mk.8:34; Mt.16:14), for it is wholly impossible for us to bear both burdens at once. As for those who are not in their case and live in moderate circumstances, or even go short of the necessities of life, they have nothing that  impedes them if they wish to walk on the narrow and difficult way (Mt. 7:14). The former need no more than the intention to do so; the latter are already walking on that way, and must live with patience and thanksgiving. God, because He is just, will prepare a place of rest for those who are thus on the way to eternal life and enjoyment.  St. Symeon the New Theologian (10th century)

St. John Climacus on repentance

Repentance is a renewal of baptism.  Repentance is a contract with God for a second life.  A penitent is a buyer of humility. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Honor due the Virgin Bride of God

To express, as is her due, the honor of the Virgin Bride, she did not just act as a mediator for certain chosen races; but - standing between God and every race of men - she made God the Son of man, and men the sons of God.  She alone was shown to be the natural mother of God in a supernatural way; and, by her indescribable child-bearing, she became the Queen of the entire Creation --- in this world and beyond.  St. Gregory Palamas

(Platytera icon--Uncut Mountain Supply)

Are you an answer to prayer?

The Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church in Calcutta, India offers blessed ministries to some of the poorest of the poor in the area.  Learn about some of their on-going ministries such as free medical care, feeding programs for those in extreme hardship including the blind, the handicapped and the elderly plus educational programs offered for youth:  http://thepsoc.org/  How wonderful that these ministries are active and making a vital contribution in so many lives on a daily basis! 

Of particular interest is the work of Sister Nektaria Paradisi—a ministry of loving care and education for children, giving hope and opportunities for both boys and girls who are orphaned.  Learn about the two Orthodox “hostels,” as they are called by Sister Nektaria, (to avoid the stigma of “home” being an orphanage in that society):   The Theotokos Girls’ Orphanage (be sure to view the inspiring video of the girls’ life called “Lucky Girls” on the same page):  http://thepsoc.org/meet-the-children-2/theotokos-girls-orphanage/ and the St. Ignatius Boys’ Orphanage, which many boys consider their home:  http://thepsoc.org/meet-the-children-2/st-ignatius-boys-orphanage/  Sister Nektaria is known affectionately to the children as “mother.” Is it any wonder why?  While yet living in her native Greece, she was greatly influenced by the work of Mother Teresa and has been laboring out of love for Christ and the precious souls of India since 1991.

The Theotokos Girls’ Orphanage reported 95 residents recently, there is room for 200, but Sister Nektaria has, sadly, had to turn away requests due to low funding at this time. 

Recent American visitors to the orphanages relate Sister Nektaria’s strong faith despite economic hardships affecting many supporters (particularly in Greece).  Nevertheless, she still has firm hope that God will continue to provide for the orphans and other philanthropic ministries of the Orthodox Church in Calcutta.  Sharing this information with others is one way that God may use to meet existing or future needs.  Perhaps after viewing these materials, you may feel the call of mercy and love for these orphans and other precious souls ministered to by faithful Orthodox servants in Calcutta.  And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me,' (Matt 24:40)

May God bless our bond with all of humanity through opportunities for almsgiving, especially during this Lenten season.  

Your sister in Christ,
Pres. Candace

Saturday, March 24, 2012

On the Holy Annunciation

Whatever has taken place in the history of salvation – whatever was done by Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit – must also take place within me.  That’s what it means for me to participate in the life of God.  For example, to the extent that I have emptied myself (cf. Phil. 2.7), I experience what the Mother of God felt when she said to the angel: Let it be done to me according to your word.  I experience, in other words, her total self-surrender to that which was beyond her capacity to understand.  How shall this be? she asked;  How can I give birth, since I am a virgin and have not known a man?  Was there anything she could understand?  The angel replied: The Spirit will overshadow you and you will give birth (cf. Lk. 1.34-38). Did she understand anything? Nothing at all. That is what is meant by Let it be done to me according to your word, which means: ‘whatever you say, just as you said it. Even though I cannot understand it, let it happen just as you say.’  Elder Aimilianos

"Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word," Luke 1:38...Thus was the knot of Eve's disobedience loosed by the obedience of Mary...As the human race fell into bondage to death by means of a virgin, so it is rescued by a virgin. Virginal disobedience was balnced in the opposite scale by virginal obedience.  In the same way, the sin of the first created man recives amendment by the First-begotten and the coming of the serpent is conquered by the harmlessness of the dove, unloosing those chains that had bound us to death.  St. Irenaeus of Lyons

Friday, March 23, 2012

The crushing of the devil

The greatest balm that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross gave us is the crushing of the devil.  After the Crucifixion of Christ, the devil is like a snake with no fangs—with no poison; he is like a wild dog without teeth.  All poison was removed from the devil; all teeth were removed from the wild dogs that are the demons.  So, they are now disarmed; while we are armed with the Cross.  Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos

Thursday, March 22, 2012

On infrequent reception of Holy Communion

We must not avoid Communion because we deem ourselves to be sinful. We must approach it more often for the healing of the soul and the purification of the spirit, but with such humility and faith that considering ourselves unworthy we would desire even more the medicine of our wounds. … It is much better if, in humility of heart, knowing that we are never worthy of the Holy Mysteries we would receive them every Sunday for the healing of our maladies, rather than, blinded by pride, think that after one year we become worthy of them.  St. John Cassian

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Cup of Christ

by St. Ignatius Brianchaninov

Two beloved disciples asked the Lord for thrones of glory-and He gave them His Cup (Matt. 20:23).

The Cup of Christ is suffering. But for those who drink from it on earth, the Cup of Christ grants participation in Christ's Kingdom It prepares for them the thrones of eternal glory in heaven. We stand in silence before the Cup of Christ, nor can any man complain about it or reject it; for He who commanded us to taste it, first drank of it Himself.

O tree of knowledge of good and evil! You killed our ancestors in Paradise, you deceived them by the delusions of sensual pleasure and the delusions of reason. Christ, the Redeemer of the fallen, brought his Cup of Salvation into this world, to the fallen and to those who are exiled from Paradise. The bitterness of this Cup cleanses the heart from forbidden, destructive and sinful pleasure; through the humility that flows from it in abundance, the pride of understanding on the carnal level is mortified. To him who drinks from the Cup with faith and patience, the eternal life which was and still is lost to him by his tasting of forbidden fruit will be restored.

I will accept the Cup of Christ, the cup of salvation. (cf. Ps. 116:13)

The Cup is accepted when the Christian bears earthly tribulation in the spirit of humility learnt from the Gospel. St. Peter turned swiftly with a naked sword to defend the God-Man, Who was surrounded by evil doers; but Jesus said to Peter: "Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?" (John 18:11). So, too, when disaster surrounds you, you should comfort and strengthen your soul, saying, "The Cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" The Cup is bitter: at first sight all human reasoning is confounded. Surmount reason by faith and drink courageously from the bitter Cup: it is the Father Who gives it to you, He who is all good and all wise. It is neither the Pharisees, nor Caiaphas, nor Judas who prepared the Cup; it is neither Pilate nor his soldiers who give it! "The cup which my Father hath given me; shall I not drink it?"

Pharisees think evil, Judas betrays, Pilate orders the unlawful killing, the soldiers of the government execute his order. Through their evil deeds all these prepared their own true perdition. Do not prepare for yourself just such a perdition by remembering evil, by longing for and dreaming of revenge, and by indignation against your enemies. The heavenly Father is almighty and all-seeing. He sees your affliction, and if He had found it necessary and profitable to withdraw the Cup from you, He would certainly have done so.

The Lord-as the Scriptures and Church history testify-has often allowed afflictions to befall His beloved, and often warded off afflictions from them, in accordance with the unfathomable ways of Providence. When you are faced with the Cup, turn your gaze from the people who gave it to you; lift up your eyes to Heaven and say: "The Cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"

"I will take the cup of salvation." I cannot reject the Cup, the promise of heavenly and eternal good. The Apostle of Christ teaches me patience when he says: ...we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22). How can we reject the Cup which is the means of attaining this Kingdom and growing with it? I will accept the Cup-the gift of God. For the Cup of Christ is the gift of God. The great Paul writes to the Philippians: For unto you is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake (Phil. 1:29).

You receive the Cup which seemingly comes from the hand of man. What is it to you whether the bearer of the Cup acts righteously or unrighteously? As a follower of Jesus, your concern is to act righteously; to receive the Cup with thanksgiving to God and with a living faith; and courageously to drink it to the dregs.

In receiving the Cup from the hand of man, remember it is the Cup of Him Who is not only innocent but all-holy. Thinking on this, remind yourself and other suffering sinners of the words that the blessed and enlightened thief spoke when he was crucified on the right hand of the crucified God-Man: We receive the due reward of our deeds... Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom (Luke 23:41-42). And then, turning to the people, you will say to them: Blessed are you who are instruments of righteousness and of God's mercy, blessed are you from henceforth and forever! (If they are not in a fit state to understand and receive your words, do not cast your precious pearls of humility under the feet of those who cannot value them, but say these words in thought and heart.) By this alone will you fulfill the commandment of the Gospel which says: Love your enemies, bless them that curse you... (Matt. 5:44).

Pray to the Lord on behalf of those who have insulted and outraged you that what they have done for you should be repaid by a temporal blessing and the eternal reward of salvation, and that, when they stand before Christ to be judged, it should be counted to them as if it had been an act of virtue. Although your heart does not wish to act in this way, compel it to do so: because only those who do violence to their own heart in fulfilling the commandments of the Gospel can inherit Heaven.

If you have not the will to act in this way, then you have not the will to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. Look deep within yourself and consider searchingly: have you not found another teacher, the teacher of hatred-the devil-and fallen under his power?

It is a terrible transgression to offend or to oppress one's neighbor: it is a most terrible transgression to commit murder. But whoever hates his oppressor, his slanderer, his betrayer, his murderer, and whoever thinks ill of them and takes revenge on them, commits a sin very near to their sin. In vain does he pretend to himself and others that he is righteous. Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer of man, proclaimed St. John, the beloved disciple of Christ (I John 3:15).

A living faith in Christ teaches one to receive the Cup of Christ, and the Cup of Christ inspires hope in the heart of him who receives it; and hope in Christ gives strength and consolation to the heart. What torment, what torment of hell, to complain or to murmur against the Cup that is pre-ordained from above! Murmuring, impatience, faint-heartedness and especially despair are sins before God-they are the ugly children of sinful disbelief.

It is sinful to complain of neighbors when they are the instruments of our suffering; still more sinful is it when we cry out against the Cup that comes down to us straight from Heaven, from the right hand of God. But he who drinks the cup with thanksgiving to God and blessings on his neighbor, achieves holy serenity, the grace of the peace of Christ. It is as if already he enjoys God's spiritual Paradise.

Temporal suffering has no importance in itself: we lend it significance because of our attachment to the earth and to all corruptible things, and through our coldness towards Christ and eternity. You are prepared to bear the bitter and repellent taste of medicines: to bear the painful amputation and cauterization of your limbs; to bear the long drawn out suffering of hunger, and prolonged seclusion in your room; you are prepared to bear all this to restore lost health to your body, which after it is healed will certainly become ill again, and will certainly die and become corrupt. Bear, then, the bitterness of the Cup of Christ which brings healing and eternal beatitude to your immortal soul.

If the Cup appears to you to be unbearable, deadly, then it reveals that although you bear Christ's name, you do not belong to Christ. For the true followers of Christ, the Cup of Christ is the Cup of joy. Thus the holy apostles, after having been beaten before the gathering of the elders of the Jews, went out from the presence of the council rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the Name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 5:40-41).

Righteous Job heard bitter news. Tiding after tiding came to pierce his steadfast heart; the last of these was the hardest-all his sons and daughters had been struck down suddenly by a cruel and violent death. In his great sorrow, he rent his clothes and covered his head with ashes. And then in submissive faith he fell down upon the ground, and worshipped the Lord saying, I myself came naked from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, the Lord has taken away: as it seemed good to the Lord, so has it come to pass; blessed be the name of the Lord.

From Orthodox America


St. Ignatius came from a family of landed gentry and was educated at a military engineering school in St. Petersburg. There he became convinced of the vanity of worldly sciences in the face of eternal life, and he applied himself to the study of the Holy Fathers. His decision to become a monk was cemented upon his acquaintance with Elder Leonid of Optina, and when a grave illness obliged the authorities to release him from further military service, he entered the St. Alexander of Svir monastery. In 1833 he was appointed superior of Holy Trinity-St. Sergius Hermitage near St. Petersburg, and in 1857 he was consecrated bishop. But he ruled only four years before poor health prompted his retirement to the St. Nicholas-Babayev monastery. There he reposed on April 30, 1867, a man of holy life and an accomplished practitioner of the Jesus Prayer.

Among English-language Orthodox, St. Ignatius is best known as the author of The Arena. His wealth of service to the Church include an additional six volumes of writings on asceticism, in which he skillfully adapted teachings and examples from the ancient desert fathers, making them applicable to contemporary strugglers.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Markers of our way of life

...just as insensibility, callousness and hardness of heart develop as a result of ease, soft living and self-indulgence, so from a way of life marked by self-control and renunciation come contrition of heart and compunction, expelling all bitterness and generating a gentle gladness.  St. Gregory Palamas

I would like to take this opportunity to recommend some videos found on YouTube that are well done and spiritually instructive.  They are dramatized stories in the Russian language with English subtitles, running 20-25 minutes each.  They teach important lessons for every Christian.  Take time to enjoy them as you are able.  Go to YouTube and look up these titles by Pankrestos:

You are Three

The visit of Christ

The prayers that are not heeded

Obedience:  a puzzling command

The wedding shirt

The little oil lamp

There are also some cartoons, two of them with English subtitles—the Archangel Michael and St. Seraphim of Sarov, many others with Greek subtitles

In almsgiving, attitude makes a difference

Helping a person in need is good in itself.  But the degree of goodness is hugely affected by the attitude with which it is done.  If you show resentment because you are helping the person out of a reluctant sense of duty, then the person may receive your help, but may feel awkward and embarrassed.  This is because he will feel beholden to you.  If, on the other hand, you help the person in a spirit of joy, then the help will be received joyfully.  The person will feel neither demeaned nor humiliated by your help, but rather will feel glad to have caused you pleasure by receiving your help.  And joy is the appropriate attitude with which to help others, because acts of generosity are a source of blessing to the giver as well as the receiver.  Indeed the receiver may only derive a material blessing, but the giver derives a spiritual blessing.  If you give gladly, even if it is only a small thing, it will seem like a fortune.  If you give resentfully, even if it is substantial, it will seem like a pittance.  St. John Chrysostom

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Precious and Life-Giving Cross

O mighty Cross of the Lord, manifest thyself: show me the divine vision of thy beauty, and grant me worthily to venerate thee. For I speak to thee and embrace thee as though thou wast alive.

Shine, Cross of the Lord, shine with the light of thy grace upon the hearts of those that honor thee. With love inspired by God, we embrace thee, O desire of all the world. Through thee our tears of sorrow have been wiped away: we have been delivered from the snares of death and have passed over to unending joy. Show us the glory of thy beauty and grant to us thy servants the reward of our abstinence, for we entreat with faith thy rich protection and great mercy. 

Hail! life-giving Cross, the fair Paradise of the Church, Tree of incorruption that brings us the enjoyment of eternal glory: through thee the hosts of demons have been driven back; and the hierarchies of angels rejoice with one accord, as the congregations of the faithful keep the feast. Thou art an invincible weapon, an unbroken stronghold; thou art the victory of kings and the glory of priests. Grant us now to draw near to the Passion of Christ and to His Resurrection. Hail! life-giving Cross, unconquerable trophy of the true faith, door to Paradise, succor of the faithful, rampart set about the Church. Through thee the curse is utterly destroyed, the power of death is swallowed up, and we are raised from earth to heaven: invincible weapon, adversary of demons, glory of martyrs, true ornament of holy monks, haven of salvation bestowing on the world great mercy. Come, Adam and Eve, our first father and mother, who fell from the choir on high through the envy of the murderer of man, when of old with bitter pleasure ye tasted from the tree in Paradise. See, the Tree of the Cross, revered by all, draws near! Run with haste and embrace it joyfully, and cry to it with faith: O precious Cross, thou art our succor; partaking of thy fruit, we have gained incorruption; we are restored once more to Eden, and we have received great mercy. 

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages, Amen.

From Great Vespers for the third Sunday of Lent, the Adoration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Patrick of Ireland

I have hurled myself into the hands of the all-powerful God
Who rules as Lord everywhere.  St. Patrick of Ireland

The struggle upon which we are engaged is full of hardships,
full of dangers,  for it is the struggle of man against himself.  St. Patrick of Ireland


I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession
of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendor of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and near, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose
my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.

Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the
Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

(icon courtesy of Holy Transfiguration Monastery, Boston)

PATRICK, called the Apostle of Ireland, was born about the year 389, of Roman and British parentage.  Blessed Martin of Tours is said to have been among his kin. But although he is usually accounted as British, the place of this birth is unknown. When Patrick was a lad he was taken prisoner by slavers and carried to Ireland, whence he escaped after six years.  Meanwhile he learned to serve God well, for whilst attending the flock of his master he would rise before the light, in snow and frost and rain, to make his prayers.

HAVING been finally raised to the priesthood, Saint Germanus of Auxierre consecrated him bishop, and sent him back to Ireland, in succession to Saint Palladius, the first Christian missionary, who, after twelve months of labor there, had gone to Scotland and then died.

Patrick travelled to every part of Ireland, converting many of the people and their chiefs by his preaching and example. And everywhere his preaching of the Word was confirmed by wonders and signs following. He washed many of the Irish folk in the laver of regeneration, ordained many bishops and clerks, and decreed rules for virgins and for widows living in continency. And he established Armagh as the primatial See of all Ireland.

BESIDES that which came upon him daily, the care of all the churches of Ireland, he never suffered his spirit to weary in constant prayer. It was said that it was his custom to repeat daily the whole Book of Psalms, together with certain other hymns and prayers, and that he took his short rest lying of a bare stone. He was a great practicer of lowliness, and after the pattern of the Apostle, always continued to work with his own hands.  At last he fell asleepin the Lord in extreme old age, according to some authorities about the year 461, glorious both in word and deed. His body was translated to the Cathedral of Down in Ulster in 1185.  From the website: "Western Orthodox" (current link unavailable). 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

St. Patrick's call

As a youth (in Britain), nay, almost as a boy not able to speak, I was taken captive, before I knew what to pursue and what to avoid. Hence today I blush and fear exceedingly to reveal my lack of education; for I am unable to tell my story to those versed in the art of concise writing—in such a way, I mean, as my spirit and mind long to do, and so that the sense of my words expresses what I feel…

But after I came to Ireland—every day I had to tend sheep, and many times a day I prayed—the love of God and His fear came to me more and more, and my faith was strengthened. And my spirit was moved so that in a single day I would say as many as a hundred prayers, and almost as many in the night, and this even when I was staying in the woods and on the mountains; and I used to get up for prayer before daylight, through snow, through frost, through rain, and I felt no harm, and there was no sloth in me—as I now see, because the spirit within me was then fervent.

And there one night I heard in my sleep a voice saying to me: “It is well that you fast, soon you will go to your own country.” And again, after a short while, I heard a voice saying to me: “See, your ship is ready.” And it was not near, but at a distance of perhaps two hundred miles, and I had never been there, nor did I know a living soul there; and then I took to flight, and I left the man with whom I had stayed for six years. And I went in the strength of God who directed my way to my good, and I feared nothing until I came to that ship….

And again after a few years I was in Britain with my people. Who received me as their son, and sincerely besought me that now at last, having suffered so many hardships, I should not leave them and go elsewhere.

And there I saw in the night the vision of a man, whose name was Victoricus, coming as it were from Ireland, with countless letters. And he gave me one of them, and I read the opening words of the letter, which were, “The voice of the Irish”; and as I read the beginning of the letter I thought that at the same moment I heard their voice—they were those beside the Wood of Voclut, which is near the Western Sea—and thus did they cry out as with one mouth: “We ask thee, boy, come and walk among us once more.”

And I was quite broken in heart, and could read no further, and so I woke up. Thanks be to God, after many years the Lord gave to them according to their cry.

from the “Confessio” of St. Patrick

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The great power of faith and love

Faith and love, which are gifts of the Holy Spirit, are such great and powerful means that a person who has them can easily, and with joy and consolation, go the way Jesus Christ went.  St. Innocent of Irkutsk

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Standing on the rock of faith

The sea is surging and the waves are high:  but we have nothing to fear because we stand on a rock—the rock of faith.  Let the sea surge with all the power at its command, and let the waves rise as high as mountains; the rock on which we stand will remain firm and unshaken.  Do I fear death?  No, because on the rock of faith I know that death is the gateway to eternal life.  Do I fear exile?  No, because on the rock of faith I know that I am never alone; Christ is always beside me, my friend and my brother.  Do I fear slander and lies?  No, because on the rock of faith I know that I am always protected by the truth—Christ who is the truth, is my protector.  Do I fear poverty?  No, because on the rock of faith God also provides for my needs.  Do I fear ridicule?  No, because however low I may sink in the esteem of those without faith, on the rock of faith all are treated with respect.  Far from fearing the surge of the sea, I enjoy it, because it assures me that the rock on which I stand is immovable.  St. John Chrysostom

Monday, March 12, 2012

Especially for husbands and fathers

When we teach our children to be good, to be gentle and to be forgiving--all attributes of God; to be generous, to love their neighbor, to regard this present age as nothing, we instill virtue in their souls and reveal the image of God within them.  This then is our task, to educate both ourselves and our children in godliness; otherwise what answer will we have before Christ's judgment seat?... Let us be greatly concerned for our wives and our children and for ourselves as well.  The good God Himself will bring this work to perfection, so that all of us may be counted worthy of the blessings He has promised.  St. John Chrysostom

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A lament for sin by St. Basil the Great

St. Basil the Great left us with a lament for sin in which he recognizes many sins and identifies with them as the writer.  He has given us a useful guide for introspection to aid in preparation for Holy Confession.  It is also a light for those who wonder what they might bring to confession or if they actually have any sins necessary to confess. 

Weep over your sin: it is a spiritual ailment; it is death to your immortal soul; it deserves ceaseless, unending weeping and crying; let all tears flow for it, and sighing come forth without ceasing from the depths of your heart.

In profound humility I weep for all my sins, voluntary and involuntary, conscious and unconscious, covert and overt, great and little, committed by word and deed, in thought and intention, day and night, at every hour and minute of my life.

I weep over my pride and my ambition, my self-love and my boastfulness; I weep over my fits of anger, irritation, excessive shouting, swearing, quarreling and cursing;

I weep for having criticized, censured, gossiped, slandered, and defamed, for my wrath, enmity, hatred, envy, jealousy, vengeance and rancor;

I weep over my indulgences in lust, impure thoughts and evil inclinations; covetousness, gluttony, drunkenness, and sloth;

I weep for having talked idly, used foul language, blasphemed, derided, joked, ridiculed, mocked, enjoyed empty gaiety, singing, dancing and every pleasure to excess;

I weep over my self-indulgence, cupidity, love of money and miserliness, unmercifulness and cruelty;

I weep over my laziness, indolence, negligence, love of comfort, weakness, idleness, absent-mindedness, irresponsibility, inattention, love of sleep, for hours spent in idle pursuits, and for my lack of concentration in prayer and in Church, for not observing fasts and not doing charitable works.

I weep over my lack of faith, my doubting, my perplexity, my coldness, my indifference, my weakness and unfeelingness in what concerns the Holy Orthodox Faith, and over all my foul, cunning and reviling thoughts;

I weep over my exaggerated sorrow and grief, depression and despair, and over sins committed willingly.

I weep, but what tears can I find for a worthy and fitting way to weep for all the actions of my ill-fated life; for my immeasurable and profound worthlessness? How can I reveal and expose in all its nakedness each one of my sins, great and small, voluntary and involuntary, conscious and unconscious, overt and covert, every hour and minute of sin? When and where shall I begin my penitential lament that will bear fitting fruit? Perhaps soon I may have to face the last hour of my life; my soul will be painfully sundered from my sinful and vile body; I shall have to stand before terrible demons and radiant angels, who will reveal and torment me with my sins; and I, in fear and trembling, will be unprepared and unable to give them an answer; the sight and sound of wailing demons, their violent and bold desire to drag me into the bottomless pit of Hell will fill my soul with confusion and terror. And then the angels of God will lead my poor soul to stand before God's fearful seat of judgment. How will I answer the Immortal King, or how will I dare, sinner that I am, to look upon My Judge? Woe is me! I have no good answer to make, for I have spent all my life in indolence and sin, all my hours and minutes in vain thoughts, desires and yearnings!

And how many times have I taken the Name of God in vain!

How often, lightly and freely, at times even boldly, insolently and shamelessly have I slandered others in anger; offended, irritated, mocked them!

How often have I been proud and vainglorious and boasted of good qualities that I do not possess and of deeds that I have not done!

How many times have I lied, deceived, been cunning or flattered, or been insincere and deceptive; how often have I been angry, intolerant and mean!

How many times have I ridiculed the sins of my brother, caused him grief overtly and covertly, mocked or gloated over his misdeeds, his faults or his misfortunes; how many times have I been hostile to him, in anger, hatred or envy!

How often have I laughed stupidly, mocked and derided, spoke without weighing my words, ignorantly and senselessly, and uttered a numberless quantity of cutting, poisonous, insolent, frivolous, vulgar, coarse, brazen words!

How often, affected by beauty, have I fed my mind, my imagination and my heart with voluptuous sensations, and unnaturally satisfied the lusts of the flesh in fantasy! How often has my tongue uttered shameful, vulgar and blasphemous things about the desires of the flesh!

How often have I yearned for power and been gluttonous, satiating myself on delicacies, on tasty, varied and diverse foods and wines; because of intemperance and lack of self-control how often have I been filled past the point of satiety, lacked sobriety and been drunken, intemperate in food and drink, and broken the Holy Fasts!

How often, through selfishness, pride or false modesty, have I refused help and attention to those in need, been uncharitable, miserly, unsympathetic, mercenary and grasped at attention!

How often have I entered the House of God without fear and trembling, stood there in prayer, frivolous and absent-minded, and left it in the same spirit and disposition! And in prayer at home I have been just as cold and indifferent, praying little, lazily, and indolently, inattentively and impiously, and even completely omitting the appointed prayers!

And in general, how slothful I have been, weakened by indolence and inaction; how many hours of each day have I spent in sleep, how often have I enjoyed voluptuous thoughts in bed and defiled my flesh! How many hours have I spent in empty and futile pastimes and pleasures, in frivolous talk and speech, jokes and laughter, games and fun, and how much time have I wasted conclusively in chatter, and gossip, in criticizing others and reproaching them; how many hours have I spent in time-wasting and emptiness! What shall I answer to the Lord God for every hour and every minute of lost time? In truth, I have wasted my entire life in laziness.

How many times have I lost heart and despaired of my salvation and of God's mercy or through stupid habit, insensitivity, ignorance, insolence, shamelessness, and hardness sinned deliberately, willingly, in my right mind, in full awareness, in all goodwill, in both thought and intention, and in deed, and in this fashion trampled the blood of God's covenant and crucified anew within myself the Son of God and cursed Him!

O how terrible the punishment that I have drawn upon myself!

How is it that my eyes are not streaming with constant tears? If only my tears flowed from the cradle to the grave, at every hour and every minute of my tortured life! Who will now cool my head with water and fill the well of my tears and help me weep over my soul that I have cast into perdition?

My God, my God! Why hast Thou forsaken me? Be it unto me according to Thy will, O Lord! If Thou wouldst grant me light, be Thou blessed; if Thou wouldst grant me darkness, be Thou equally blessed. If Thou wouldst destroy me together with my lawlessness, glory to Thy righteous judgment; and if Thou wouldst not destroy me together with my lawlessness, glory to Thy boundless mercy!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The devil tries to spoil every good

From Abbot Nikon in Letters to Spiritual Children:

Who shall roll away the stone from the door of the sepulchre...for it (is) very great? (Mark 16:3). Who rolled it away? An angel, at God's command. He will likewise roll away the stone of insensibility from our hearts, when the time is right for this. We must show faithfulness to the Lord during times of callousness, faintheartedness, doubts, coldness, times of sorrow, illness and various misfortunes. We must exert our willpower to strengthen faith in ourselves when, by God's allowance, it seems to be all but extinguished. He permits this in order that we may show again and again what it is we are striving for, where our choice lies.

There is a saying among the elders: a good deed is either preceded or followed by a temptation. A good deed, such as heartfelt prayer, or especially Holy Communion, will not pass without the devil taking revenge. He uses all his might to prevent fruitful prayer and/or communion. If unable to achieve this, he then tries to spoil everything after the fact, so that not a trace of the benefit acquired remains. This is very familiar to all those who have some experience in spiritual endeavor. For this reason it is necessary to ask the Lord, with humility and contrition of heart, that He preserve us from the snares of the devil, who acts either directly upon the soul, or indirectly, through people subject to his power.

Do not be surprised at this. This warfare is fierce. Except the Lord build the house, in vain do they labour that build it. Except the Lord guard the city, in vain doth he watch that guardeth her, (Psalm 126:1-2). We must surrender ourselves into the compassionate hands of God, acknowledging before Him our weakness and inability to guard ourselves from visible and invisible foes. Do not be afraid. The devil does not do what he would like, but only that which God allows him to do. Take a look at the book of Job.

May God's blessing always be with you. Never despair. May Christ's Cross always serve to remind you of God's boundless love toward fallen man. Is this thought not enough to inspire one to wholly give oneself over into God's hands? One must make at least a small effort to seek the Kingdom of God, and then the Lord will not leave such a person without His help and comfort. The Lord loves you! Have patience with the Lord.

This beautiful meditation comes from the book Letters to Spiritual Children published by Nikodemos Orthodox Publication Society in New York in 1997.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

On the 40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste

A greatly known and beloved group of Holy Martyrs, the 40 who gave their lives at Sebaste are commemorated today, March 9.  One of the most beautiful and thorough pages I've seen that commemorates this group of holy martyrs is found at http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2010/03/holy-forty-martyrs-of-sebaste.html.

I have selected a few choice writings that refer to the blessed martyrs that I will share with you here:
O holy martyrs, you were not frightened
     By the supple sword because you took courage
In the fire of divinity, which you had put on.
     Because you had met with frost and cold
And endured lightning flashes from on high,
     You gained crowns.
Casting aside all the armor of the flesh,
     You advanced, naked, into the midst of the lake.
Tortured by cold, yet warmed by faith,
    You passed through fire and water
Worthily victorious; in the sight of God
    You gained crowns.
Holy ones who did not fear the supple sword,
    When you were willingly cast into the icy lake,
You were nobly patient under the whips of the tyrants.
    Now the powers of Heaven rejoice,
And the race of men is happy and delighted because
    You gained crowns.
 From the Kontakia of St. Romanos

What is a Christian?  What must he have?  Certainly, he must have much patience in everything.   The road that takes wayfarers to the city of Paradise is completely strewn with thorns; those who travel along it will bleed.  But the hope of enjoying Paradise overcomes everything and provides the wayfarers with patience—as the forty holy martyrs said when they were thrown into the frozen lake: ‘Winter is bitter, but Paradise is sweet; the frost is painful, but the enjoyment will be sweet.’  Elder Ephraim of the Holy Mountain (Athos)

It is my privilege to share with you this meditation on this day (which is my Name Day) as I have the feminine form of the name of one of the 40 Holy Martyrs of Sebaste, St. Kandidos, who was a spokesman for the group.  I am known in Greek as "Kandia."  Pres. C.

Prologue from Ohrid, March 9 entry:  "But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved, " Matthew 24:13.

O Lord most wonderful, You have endured all, all to the end.  That is why You became not only blessed but the source of blessings for all men who desire good for themselves throughout the ages of ages.

The apostles endured all to the end and entered into blessed eternity.  The saints willingly endured the difficulties and sufferings to the end and were glorified, both in heaven and on earth.

The martyrs willingly endured all pains to the end and became the adopted co-inheritors of the Kingdom of Christ.

Every founder of a new organization recruits followers for himself with the promise of good fruits and many pleasures but deliberately remains silent about the hardships and labors which lead to those fruits and pleasures.  Our Lord Jesus is the only one Who spoke the whole truth to His followers, both the bitter and the sweet side of the truth.  He did not promise fruits without service, nor glory without suffering, nor ultimate rest without the thorny path, nor victory without struggle, nor pleasure without bitterness, nor the kingdom without tears and self-denial.

Although our Lord counted the many difficulties which would befall His followers, in the end He does not abandon them without comfort.  He gives meaning to their sufferings and does not leave them in darkness.  He says, "The one who perseveres to the end will be saved."  What is that blessing which awaits those who endure to the end that He Jesus fully revealed and that has been witnessed even until today and is being witnessed by many saints, who, have either appeared in glory to the faithful from the other world or who, while yet in the flesh, were uplifted in the spirit to a vision of that glory and blessedness which await the faithful, the chosen and persevering?

O Lord, You are our strength.  Help us to endure to the end with faith that You are beside us.