Orthodox Thought for the Day


Friday, August 31, 2012

Joy that afflicts, misery that profits

There is a joy that is affliction; misery is hidden within it.  There is a misery that is profit; it is a fountain of joys in the new world. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On chastisement

For whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. Hebrews 12:6 (NKJV) 

The earth, the vine, and the olive are in need of chastisement.  When the olive is bruised, then its fruit smells sweet.  When the vine is pruned, then its grapes are good.  When the soil is plowed, its yield is good.  When water is confined in channels, desert places drink of it; brass, silver and gold, when they are burnished, shine. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

On purity and diet

He has no lasting purity and chastity who is not contented always to keep to a well-balanced and temperate diet. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wrong attitudes toward the Beatitudes

From the November 26, 2011 posting on Cyberdesert: 

There are many people in the world who are poor in spirit, but not in the way that they should be;
There are many who mourn, but for some financial loss or the death of their children;
Many are gentle, but towards unclean passions;
Many hunger and thirst, but only to seize what does not belong to them and to profit from injustice;
Many are merciful, but towards their bodies and the things that serve the body;
Many are pure in heart, but for the sake of self-esteem;
Many are peace-makers, but by making the soul submit to the flesh;
Many are persecuted, but as wrongdoers;
Many are reviled, but for shameful sins.
St. Maximos the Confessor (Third Century on Love: 46)

Monday, August 27, 2012

On affliction--two short quotes

God measures out affliction according to our need.  St. John Chrysostom

Let your afflictions be books to admonish you.  St. Ephraim of Syria

Friday, August 24, 2012

On being afflicted

For it rests with us to profit or to be injured by afflictions.  It depends not upon the nature of the affliction, but upon the disposition of our own minds. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Practical guide for almsgiving

Know that material alms should always be followed by spiritual alms: with affectionate, brotherly, and pure-hearted love for your neighbor. Do not allow him to notice that he is become beholden to you, do not appear proud. See that your material alms do not lose their value through your failure to provide the spiritual. 

 The following is, perhaps, the best article I’ve ever come across on the topic of almsgiving for the homeless…Pres. Candace

We meet homeless people nearly every day on our life's path; people who are often contemptuously called “bums.” We see them at the train station, near the subway, in town squares and parks, and of course, at the churches, asking for money. Each time we see them, our hearts deliberate painfully over the question, “Should we give them alms, or not?” Then, other questions immediately arise, “How much? How should we give them? Is there any sense in giving at all?”

People are generally divided into two groups. The first are those who give according to their means to all, without thinking about it or asking any questions, following the Lord's words, Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away (Mt. 5:42). The second group is of those who do not give money to “bums,” considering that we mustn't indulge the “bum mafia,” for we participate in their sin of drunkenness and sponging, lying, etc. by giving money to them. These people are ready to fulfill Christ's commandment and are willing to help people, but only those who really need help. They cite the words of the holy fathers in support of this—that the greatest virtue is discernment, for fasting, prayer, alms, or any other virtue will bring a person no benefit if done beyond our strength or out of season.[1] Truly, no one would give anyone money for a rope to hang himself, no matter how tearfully or insistently he begs it. That rope could be a bottle of liquor, which strangles the neck of the beggar each day with increasing strength, or the rope of lies that you would indulge by giving money. There are hundreds and thousands of such ropes.

So what must we do to fulfill the commandment of Christ and please the Lord in the best way? The answer is simple: love.  Try also not to do anything without love. Then everything will settle into place, and even the question itself will seem silly. As we know, Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing, (1 Cor. 13:3). Of course, it is hard to just up and love every homeless person, but it is usually quite possible to show compassion for every person that the Lord has brought to us. I would like to share a little practical experience in helping the homeless under various circumstances.

For example, you are walking to work, and a tipsy beggar asks you for money. What should you do? Don't be lazy—ask him why he needs money. They are often asking for food. This is the simplest case. Then you need to go with him to the nearest grocery store and buy him something he hasn't had for many long years. Give him a holiday, as if this were your old classmate. Something tasty and filling, like good sausage, chicken, cheese, yogurt—in other words, something that they could never get for themselves because it is too expensive to eat in sufficient quantities. Even if the homeless person was lying to you at first about food, he will nevertheless be thankful. Try to transfer this thankfulness to the Lord, let him thank the Lord, and not you personally. For example, tell him that it was Christ Who sent you to him today. Then it will be both bodily and spiritual alms. Try to see a deeply suffering person in him; and if you cannot see in even the last ”bum” the image of God, perhaps very soiled, clouded over, but nevertheless the great image of God, then perhaps you need to discuss this with your spiritual father and pray about it.

Ask the homeless person what his name is, where he hangs out and how often, when is his birthday, is he baptized. Be sincere and kind with him. Homeless people are very sensitive to insincerity. Do not hasten to judge him. We do not know what we ourselves would be if the Lord had deprived us of His protection and hadn't guarded us from the demon of drunkenness and other vices. Wouldn't we be much worse than that person? In a word: love him. Love him to the extent of your heart's capacity; love him sincerely, for Christ's sake. And if even a little love is born in your heart for this person, then the next time, when you are leaving your house, you will probably be prepared for another meeting with him: take some food from home, some warm clothing, a book, or something he might like. You will leave fifteen minutes early for work and find him; wait for him, call him by his name, show some concern for him, and increase love in this world, the lack of which is felt ever more sharply. Thus, from day to day you can live for the sake of Christ, taking care of one poor person. Do not just buy yourself off with money, do not limit yourself to one-time help. It is good, but it is not a perfect fruit. You can't just love for a half an hour and then forget about it.   Continue reading here:  http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/42177.htm

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The best time to pray

Peaceful, night-time prayer is of great assistance with its calmness and is also more efficacious for our spiritual development, just as the silent, night-time rain is of great benefit to growing plants. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Our surest intercessor

Our humility is our surest intercessor before the face of the Lord.  It is by dint of humility and penance that the last shall be first. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

On patience with rambunctious children

My child, be patient with your children.  What can we do?  Of course they are rambunctious, but they cannot be otherwise.  In any case, we must be patient.  Do not let things pile up in your soul; do not demand details.  For by constantly worrying, you will harm your health and that will be worse.  Just overlook their shortcomings and increase your prayer, for prayer works miracles.  And then miraculously, without exertion, they will become calm and quiet children.  Many children were very rambunctious when they were small; afterwards, however, they became wonderful in everything.  The rambunctious children are usually smart, too, and they may achieve much. 

Blasphemous thoughts during worship

The Devil, being a spirit, imperceptibly whispers such ungodly words into the ears of our incorporeal soul against its will; and he, the loathsome one, does this especially when we are standing in prayer, or kneeling before God and imploring Him for help in fighting against blasphemous thoughts.  Often he attacks us at common worship and when we are about to partake of the dread Mysteries  --- wishing to alienate us from God, and to impede us from bowing our heads before Him and communing of the life-giving Mysteries. 
Now that we have understood the craftiness of the Evil One,  let us pay no attention whatsoever to such a temptation.  Rather, when the Devil begins to say such things to us, let us tell him: 'May your toil return upon your own head, you wicked and unclean demon, and may your blasphemy come down upon your own head [cf.  Psalm 7:16]; for I worship the Lord my God, and Him alone shall I serve all the days of my life [cf. Matthew 4:10].  But as for you, in return for this blasphemy, you will have a more severe punishment as an apostate from God, who utters ungodly words against Him.'  In this way, and in no other way, can one overcome the demon of blasphemy.    

As for us, then, brethren, let us despise the thought of blasphemy as satanic and foreign to us; and, in this way, through contempt, we shall be able to free ourselves from it by the grace of God.  For there is no other way in which to overcome it.  The other passions--and the warfare aroused by thoughts--may remain in us, but they require the right time and suitable circumstances for their accomplishment; and thus a man has the opportunity to fight against them and thwart their progress.  This thought, however, darts swiftly and unexpectedly into the soul light lightning--like a missile in flight, or like the twinkling of an eye...It is impossible, therefore, to forestall it, or stop the mouth of this incorporeal demon.                                                                                              

Friday, August 17, 2012

Accountability for our spiritual progress

What is beautiful and well-made belongs to the world and cannot comfort those who want to live a spiritual life.  There is no wall that will not eventually be torn down.  One soul is worth more than the entire world.  What must we do for the soul?  We must begin spiritual work.  We must have only the right kind of concern.  Christ will ask us what spiritual work we have accomplished, how we helped the world in spiritual matters.  He will not ask what buildings we made.  He will not even mention them.  We will be held accountable for our spiritual progress.  I want you to grasp what I am trying to say.  I am not saying that one must not construct buildings, and not construct them well, but one must take care of the spiritual life first and then mind the rest, and do all that with spiritual discernment. 

Voluntary suffering and repentance

If you are not willing to repent through freely choosing to suffer, unsought sufferings will providentially be imposed on you.  St. Thalassios (7th century) 

What is the sense of suffering in our lives?  A three part interview with +Metropolitan Anthony Bloom (of blessed memory), Metropolitan of Sourozh (the Eastern Orthodox Church in Britain).  Start with part 1 here: 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Holy Mandilion (Holy Napkin)

Today is the Feast Day of the Holy Mandilion (Aug 16).  I was greatly moved this morning as I read the August 16 entries from The Prologue of Ohrid http://www.westsrbdio.org/prolog/my.html?month=August&day=16&Go.x=18&Go.y=18

King Abgar had written to Christ, asking for His healing for his affliction of leprosy, through which the Lord worked a miracle via the Holy Mandilion, an icon made without hands. 

Along with King Abgar’s request for healing, my heart was especially touched by his invitation to our Lord Jesus Christ before His Passion, offering him shelter in his own city lest he be harmed by His enemies. 

On Full of Grace and Truth blogspot, I found an extensive entry on the Holy Mandilion and encourage everyone to read there.  The information is expansive and a true blessing for anyone who takes the time to peruse the entry.  http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2010/08/holy-mandylion-napkin-of-christ-not.html

Years ago, I first saw an icon of the Holy Mandilion on the cover of the book Orthodox Dogmatic Theology published by St. Herman Press.  I was deeply moved by its beauty and desired a copy of that same icon.  I will share with you that I now do have a copy of that lovely icon—it revealed itself to me on a shelf at a local thrift store a couple months ago.  I treasure it!

Icon courtesy of Uncut Mountain Supply.com

May we never cease to be amazed by the miracles of Christ our Savior! 
Pres. Candace

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Dormition of the Mother of God

From the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia website, entry from Aug 13, 2011:

The Feast of the Dormition (Koimesis): The Feast of the Dormition (Falling asleep) of the All-holy Theotokos, celebrated on the 15th of August every year is the greatest among several others which commemorate her Blessed person and life. As such, this Feast marks the completion of her earthly life as her full participation in the salvation and eternal life which the Lord God established for us human beings through Christ. But one may ask. Is this not a contradiction in terms? Does not falling asleep imply death? The answer is Yes and No. Yes, because she truly died. No, because she did not remain in death. The Icon of the Feast of the Falling-asleep of the Theotokos depicts her body resting breathless in a bed while her soul, wrapped in swaddling clothes like a new-born baby, is upheld in the arms of the Risen and glorified Christ who stands behind the bed. This icon is the reversal of the usual icon of the Theotokos which depicts the Virgin holding Christ in her arms. Christ holding the Virgin’s soul in his arms indicates her entry into the Kingdom of Heaven which the Incarnate Christ opened up for us through his saving life and work. It indicates in the most concrete way St. Athanasius’ well known dictum: “God became human that we (humans) may be made divine.” Christ the Savior taking the soul of his Mother to Heaven marks the first resurrection, which Christians experience when they die, thanks to our Lord’s redemptive work. The full resurrection of our humanity, i.e. the resurrection of the body, will take place at the second coming of Christ which will be accompanied by the general resurrection and the last judgment of all human beings.

What happened to the body of the Theotokos? The Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin does not end with her first resurrection, which is the entry of her soul into heaven. There is another mystery also connected with it which refers to her holy body. What happened to the body of the Theotokos? Why there is no tradition in the Christian Church both in East and West that mentions any bodily relics of the all-holy Mother of God, but there are traditions only about her girdle (zone) and garments (estheta and maphorion)? Apparently, according to ancient traditions, her body too was miraculously translated into heaven after its burial in Gethsemane, and was united with her soul. Indeed her tomb was found empty shortly after the burial. This tradition of the translation of the body of the Theotokos from the tomb to heaven (metathesis or metastasis in Greek, transitus in Latin) is very strong in the Orthodox Church as liturgical practice and many and important patristic texts bear witness, although sources do differ on details.

References about the Falling Asleep in the Lord of the Blessed Virgin Theotokos we can find in the works of John of Thessalonica, Theoteknos of Livias, Modestus of Jerusalem, Andrew of Crete, Germanus of Constantinople, John the Monk of the Old Lavra, John Damascene and Theodore the Studite. To these texts one could go on and add several others from the later Byzantine fathers and ecclesiastical authors of the second millennium, such as Leo the Emperor, John of Euchaita, Isidore of Thessalonica, Philotheos of Constantinople, Gregory Palamas of Thessalonica, Nicholas Cabasilas, Damaskenos Stoudites, etc. These texts point to a common tradition, although one observes differences in the details as scholars argue. They all agree, however, that the tomb of St. Mary in Gethsemane, where the body of the Blessed Virgin Mary was buried by the holy Apostles, was found empty when they opened it three days later. Here is how this ‘tradition’ is presented by Patriarch Juvenal of Jerusalem to Empress Pulcheria of Constantinople at the time of Chalcedon (AD 451) who asked for the relic of the Theotokos to be transferred from Jerusalem to Constantinople.

“There is nothing in the holy, inspired Scripture about the death of Mary, the holy Theotokos; but we know from an ancient and truest tradition that at the time of her glorious falling asleep, all the holy Apostles, who were traveling the world preaching salvation to the nations, were in an instant lifted up and brought to Jerusalem. As they stood before her, they saw an angelic apparition, and a divine chanting was heard from the higher Powers. And so, in a state of divine and heavenly glory she placed her soul into God’s hands in an ineffable way. Her body, which had received God, was carried with angelic and apostolic hymns, was prepared and laid to rest in a coffin in Gethsemane. It was there and for three days that the angelic choruses and hymns continued unceasingly. After three days, however, the angelic hymnody ceased. The Apostles were there, and since one of them –Thomas– who had been absent from the burial, came after the third day and asked to reverence that body which had received God, they opened the coffin. They could not find anywhere her much-praised body, and since all they could find were her burial swaddling-clothes and the ineffable fragrance that came out of them and filled their bowels, they closed the coffin again. Amazed by the miracle of this mystery, they could only think this: that the One who willed to be incarnated and become human from her in his person, and to be born in the flesh he who is God the Word and Lord of Glory, and who preserved her virginity incorruptible after the birth, he was also the One that was well-pleased to honor her immaculate and spotless body, after her departure from this world, [by endowing it] with incorruptibility and with a transposition (metathesis) [to heaven] before the common, and universal resurrection.”

Orthodox and Roman Catholic Doctrine: This is not the place to present in detail all the variable patristic accounts of the falling asleep of the Theotokos and assess their conclusions. In spite of differences, it is clear that they all point to the glorification of the Blessed Theotokos at her death, which marks her entry into Heaven and taking a place closer to Christ than any other heavenly or human being. The mystery of her bodily transposition which is warranted by the empty tomb is a matter of faith and piety and is based on the mystery of the Incarnation. Based on this logic that pertains to the mystery of Christ and the unique place of the Blessed Virgin Theotokos in it, it is also logical to assume that she too has experienced the resurrection of the body as a unique anticipation of the general resurrection of all humanity in the end of time. In spite of this, the Orthodox Church has not accepted the Roman Catholic dogma of the bodily assumption of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, which was promulgated by Pope Pius XII on 1 November 1950 through his Bull Munificentissimus Deus. The reasons for this rejection have been both theological and historical. The Roman Catholic Dogma of the Assumption is based on the earlier Marian dogma of the Immaculate Conception (that the Virgin was born immaculate, free from original sin), which was promulgated by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1854 through his Bull Ineffabilis Deus. In effect this meant that being sinless she could not and did not die but was assumed into heaven both in body and soul. For the Orthodox these Roman Catholic Marian Dogmas are rather rationalizations of piety and are not clearly warranted in the Holy Tradition of the Church. Orthodox piety and faith preserves the mystery of the blessed Theotokos along with the mystery of Christ the Incarnate God and Lord of Glory. The festal hymn of the Dormition proclaims this most clearly: “In giving birth you kept your virginity. In falling asleep you did not abandon the world, O Mother of God. You passed over into life, for you are the Mother of Life, and by your intercessions you deliver our souls from death.”   Rev. Fr. George Dragas

Also, visit John Sanidopoulos’ web-blog, Mystagogy, for his Dormition of the Theotokos resource page:

The Mother of God--rightly called

I have been amazed that some are utterly in doubt as to whether or not the holy Virgin is able to be called the Mother of God.  For if our Lord Jesus Christ is God, how should the holy Virgin who bore him not be the Mother of God? Letter to the Monks of Egypt 1 (A.D. 427)  St. Cyril of Alexandria

You cannot then help admitting that the grace comes from God. It is God, then, who has given it. But it has been given by our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore the Lord Jesus Christ is God. But if he is God, as he certainly is, then she who bore God is the Mother of God On the Incarnation of Christ: Against Nestorius 2:2 (A.D. 429)  St. John Cassian

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Mother of God--the Queen of Heaven

At Thy right hand stood the queen, arrayed in a vesture of in-woven gold, adorned with various colors,as the Psalmist and Prophet says of [the Most Holy Theotokos] (Ps. 44[45]:8).  And you should take this garment interwoven with gold to mean her divinely radiant body --- adorned with every type of virtue.  For, at present, she is the only one who has a place in heaven with her divinely glorified body in the company of her Son.  Earth, the grave and death could not ultimately detain her life-giving body, which has held God and been a more beloved habitation for Him than heaven and the heaven of heavens. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Mother of God--the throne of the King

It is fitting that [our Most Holy Theotokos] stands not just beside God, but on His right hand; for where Christ sat in Heaven, namely, on the right hand of the Majesty, there she now stands --- having ascended from earth to Heaven.  Nor is this solely because no one longs for Christ as she does, and no one is so longed for in return --- which would be in accordance with the laws of nature; but because she is truly His throne.  And where the King sits, there stands the throne. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Mother of God is at His right hand

The Mother of God is so much closer to God than others who draw near to Him, that she is able to intercede more powerfully than any of them; and by this I mean not just human beings, but even all the ranks of angels.  Isaiah [the Prophet] writes of the highest order of angels in heaven: 'And the Seraphim stood round about Him' (Isa. 6:2); whereas David says of the Mother of God: 'At Thy right hand stood the queen ...' (Ps. 44[45]:8). ... the Seraphim are 'round about' God, but only the Queen of all stands beside Him. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Mother of God--Queen of Creation

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. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Mother of God--the treasure house and mistress of God's riches

Just as it was only through [the Theotokos] that the Son came to us, was seen on earth and lived among men --- after previously being invisible to all, so from now on, for endless eternity: all progress towards the manifestation of divine light; every revelation of divine mysteries; and all forms of spiritual gifts are beyond everyone's grasp without her.  She was the first to receive the all-pervading fullness of Him, Who fills all things; and she brought Him within reach of all - distributing to each as he is able to receive, in proportion to the measure of his purity - such that she is both the treasure-house and the mistress of God's riches. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Mother of God--her mighty acts

Who can tell of your mighty acts, O Virgin, or who can show forth all your praise, O holy Maid?  You bear the title of Mother of God.  You united your nous with God.  You have joined God with flesh.  You have made God the Son of Man, and man the Son of God.  You have reconciled the world to its Creator. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Mother of God--His Tabernacle

O Mother of God and Virgin ... you alone were vouchsafed the gifts of the Spirit in their totality, or rather, you alone held mysteriously in your womb, Him in Whom are the treasures of all these spiritual gifts; and became, inexplicably, His Tabernacle. ... You alone fulfilled all [the prophetic] visions, surpassing our human nature by means of your union with God; not just when you gave birth in a marvelous way, but also through the preceding fellowship with Him in everything good, which resulted from your utter purity. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Start the day out right

The only means by which you can spend the day in perfect holiness, peace, and without sin, is the most sincere, fervent prayer as soon as you rise from sleep in the morning.  It will bring Christ into your heart, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and will thus strengthen and fortify your soul against any evil; but still it will be necessary for you carefully to guard your heart. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

All who know God will know...

All who know God, will know the [Mother of God/Panaghia/Theotokos] as the one who holds Him, Whom nothing can contain; and all who sing God's praises, will hymn her after God.  She is the cause of what preceded her, the protectress of what comes after her, and she procures eternity.  She is the Prophets' theme, the Apostles' starting point, the martyrs' mainstay, and the teachers' foundation. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Guidance for fasting

It is necessary most of all for one who is fasting to curb anger, to accustom himself to meekness and condescension, to have a contrite heart, to repulse impure thoughts and desires, to examine his conscience, to put his mind to the test and to verify what good has been done by us in this or any other week, and which deficiency we have corrected in ourselves in the present week.  This is true fasting. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

St. Nektarios on unanswered prayers

Do not think that you have a right to complain when your prayers are not answered.  God fulfills your desires in a manner that you do not know.