Orthodox Thought for the Day


Thursday, May 31, 2012

The best approach

We must not approach Christ out of fear of how we will die and of what will become of us.  Rather, we must open out hearts to Him, as when we tug at a window curtain and the sun immediately shines in.  In this way Christ will come to us, that we might truly love Him.  This is the best way.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Meditation from Prayers by the Lake

People can do me no evil, as long as I have no wounds.
I saw two caves, one of which revealed an echo, while the other had none. And many curious children were visiting the former and were mischievously carrying out shouting matches with the cave. But from the other cave visitors were quickly returning, because it was not answering them with an echo.

If my soul is wounded, every worldly evil will resound within it. And people will laugh at me, and will throng more and more strongly with their shouting. But truly, evil-speaking people will not harm me, if my tongue has forgotten how to speak evil. Nor will external malice sadden me, if there is no malice in my heart to resound like a goatskin drum. Nor shall I be able to respond to ire with ire, if the lair of ire within me has been vacated and there is nothing to be aroused. Nor will human passions titillate me, if the passions within me have been reduced to ashes. Nor will the unfaithfulness of friends sadden me, if I have resolved to have You for my friend. Nor can the injustice of the world crush me, if injustice has been expelled from my thoughts. Nor will the deceitful spirits of worldly pleasure, honor and power entice me, if my soul is like an immaculate bride, who receives only the Holy Spirit and yearns for Him alone.
People cannot shove anyone into hell, unless that person shoves himself. Nor can people hoist anyone up on their shoulders to the throne of God, unless that person elevates himself.

If my soul has no open windows, no mud can be thrown into it. Let all nature rise up against me; it can do nothing to me except a single thing—to become the grave of my body more swiftly.
Every worldly crop is covered with fertilizer, so that it will sprout as soon as possible and grow better. If my soul, alas, were to abandon her virginity and receive the seed of this world into herself, then she would also have to accept the manure, which the world throws onto its field. But I call upon You day and night: come dwell in my soul and close all those places where my enemies can enter. Make the cavern of my soul empty and silent, so that no one from the world will want to enter it. O my soul, my only concern, be on guard and learn to distinguish between the voices striking your ears. And once you hear the voice of your Lord, abandon your silence and resound with all your strength. O my soul, cavern of eternity, never permit temporal thieves to enter you and kindle their fire within you. Keep quiet, when they shout to you. Stay still, when they bang on you. And patiently await your Master. For He will truly come.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The spiritual life is very simple and easy

Spiritual life is very simple and easy; we make it difficult by not struggling properly.  With a little effort, a great deal of humility, and trust in God, one can achieve great progress in the spiritual life.  For the devil cannot find a foothold where there is humility; and where there is no devil, it follows that there will be no temptations. 

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Courting disaster

Nothing is more pitiful, nothing more disastrous than to be one’s own spiritual director.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

We all need guidance

Live through lowliness of mind instead of going to your death through pretentious pride.  We should not set ourselves up as guideposts, we should not consider ourselves sagacious (i.e., wise), we should not believe that we can direct ourselves.  We need assistance; we need guidance in addition to God’s Grace. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

During the time of misfortune

You who believe when you are well, see to it that you do not fall away from God in the time of misfortune.  

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The time between Ascension & Pentecost

Beloved brother, after the recently celebrated Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, after the joy of Christ’s Resurrection, now that the path of asceticism has opened up also for you, you should likewise continue in prayer in anticipation of that great and crowning feast of Holy Pentecost. Of course, ever since that first Pentecost in the time of the holy Apostles, the Holy Spirit has continuously and consistently been and ever will be in the Church, and His grace, without ever diminishing, performs all the Mysteries through the course of the year. But know that on the Feast of Holy Pentecost, when the Holy Church triumphantly celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, this is not only a remembrance of a past event—even though this particular event in time was of great significance both for the past and for the present and for the future (all feasts and mysteries celebrated by the Church possess significance for the future)—but this is also a special and most abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Church, when His grace is signed most powerfully upon all those who on that day come to church with prayer, and, bending their hearts and knees, pray to receive the Holy Spirit into their souls and a blessing upon their lives.

The holy Apostles, as we said, continued in prayer and supplication, awaiting the descent of the Holy Spirit. So likewise do you, following their example, pray in advance and with fervent prayer prepare yourself in such a way that the grace of the Holy Spirit not only touch you but that it come to abide constantly in your heart. Do not think that the time between Ascension and Pentecost is some kind of empty space. No, this time is given to us with a purpose, that we might prepare ourselves to receive a great gift and mystery. Further, it does not say in Scripture that, awaiting the descent of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles continued in prayer and fasting, as they did on other occasions (Acts 13:3; 14:23; I Cor. 7:5; II Cor. 6:5, 11:27). It says simply that they continued in prayer and supplication, and that their waiting for this great gift (Acts 11:20) was not joined with any labors or difficulties; their ascesis in this case was only spiritual. The descent of the Holy Spirit was the beginning of a New age, the foretaste of a blessed life in heaven, where there will be rewards for ascetic labors but not the labors themselves; it will be a time of rest and tranquility, not labors and battles... And of you is required, now, no fasting or prostrations, but only the joyous anticipation of grace and an abiding in prayer. Take care that you are not negligent in this regard. Like Christ’s holy disciples in ancient times, so too, you, who are also Christ’s disciple, remain in church, praising and blessing God (Luke 24:53).

And so, after the Lord’s Ascension in the flesh and until Pentecost, the holy Apostles awaited the coming of the Holy Spirit. Because the Holy Spirit had not yet descended, the Church had not yet received that invaluable, precious gift. The Body of the Church was still soulless, inanimated, as it were. The Holy Spirit had not yet come to give life to and to animate the Church of Christ; the heart of the Church had not yet begun to beat.

O Holy Spirit, come and enter into the heart of the Church of the Son of God!  O Holy Spirit, come also into our earthly temples and into our hearts! Yes, brother, the Holy Spirit will come into God’s temples.  Take care that He likewise come into your soul and body.  You know that the Church is there where the Holy Spirit dwells; without the Holy Spirit there is no Church.  For this reason heretical assemblies cannot be called the Church, even though their external form might resemble the Church.  Know that this is merely a corpse without life. The Holy Spirit is there where there is correct faith and unyielding confirmation in virtue and truth. It is about such a Church that the Lord testifies as of His Bride, addressing her prophetically: Thou art all fair, My companion, and there is no spot in thee (Song of Solomon 4:7).

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Avoiding hard heartedness

For your heart not to be hardened, you must never think that someone else is at fault, or how much that person is at fault; but rather, how much you are at fault.  You see, when people are at odds with one another, each of them thinks that he is in the right; and each thinks he is entitled to more rights than the other person, and so they are constantly in disagreement. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Paschal Gift

Continuing to greet you in Paschal fashion during these 40 Holy Days:  Christ is Risen!  Truly He is Risen! 

Some time before this St. Apollo was living in a cave in the mountain with five brothers.  He had recently come from the desert and these were his first disciples. Pascha came, and when they had finished giving worship to God they ate whatever they happened to have.  There were a few dry loaves and some pickled vegetables. Then Apollo said to them, “If we have faith, my children, and are true sons of Christ, let each of us ask of God what he desires to eat.”  But they entrusted the whole matter to him, considering themselves unworthy of such a grace.  He therefore prayed with a radiant face and they all said “Amen.”  And, at once, in the night, a number of men arrived at the cave, complete strangers to them, who said that they had travelled a long distance.  They were carrying things which the brothers had never even heard of before, things which do not grow in Egypt: fruits of paradise of every kind, and grapes and pomegranates and figs and walnuts, all procured out of season, and honeycomb, and a pitcher of fresh milk, and giant dates, and white loaves still warm although brought to them from a foreign country.  The men who brought these things delivered them simply with the message that they had been sent by a rich magnate, and immediately departed in a hurry.  The brothers partook of these provisions until Pentecost and satisfied their hunger with them, so that they wondered and said, “Truly these were sent by God.” 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Three things that please God

Three things that please God are true faith in God with a pure heart, a simple life with a grateful spirit, and generosity inspired by charity. 

Saturday, May 19, 2012

On forcefulness of will

At the beginning of the struggle...the holy commandments of God must be fulfilled with a certain forcefulness of will (cf. Matt. 11:12); then the Lord, seeing our intention and labor, will grant us readiness of will and gladness in obeying His purposes.  For 'it is the Lord who makes ready the will,' (Prov. 8:35 LXX), so that we always do what is right joyfully. Then shall we truly feel that 'it is God who energizes in you both the willing and the doing of His purpose,' (Phil. 2:13). 

Friday, May 18, 2012

The vainglorious man

A vainglorious man is a believer - and an idolator.  Apparently honoring God, he actually is out to please not God but men.  To be a showoff is to be vainglorious, and the fast of such a man is unrewarded and his prayer futile, since he is practicing both to win praise. 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

God will be your helper

Be at peace, and have genuine charity among yourselves. If you follow the example of the holy fathers, God, the comforter of all good, will be your helper. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

On the holy priesthood & the grace of God

(This) grace is so exceeding great that were men able to see the glory of this grace, the whole world would wonder at it; but the Lord has veiled it that His servants should not be puffed up but find salvation in humility...Truly noble is a priest - the minister at God's altar. Whoever gives offense to him offends the Holy Spirit who lives in him... If people could behold in what glory a priest celebrates the divine office they would swoon at the sight; and if the priest could see himself, could see the celestial glory surrounding him as he officiates, he would become a great warrior and devote himself to feats of spiritual endurance, that he might not offend in any way the grace of the Holy Spirit living in him.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Mother of all Christians

Link for the meditation below: http://saintstevens.org/Orthodox%20Faith/May%20Meditation,%20Mother%20of%20All.html

V. Rev. John Constantine
As the month of May comes around, the thoughts of many of us drift to a special day – the second Sunday of the month in which we honor very special women in our lives – our mothers. An old Jewish proverb states: “God couldn’t be everywhere so He created mothers.” It is our mothers who not only bore us and nourished us, embraced us with love, set our feet on the path of the knowledge of God, who nursed our illnesses and hurts, who encourage us to be all we can be, whose unceasing prayers bless our comings and goings, and whose soft counsel and deep faith assure us that all will be well. This past Holy Week and Pascha my mind was constantly turning to another mother whose maternal love significantly affected our incomprehensible salvation – our most Holy, Blessed and Glorious Lady, the Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary.

From the hymnology of the Church during the services of Holy Week we entered into her maternal anguish as her Son entered into His Passion, Crucifixion and Entombment. The joy of the First Annunciation when the Archangel Gabriel was sent to the city of Nazareth to declare that she had found favor with God and that she was to bear the Son of the Most High is all but forgotten as she beholds her Son crucified on the Cross. The maternal heart groans as her only Son commends her to the care of the Beloved Disciple, John. We can only but imagine her grief as she holds the lifeless body of her Son as He is taken down from the Cross and hastily buried. Any loving mother who has buried a child understands the magnitude of her maternal grief at the foot of the Holy Cross. The prophecy of Symeon at the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple has become reality, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.”

It is not impossible to imagine that the same Archangel was not commanded to proclaim the Second Annunciation to the Holy Virgin in Jerusalem: “ The Angel cried aloud to the Lady full of grace: Rejoice, O pure Virgin; and again I say Rejoice, Your Son has resurrected from the grave on the third day.”
As the Virgin Mary’s life is intertwined with that of her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, so is she intertwined in the life of every Orthodox Christian. As we become children of God by adoption, so she becomes our mother through that same adoption. All we need to do is look at all aspects of our veneration of the Holy Virgin: icons, candles, Commemorative Liturgies, services of Paraklesis, countless intercessory prayers and prayers “that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (Luke 2:35)

In honoring our earthly mothers on Mother’s Day, let us also honor the Virgin Mary, the model of motherhood. This honor should not be confined to one day, but continuously: “Her children shall rise up and call her blessed.” May the mother of us all, the Theotokos, always entreat her Son and our Lord for our care and protection! (end of Fr. John’s article)

Theotokos of Jerusalem
Icon courtesy of Uncut Mountain Supply

Thank you, Lord, for our earthly mothers, those who bore us and those who nurtured us;
Thank you most of all for giving us your all-holy, immaculate and most-blessed mother
the Theotokos, who keeps us in her heart and in her prayers,
the perfect mother whose pure love is boundless and all-encompassing.

Blessed Mother’s Day!   Pres. Candace

Learn more about the Theotokos here:  http://orthodoxwiki.org/Theotokos

On II Corinthians 5:17

For to despise the present age, not to love transitory things, unreservedly to stretch out the mind in humility to God and our neighbor, to preserve patience against offered insults and, with patience guarded, to repel the pain of malice from the heart, to give one's property to the poor, not to covet that of others, to esteem the friend in God, on God's account to love even those who are hostile, to mourn at the affliction of a neighbor, not to exult in the death of one who is an enemy, this is the new creature whom the Master of the nations seeks with watchful eye amid the other disciples, saying, ‘If, then, any be in Christ a new creature, the old things are passed away. Behold all things are made new,’ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Friday, May 11, 2012

What the lover of God can expect

I will show you another work that can establish man firmly (on his way) from beginning to end.  It is to love God with all his heart and intention and to worship Him.  God will then give him great strength and joy, and all the works of God will become to him as sweet as honeycomb.  So will all labors of the body become light and sweet, along with his meditation, vigil and carrying the Lord's yoke. 

However, on account of God's love for man, He unleashes upon him adversities so as not to be conceited, but stand firm in his struggle and proceed further in his growth.  Instead of strength he feels languor and feebleness, instead of joy, sadness; instead of sweetness, bitterness.  Many similar things befall him who loves God.  Nevertheless, he is all the more strengthened in his struggle against them and eventually overcomes them. Once he does so, the Spirit of God stands by him in all things and strengthens him so as never to fear anything evil. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Value the joy accorded you

Oh, what great happiness and bliss, what exaltation it is to address oneself to the Eternal Father. Always, without fail, value this joy which has been accorded to you by God's infinite grace and do not forget it during your prayers; God, the angels and God's holy men listen to you.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Strong admonition

For whoever has the ability to remedy the suffering of others, but chooses rather to withhold aid out of selfish motives, may properly be judged the equivalent of a murderer.

Of further interest:  http://www.pravmir.com/psalm-50/

Evidence of the Creator's hand

The very harmony of creation, its preservation and governing, teach us that there is a God who has put all this together and keeps it together, ever maintaining it and providing for it. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Do you wish to be free of afflictions?

Do you wish to be free of afflictions and not to be burdened by them?  Expect greater ones, and you will find peace.  Remember Job and other saints, and the afflictions they suffered.  Acquire their patience, and comfort will come to your spirit.  Be of good courage, stand firm and pray.

Friday, May 4, 2012

How Jesus appears in us and in others

The child Jesus born within us advances by different ways in those who receive Him in wisdom, in age, and in grace. He is not the same in every person, but is present according to the measure of the person receiving Him. He shows Himself according to each one's capacity. He comes either as an infant, or a child advancing in age, or as one fully grown after the example of the cluster. Christ is never seen with the same form upon the vine, but He changes His form with time - now budding, now blossoming, now mature, now ripe and finally as wine. Thus the vine holds out a promise with its fruit. It is not yet ripe for wine, but it awaits maturity. Meanwhile it does not lack in any delight, for it gladdens our sense of smell instead of our taste with its expectation of the future; by its fragrance of hope it sweetens the soul's senses. A faith firm in a grace we hope for becomes a delight for us who wait in patience. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The loving, happy home

Neither do walls or rich furniture make a home.  Millionaires in magnificent mansions may never know a home.  But where there are good relationships, where love binds the family together and to God, there happiness is always to be found.  For good relationships are heaven anywhere.  Monotony and misery cannot exist where there is love.  But the fire of love must be kept burning warmly and brightly with the sweet wood of sacrifice.  In teaching us to cross the "I" out of life, our Lord tells us the secret of happiness; what the Saints call the ecstasy of self-forgetfulness.  For divine love is always self-effacing, seeks to give rather than to receive, to serve rather than be served, to love rather than to be loved, and will sacrifice anything for the beloved.  Only then does love become a clean and holy fire in the heart, and not an ugly flare of lust. 

Make our lives peaceful, O Lord

The letter below was sent by Fr. Demetrios Carellas on Monday of Bright Week this year.  The content is a valuable reminder for each of us as long-standing conflict is often a stumbling block for many and personal peace remains elusive.  I hope you’ll have time to read it in its entirety: 

"It is the day of the Resurrection; let us be radiant in the
festival, and let us embrace one another.  Let us say, O brethren,
even to those who hate us: Let us forgive all things
on the Resurrection..."
                                                               [Resurrection Doxastikon in the 1st Plagal tone]
Christ is risen!

This year, the words of the closing hymn of the Resurrection Matins service really spoke to my heart.  It is: a call to heart-centered intimacy; a call to forgive everything - past and present - in the spirit of the never-ending JOY of our Saviour's Holy Resurrection, even to those who hate us.

Well, then, should not this Christ-centered call apply also to family members and friends with whom we are currently - at best - 'benignly rejecting', and - at worse - festering bitterness and/or contempt?  My brothers and sisters in the risen Lord Jesus, how can we expect our Lord to - as another Resurrection hymn states - "make our lives peaceful", if we continue to show Him our contempt through the way we treat those closest to us?

What a glorious time this is for us to let go of our anger, harshness and judgment of those whom we feel have offended us, rejected us, been cruel to us --- even for years?  And here is the most effective way to do this: We must pray that our Lord Jesus will grant us His grace to take full blame for the conflict, and not expect any apology from the other party --- even if, by the standards of this fallen world, we were ones being "wronged".  In this way, my beloved sojourners on the sea of life, we will be victorious, even if the other person chooses to reject our efforts.  I have total confidence in the truth of what I am sharing with you, because I have frequently read about these things in the teachings of our holy Church Fathers, and in the lives of our Saints; and actually have seen living results of it in my 37+ years of service to our Lord Jesus and His Church.

When we surrender our wills to Christ in this manner, then He will give to our hearts at least these two things: His peace, "which surpasses all understanding"; and a love for the other person that is no longer me-centered and conditional, but Christ-centered and unconditional! And then we will experience and inward freedom, that words cannot circumscribe!

However, (please forgive the length of this!) we cannot approach the other person with any hidden agenda; or our efforts will bear no good fruit.  A story from the Desert Fathers will clearly illustrate this:  Once two monks at a Monastery became quite angry with one another, and begin to harbor resentment for one another. One of the monks decided to make an attempt reconciliation with his brother.  However, on the way to speak with him, he allowed the devil to fill his thoughts with memories of the unkind things the other had said to him, and to put in his mind that: if he asked for forgiveness, then the other monk had to do likewise.  Thus, the reconciliation attempt failed completely.

Therefore the monk went to his Spiritual Father, who explained to him that his hidden agenda made it impossible for God's grace to enter into the conversation.  Therefore, he instructed his spiritual child to pray fervently for God's grace; and to approach his brother --- unconditionally, and willing to accept full blame for the loss of their friendship.  Approaching his brother's cell in this manner, armed him with with God's grace, their division was destroyed!

O my dear and blessed brothers and sisters in the risen Lord, think of what healing power would start taking place within ourselves, our families, our parishes, even our Nations, if you and I  choose to follow this path during the next 38 days --- if we too "forgive all things on the Resurrection!

Truly He is risen!

Your servant in Christ,
+Fr. Demetrios

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

God's spiritual agreement with us

Our duty and concern must be how to please God and our fellow men; we should not be preoccupied with our needs, as God will take care of them.  There is a silent spiritual agreement between God and man.  He will look after us, while we will concentrate on how to live our lives according to His will.  "Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you," (1 Peter 5:7).