Orthodox Thought for the Day


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Look within

The world is full of problems.  All of us have problems in our own lives.  When faced with a problem, our initial reaction is usually to look at its outward symptoms and to relieve them.  For example, if a person feels his house it too small and the food he eats too rough, he will try to earn more money and so buy a bigger house and better food.  If one person is in conflict with another they may both become angry and each will try to defeat the other. Yet this is not Christ’s way.  According to Christ, the roots of all problems lie in the human soul and that problem can only truly be resolved by transforming the soul.  The man who is dissatisfied with his house and food will not become happy with more money; this is because one desire leads to another, he will soon want an even bigger house and even better food.  Happiness for him can only be achieved by looking inward, and learning to enjoy whatever life has and this requires transforming greed into gratitude.  Equally, the person in conflict with another may look inward to learn to love his enemy; then the emotions behind the conflict will melt away and reconciliation becomes possible.  St. John Chrysostom 

For a book to help us appreciate what we already have, read “Kumak’s House, A Tale of the Far North,” by Michael Bania, a short, colorfully illustrated book for kids.  It is the story of Kumak and his “too small house,” an endearing and humorous folktale set in an Inupiat Eskimo village in the northwest Arctic that teaches a great lesson—neat for all ages!    

Monday, January 30, 2012

Though you be sinful beyond measure...

When you are praying, watch over yourself so that not only your outward man prays, but your inward one also.  Though you be sinful beyond measure, still pray.  Do not heed the devil's provocation, craftiness, and despair, but overcome and conquer his wiles. Remember the abyss of the Savior's mercy and love to mankind. The devil will represent the Lord's face to you as terrible and unmerciful, rejecting your prayer and repentance; but remember the Savior's own words, full of every hope and boldness for us: `Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out'; and `Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden' - with sins and iniquities, and wiles and calumnies of the devil - and I will give you rest.'  St. John of Kronstadt

A tale worth reading

One winter’s day, as St. Francis was going from Perugia with Friar Leo to St. Mary of the Angels, suffering sorely from the bitter cold, he called Friar Leo, that was going before him, and spake thus, Friar Leo, albeit the friars minor in every land give good examples of holiness and edification, nevertheless write and note down diligently that perfect joy is not to be found therein.

And St. Francis went his way a little farther, and called him a second time, saying, O Friar Leo, even though the friar minor gave sight to the blind, made the crooked straight, cast out devils, made the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and restored speech to the dumb, and, what is a yet greater thing, raised to life those who have lain four days in the grave; write – perfect joy is not found there.

And he journeyed on a little while, and cried aloud, O Friar Leo, if the friar minor knew all tongues and all the sciences and all the Scriptures, so that he could foretell and reveal not only future things, but even the secrets of the conscience and of the soul; write – perfect joy is not found there.

Yet a little farther went St. Francis, and cried again aloud, O Friar Leo, little sheep of God, even though the friar minor spake with the tongue of angels and knew the courses of the stars and the virtues of herbs, and were the hidden treasures of the earth revealed to him, and he knew the qualities of birds, and of fishes, and of all animals, and of man, and of trees, and stones, and roots, and waters; write – not there is perfect joy.

And St. Francis went on again a little space, and cried aloud. O Friar Leo, although the friar minor were skilled to preach so well that he should convert all the infidels to the faith of Christ; write – not there is perfect joy.

And when this fashion of talk had endured two good miles, Friar Leo asked him in great wonder and said, Father, prithee in God’s name tell me where is perfect joy to be found?

And St. Francis answered him thus, When we are come to St. Mary of the Angels, wet through with rain, frozen with cold, and foul with mire and tormented with hunger; and when we knock at the door, the doorkeeper cometh in a rage and saith, ‘Who are ye?’ and we say, ‘We are two of your friars,’ and he answers, ‘Ye tell not true; ye are rather two knaves that go deceiving the world and stealing the alms of the poor; begone!’ and he openeth not to us, and maketh us stay outside hungry and cold all night in the rain and snow; then if we endure patiently such cruelty, such abuse, and such insolent dismissal without complaint or murmuring, and believe humbly and charitably that that doorkeeper truly knows us, and that God maketh him to rail against us; O Friar Leo, write – there is perfect joy.

And if we persevere in our knocking, and he issues forth and angrily drives us away, abusing us and smiting us on the cheek, saying, ‘Go hence, ye vile thieves, and get ye gone to the workhouse, here ye shall neither eat nor lodge;’ if thus we suffer patiently with love and gladness; write, O Friar Leo – this is perfect joy.

And if, constrained by hunger and by cold, we knock once more and pray with many tears that he open to us for the love of God and let us but come inside, and he more insolently than ever crieth, ‘These be impudent rogues, I will pay them out as they deserve,’ and issues forth with a big knotted stick and seizes us by our cowls and flings us on the ground and rolls us in the snow, bruising every bone in our bodies with that heavy stick – if we, thinking on the agony of the blessed Christ, endure all these things patiently and joyously for love of Him; write, O Friar Leo, that here and in this perfect joy is found.

And now, Friar Leo, hear the conclusion. Above all the grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit that Christ giveth to His beloved is that of overcoming self, and for love of Him willingly to bear pain and buffetings and revilings and discomfort; for in none other of God’s gifts, save these, may we glory, seeing they are not ours, but of God. Wherefore the Apostle saith, ‘What hast thou that is not of God, and if thou hast received it of Him, wherefore dost thou glory as if thou hadst it of thyself?’ But in the cross of tribulation and of affliction we may glory, because this is ours. Therefore the Apostle saith, ‘I will not glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.’

What about the "lost?"

Are we all sinners because of the sin of Adam?  Does the stain of sin pass from one generation to another?  Does every man, woman, and child on this earth stand condemned by God unless they hear and believe in Jesus Christ?  To most people this sounds utterly unreasonable and unjust; and indeed it is.  To anyone who believes that God loves His creation, and especially loves humanity, it is inconceivable that He should condemn people through no fault of their own.  The very idea than an innocent child deserves eternal punishment is monstrous.  Yet it is utterly reasonable that we are made good through the goodness of Christ.  Although the sin of one person cannot condemn humanity, the radiant love of one man can transform humanity—and is doing so.  God waits for our hearts to open to His grace; He waits for an opportunity to reveal to each of us His truth. Then when we are ready, He ensures that we hear about Christ and about his Gospel; and we find ourselves faced with a choice, which will affect the entire course of life and death—whether to embrace the words of Jesus Christ or to reject them.  If we deliberately reject the Gospel, even when we fully understand it, then we condemn ourselves; if we embrace it, we shall ourselves be embraced by God in heaven.  St. John Chrysostom

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Put your heart into it

Any work we do here on earth is God’s work.  However, we always work with reservation, without sincerity. Not only can God not bear that, but no human being can.  We know that the universe belongs to God, that the Earth is God’s planet, and that everything belongs to God, no matter what type of work we do.

Whether a person is good or not, pious or not, a dedicated worker or not, he will answer for it.  We should not think too much about who our superiors are, or who our employer is.  What we should bear in mind is that every type of work on earth and in all the universe is God’s work and as such it should be performed from the heart, without reservation.  When we do so, we can free ourselves from our interior resistance.  Every action of ours will then help our neighbor, beginning with our family, wherever we may be.  So we must always be sincere.  Then we radiate peace, quiet, and love, and we are loved in return.  With our thoughts we either attract or repel enemies, friends, family and neighbors.  However, people usually take this lightly and suffer a lot as a result.  Elder Thaddeus of Serbia

Friday, January 27, 2012

Be mindful of God and stay near Him

Be mindful of God, so that in every moment He may be mindful of you.  If He is mindful of you, He will give you salvation.

Do not forget Him, letting yourselves be seduced by vain distractions.  Do you want Him to forget you in your times of temptation?

Stay near Him and obey Him in the days of your prosperity.  You will be able to rely on His word in difficult days, because prayer will keep you safe in His continual presence.

Remain constantly before His face, think of Him, remember Him in your heart.  Otherwise, if you only meet Him from time to time, you risk losing your close friendship with Him.

Familiarity between people comes about through physical presence.  Familiarity with God, by contrast, is built on meditation and self-abandonment to Him during prayer.

Those who would see the Lord should purify their hearts with the continual remembrance of God.  They will reach the contemplation of God in every moment, and within Him all will be light.  St. Isaac the Syrian

Effecting change

Our starting point is always wrong.  Instead of beginning with ourselves, we always want to change others first and ourselves last.  If everyone would begin first with themselves, then there would be peace all around!  St. John Chrysostom said that no one can harm the man who does not injure himself --- not even the devil.  You see, we are the sole architects of our future.  Elder Thaddeus of Serbia

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Influenced by the thoughts of others

Your thoughts are burdened because you are influenced by the thoughts of your fellow men. Pray to the Lord that He might take this burden from you.  These are the thoughts of others which differ from yours.  They have their plan and their plan is to attack you with their thoughts.  Instead of letting go, you have allowed yourself to become part of their plan, so, of course, you suffer.  Had you ignored the attack, you would have kept your peace.  They could have thought or said anything at all about you, yet you would have remained calm and at peace.  Soon all their anger would have died down, like a deflated balloon because of the pure and peaceful thoughts that would have come from you.  If you are like that, calm and full of love, if all you think are good and kind thoughts, they will stop warring against you in their thoughts and will not threaten you anymore.  But if you demand an eye for an eye, that is war.  Where there is war there can be no peace.  How can there be peace on a battlefield, when everyone is looking over their shoulders and anticipating a surprise attack from the enemy?  Elder Thaddeus of Serbia

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Help one another on the path to salvation

We cannot be saved by seeking just our own individual salvation; we need to look first to the good of others.

In warfare, the soldier who takes to flight to save his own skin brings disaster on himself as well as on the others, whereas the good soldier who takes up arms on behalf of his comrades saves his own life along with theirs.

Our life is a warfare, the bitterest of battles.  So in loyalty to our King, let us draw up the lines of battle ready for blood and slaughter, with our eyes on the salvation of all, encouraging the stalwarts and stirring up the laggards.

Many of our brothers and sisters have fallen in this battle, wounded and covered with blood, with no one to care for them.  There is no one to look after them, no layman, no priest, no comrade, no friend, no brothers, because we are all of us seeking our own individual salvation and thereby spoiling our chance of attaining it. 

True freedom and glory come from not being concerned with ourselves.  We are weak and vulnerable to the devil’s attacks because we are not doing this.  We are not standing shoulder to shoulder in the fight. We are not fortified with the love of God.  We are not using the shield of brotherly love.  On the contrary, we are seeking friends and comrades from very different motives--either because of family ties or from habit or because we live nearby, instead of the search for sanctity.

All our friendships ought to be cemented with this one bond, the desire to help one another.  St. John Chrysostom

Entry taken from Drinking from the Hidden Fountain, A Patristic Breviary, Jan. 26

Monday, January 23, 2012

The power of gentleness

And when your enemy falls into your hands, do not consider how you can pay him back and let him feel the sharp edge of your tongue before sending him packing; consider rather how you can heal him and restore him to a better frame of mind.  Continue to make every effort by both word and deed until your gentleness has overcome his aggressiveness.  Nothing has more power than gentleness.  As someone has said, ‘A soft word will break bones.’  And what is harder than bone?  Well then, even if someone is as hard and inflexible as that, he will be conquered if you treat him gently.  There is another saying, ‘A soft answer turns away wrath.’  It is obvious therefore that whether your enemy continues to rage or whether he is reconciled depends much more on you than on him.  For it rests with us, not with those who are angry, either to destroy their anger or to inflame it.  St. John Chrysostom

Healing through the fear of God

It will happen that everyone who has sinned before God Almighty will feel fear in his heart of judgment and of God's turning away from him. The fear of the Lord and the realization of His just retribution wastes away the flesh and breaks the bones, just as the stone moved by the mechanism presses the grapes that are in the winepress and crushes them completely. First men trample on the clusters, then they crush them under the stone and press out all the juice from them. So when a man enters into the fear of God, that very fear has completely pressed down and crushed the pride and vainglory of his "mind of flesh," (Rom. 8:6f.), then holy humility, that very light and gentle spiritual stone, comes down from above and presses out all the moisture of carnal pleasures and passions. This does not render useless the soul that has been pressed down; rather, it waters the soul with floods of tears. It causes the living water (Jn. 4:10) to spring forth to heal the wounds inflicted by sin as it washes away the pus and the sores, and so makes that man altogether "whiter than snow," (Ps.51.9). St. Symeon the New Theologian

Saturday, January 21, 2012

On the Saints, Part VI

The Saints hear our prayers and are possessed from God of the strength to help us. The whole Christian race knows this.  Fr. Roman told me that when he was a boy he had to cross the river Don in the winter, and his horse fell through the ice and was just about to go under, dragging the sledge with it.  He was a little boy at the time and he cried at the top of his voice, ‘St. Nicholas, help me pull the horse out!’  And he tugged at the bridle and pulled the horse and sledge out from under the ice.  And when Fr. Matthew, who came from my village, was a little boy he used to graze his father’s sheep like the Prophet David.  He was no bigger than a sheep himself.  His elder brother was working on the other side of a large field and suddenly he saw a pack of wolves rushing at Misha—Fr. Matthew’s name in the world--and little Misha cried out, ‘St. Nicholas, help!’ and no sooner had the words left his lips than the wolves turned back and did no harm either to him or his flock.  And for a long time after that the people of the village would smile and say, ‘Our Misha was terribly frightened by a pack of wolves but St. Nicholas rescued him!’

And we know of many an instance where the Saints come to our help the moment we call upon them. Thus, it is evident that all heaven hears our prayers.  St. Silouan the Athonite

Friday, January 20, 2012

On the Saints, part V

Call with faith upon the Mother of God and the Saints and pray to them.  They hear our prayers and know even our inmost thoughts.  And marvel not at this.  Heaven and all the saints live by the Holy Spirit and in all the world there is naught hidden by the Holy Spirit.  Once upon a time I did not understand how it was that the holy inhabitants of heaven could see our lives.  But when the Mother of God brought my sins home to me I realized that they see us in the Holy Spirit and know our entire lives.  St. Silouan the Athonite

Thursday, January 19, 2012

On the Saints, part IV

The Saints rejoice when we repent, and grieve when men forsake God and become like brute beasts.  They grieve to see people living on earth and not realizing that if they were to love one another, the world would know freedom from sin; and where sin is absent there is joy and gladness from the Holy Spirit, in such wise that on all sides everything looks pleasing, and the soul marvels that all is so well with her and praises God.  St. Silouan the Athonite

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

On the Saints, part III

The holy Saints have attained the Kingdom of Heaven, and there they look upon the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ; but by the Holy Spirit they see, too, the sufferings of men on earth.  The Lord gave them such great grace that they embrace the whole world with their love.  They see and know how we languish in affliction, how our hearts have withered within us, how despondency has fettered our souls; and they never cease to intercede for us with God.  St. Silouan the Athonite

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

On the Saints, part II

The Saints live in another world, and there through the Holy Spirit they behold the glory of God and the beauty of the Lord’s countenance.  But in the same Holy Spirit they see our lives, too, and our deeds.  They know our sorrows and hear our ardent prayers.  In their lives they learned of the love of God from the Holy Spirit; and he who knows love on earth takes it with him into eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven where love grows and becomes perfect.  And if love makes one unable to forget a brother here, how much more do the Saints remember and pray for us!  St. Silouan the Athonite

Monday, January 16, 2012

On the Saints, part I

To many people the Saints seem far removed from us.  But the Saints are far only from people who have distanced themselves—they are very close to them that keep Christ’s commandments and possess the grace of the Holy Spirit.  In heaven all things live and move in the Holy Spirit.  But this same Holy Spirit is on earth, too.  The Holy Spirit dwells in our Church; in the sacraments; in the Holy Scriptures; in the souls of the faithful.  The Holy Spirit unites all men, and so the Saints are close to us; and when we pray to them they hear our prayers in the Holy Spirit, and our souls feel that they are praying for us.  St. Silouan the Athonite

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Nourishment for the soul

Every day you provide your bodies with good to keep them from failing. In the same way your good works should be the daily nourishment of your hearts. Your bodies are fed with food and your spirits with good works. You aren't to deny your soul, which is going to live forever, what you grant to your body, which is going to die. St. Gregory the Great

Where can I flee?

A place does not save you.  There is no place where you can flee from yourself.  St. Nikon of Optina

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The work of an evangelist

For not to one, or two or three cities shall you preach, says Christ, but to the whole world. You will traverse land and sea, the inhabited country and the desert, preaching to princes and tribes alike, to philosophers and orators saying everything openly and with boldness of speech.  St. John Chrysostom

January 14 is the commemoration of St. Nina, Enlightener of Georgia and Equal to the Apostles—many years to all who celebrate on this day (my daughter has St. Nina as her namesake).

Tonight after dinner, I suggested a reading on the life of St. Nina.  I found a detailed, fascinating life of the Saint on-line from a book published by Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY (surf here:  http://www.angelfire.com/ga/Georgian/beso.html).  I realize that by eyeing at the text you might think it’s just too much for a busy person to read (it is two pages long). However, if you make the effort, I’m certain you will be both edified and amazed…wondrous is God in His Saints! 

I found it very enjoyable to read the text aloud and my daughter was carefully tuned in as I read.  When I finished, my Nina was quite amazed by the hagiography and the mighty works of God wrought through the service of St. Nina in Iberia.  She gratefully acknowledged her spiritual link with this great evangelist and wonderworker—glory to God! 

Blessed Feast of St. Nina, Enlightener of Georgia and Equal to the Apostles!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Restrain the spirit of controversy

A brother said to Abba Mateos, “Give me a word.” He said to him, “Restrain the spirit of controversy in yourself regarding everything, and weep, have compunction, for the time is drawing near.”

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On spiritual closeness

People who have the same goal and who strive towards the one thing needful have oneness of soul, and they never feel the distance of separation.  And no matter how great that distance is, it can never be the cause of hindrance to that spiritual closeness uniting these people in oneness of soul.  St. John Maximovich

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

On economics

Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor?  Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbors?  Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone?  Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm.  Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again.  Worse still, the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold from the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift.  Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm.  Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow.  The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first—and then they will joyfully share their wealth.  St. John Chrysostom

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Church cannot be prevailed against

Looking at what came to pass, believe what is to come.  No one in the future will be able to prevail against the Church.  If they did not manage to crush her when she numbered but a few members, when her teaching seemed novel and strange, when so many terrible wars and so many persecutions were raised against her from everywhere, much more they will not manage to injure her today, when she has spread in the whole world, and increased her dominion among all nations, abolishing their pagan altars and idols, their festivals and celebrations, the smoke and the smell of their abominable sacrifices.  How did the Apostles achieve such a great, such an important task, after so many obstacles?  Surely, it was by the divine and unconquerable power of Him, who prophesied about the creation and triumph of His Church.  No one can deny this, unless he is mindless and completely unable to think.  St. John Chrysostom

Included below is a note from my cousin, Fr. Demetrios—the video is definitely worth watching.

A Wonderful Bonus: This 13-minute video shows a glimpse of a gigantic, brand new exhibit in Moscow --- heralding the restoration of a free Holy Orthodoxy in Russia.  Notice the piety of the people --- young and old.  Notice the expressions of the faces of the children, as they viewed how the Communists destroyed churches and holy items.  It is a technological masterpiece.  What a JOY it would be to see it live!  Every Orthodox Christian should see this video! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XddLDufkaig

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A better way to know one's brother

Try to know yourself, your own wickedness...do not think about the sin of a brother but about what in him is better than in yourself.  St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Word of God was made flesh...

Christ is Born!  Glorify Him! Blessed Feast of the Holy Nativity of our Lord to brethren who celebrate on the Julian calendar:   

This is the reason why the Word of God was made flesh, and the Son of God became Son of Man: so that we might enter into communion with the Word of God and by receiving adoption might become sons of God.  Indeed, we should not be able to share in immortality without a close union with the Immortal.  How could we have united ourselves with immortality if Immortality had not become what we are, in such a way that we should not be absorbed by it, and thus we should be adopted as sons of God?  St. Irenaeus of Lyons

On Holy Theophany

Christ is illumined; let us shine forth with Him. Christ is baptized; let us descend with Him that we may also ascend with Him.  St. Gregory the Theologian, 4th century 

The Jordan River reverses its flow on this feast: http://frmilovan.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/the-jordan-reversed-its-flow/

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The soul of a humble man

The soul of a humble man is like the sea:  throw a stone into the sea - for a moment it will ruffle the surface a little, and then sink to the bottom.  Thus do afflictions disappear down into the heart of the humble man, because the strength of the Lord is with him.  St. Silouan of Mount Athos

Of interest:  YouTube video interview with Elder Proclus: 

Pres. Candace

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Walk in simplicity

Walk before God in simplicity, and not in subtleties of the mind.  Simplicity brings faith; but subtle and intricate speculations bring conceit; and conceit brings withdrawal from God.  St. Isaac the Syrian 

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