Orthodox Thought for the Day


Sunday, September 29, 2013



This document is in the public domain. Copying it is encouraged.


St. Arsenios of Cappadocia: BLESSING-PSALTER

THE PSALTER AS A BOOK OF NEEDS, according to the usage of St. Arsenios of Cappadocia, as transmitted by the Athonite Elder Paisios.

translated for the St. Pachomius Library by Vassilios Kollias

edited by Karen Rae Keck

EDITOR'S NOTE: Saint Arsenios used to use the Psalms for blessings, especially when there was no prescribed blessing for a particular occasion. Here in Part One is the correspondence between the psalms and different occasions. The original Greek list can be found in -O Geron Paisios- by the Hieromonk Christodoulos, Agion Oros, 1994. In Part Two, we have provided a (rather poor) index; perhaps someone else would care to fashion a better.

Apart from all religious considerations, this "Book of Needs" is a fascinating portrait of village life in Anatolia at the beginning of the Twentieth Century: whether it reflects more the "longue duree" of Byzantine history or the particular difficulties of St. Arsenios' time we do not feel well enough informed even to speculate. There is certainly no idealization of rural conditions here: particularly noteworthy is the extreme concern for alleviating psychological as well as physical pain, and the mention of what we would nowadays call "post-traumatic stress disorder".

To us, at least, the exact reasoning behind the saint's choice of a particular psalm for a given need is not always obvious; perhaps this is by design, to encourage close reflection on the words. Orthodoxy is not magic, and a document like this one is not an endorsement of "peasant superstition"; it is rather a channel through which the Love of God can enter into every aspect of human society.


[IMPORTANT NOTE: The FIRST number is the number of the psalm in the Greek Septuagint Bible. The SECOND number is the number of the psalm found in the Masoretic text and in most English language Bibles, such as the King James!]

1 (1) When a tree or a vine is planted, so that it may bring forth fruit.

2 (2) So that God illumines those who go to meetings and councils.

3 (3) So that badness goes away from people, so that they do not torment unjustly their fellows.

4 (4) So that God heals the sensitive people who fell ill from depression because of the behaviour of hard-hearted people.

5 (5) So that God heals the wounded eyes that were bitten by a bad person.

6 (6) So that God frees the person who has been under a spell.

7 (7) For those who got damaged from fear, from the terrors and the intimidations of bad people.

8 (8) For those who are hurt by demons or by perverse people.

9 (9 & 10) So that the demons stop tormenting you in sleep or with fancies during the day.

10 (11) For hard-hearted couples that argue and divorce (when the hard-hearted man or woman torments their sensitive wife or husband).

11 (12) For mentally ill people who have badness and harm others.

12 (13) For those who suffer from their liver.

13 (14) For a terrible demon, continually three times a day for three days.

14 (15) So that robbers or thieves change their mind and return having done no harm, and having repented.

15 (16) So that the key is found when it is lost.

16 (17) For a grave and unjust accusation, three times a day for three days.

17 (18) When there is an earthquake or other natural disaster, or devastating rain with lightning.

18 (19) So that women give birth successfully.

19 (20) For the couples who for medical reasons cannot have children, so that God heals them and that they do not divorce.

20 (21) So that God softens the hearts of the rich and they give alms to the poor.

21 (22) So that God contains the fire, so that no big harm happens.

22 (23) So that God makes milder the very rebellious children that bring sorrow to their parents.

23 (24) So that the door opens when the key is lost.

24 (25) For people who temptation troubles a lot and so brings continual problems into their lives, making them lose their peace and complain.

25 (26) When somebody asks something good from God so that He gives it without the person getting harmed.

26 (27) So that God protects the peasants from the enemy army, so that they do not harm the people or their fields.

27 (28) So that God heals those who suffer from illnesses of nervous or mental origin.

28 (29) For those that the sea makes sick and who are afraid of the rough sea.

29 (30) For those that are in danger far away, in the territory of barbarous and unbelieving people, so that God guards them and illumines the people there to become peaceful and to come to know God.

30 (31) So that God gives enough grain and fruit when the weather is not good for agriculture.

31 (32) So that the travelers find their way when they are lost and suffering from it.

32 (33) So that God reveals the truth to those who were unjustly imprisoned, and so that they are set free.

33 (34) For those on the edge of death, when they are tormented by demons. Or, for the enemy army when it brings danger and enters the borders with ominous intentions.

34 (35) So that God frees the good people from the traps of the bad people, who take advantage of the people of God.

35 (36) So that animosity disappears completely after arguments and misunderstandings.

36 (37) For people badly wounded by criminals.

37 (38) When the jaws have pain coming from rotten teeth.

38 (39) So that the people who are abandoned and depressed find work, so that they stop being in sorrow.

39 (40) So that the love between employer and employee comes back when there has been exchange of heavy words.

40 (41) So that women give birth with success when the child comes prematurely into the world.

41 (42) For young people when they get ill from falling in love, and one person gets wounded and is in sorrow.

42 (43) So that the people get free from the prisons of an enemy nation.

43 (44) So that God reveals the truth to couples when there has been a misunderstanding, so that they come into mutual peace and love again.

44 (45) For those who suffer from heart or kidneys.

45 (46) For the young people that the enemy because of envy prevents from making a family (i.e. from getting married).

46 (47) So that the employee or the employer find peace, when the employee leaves offended by the employer, and so that the employee finds work.

47 (48) When gangs of criminals go robbing and grave disasters are happening: to be continually read for 40 days.

48 (49) For those who do a dangerous job.

49 (50) So that the people who are far from God repent and return to God and are saved.

50 (51) When, because of our sins and in order to correct us, comes the punishment of God (epidemics of illness and deaths for people or animals).

51 (52) So that the hard-hearted masters repent and become compassionate and do not torment the people.

52 (53) So that God blesses the nets and they get filled with fish.

53 (54) So that God illumines the rich people that have bought slaves so that they free them.

54 (55) So that the name of a family that had been unjustly accused is restored.

55 (56) For sensitive people, whose souls have been wounded by their fellows.

56 (57) For those people who suffer headaches coming from big sorrow.

57 (58) So that things come in a helping way for those who work with good intention, so that God prevents every perverse action of demons or crooked people.

58 (59) For those that cannot speak, that God gives them the ability to speak.

59 (60) So that God reveals the truth when a whole group of people is unjustly accused.

60 (61) For those that have trouble in their work either because of laziness or because of fear.

61 (62) So that God relieves from troubles the person who is weak, so that he is not dominated by the urge to complain.

62 (63) So that fields and trees bring forth fruit when the water is limited.

63 (64) When a person is bitten by a dog or wolf that had rabies. (He was also for giving them blessed water to drink).

64 (65) So that merchants prosper, so that they do not speak too much and take advantage of simple people.

65 (66) So that the evil one does not bring obstacles in the homes and cause families to be in sorrow.

66 (67) So that the places where hens are raised are blessed.

67 (68) So that the women whose pregnancies fail manage to endure and become healthy.

68 (69) When there is severe rain and the rivers overflow, taking with them people and houses.

69 (70) For sensitive people that get sad from little things and come to despair, that God gives them strength.

70 (71) For deserted people who become uninteresting to others [lit. "boring"] because of the devil's envy and come to despair, that they may find mercy and healing from God.

71 (72) So that God blesses the gatherings of the new agricultural production that the peasants bring home.

72 (73) So that the criminals repent.

73 (74) So that God protects the peasants that work in their fields when the enemy have surrounded the village.

74 (75) So that the barbarous employer becomes peaceful and does not torment his fellow human beings, the empoloyees.

75 (76) For a mother who is scared during her giving birth, so that God gives her braveness and protects her.

76 (77) When there is no mutual understanding between parents and children, that God illumines them, so that the children listen to the parents and the parents show love.

77 (78) So that God illumines those who lend so that they do not press their fellows for their debt, and so that they are compassionate.

78 (79) So that God protects the villages from the robbing and stealing of the enemy army.

79 (80) So that God cures a person whose face gets swollen and all his head is in pain.

80 (81) So that God takes care of the poor who are in need and sorrow and are depressed because of poverty.

81 (82) So that people buy the products of the peasants, so that the peasants are not sad and depressed.

82 (83) So that God prevents the bad people who want to do murders.

83 (84) So that God preserves all that is kept in the house, and the animals, and the products of the producers.

84 (85) So that God heals those who were wounded by robbers and moreover got psychologically damaged from terror.

85 (86) So that God saves the world when plague comes and people die.

86 (87) So that God extends the lives of those members of the family that are still urgently needed by the rest of the family.

87 (88) So that God protects all those who have no protector and are suffering from hard-hearted fellows.

88 (89) So that God gives strength to those who easily fall sick and are physically weak, so that they can work without getting tired and depressed.

89 (90) So that God brings rain when there is a drought, or that the wells bring forth water again if they have stopped doing so.

90 (91) So that the devil disappears when he appears in front of a person and brings him terror.

91 (92) So that God gives prudence to people so that they progress spiritually.

92 (93) So that God protects the ship when it is in great danger at sea. (He was also for throwing blessed water at the four corners of the ship).

93 (94) So that God illumines the disorderly people who cause problems to the nation and bring commotion to the people, causing trouble by disorder and divisions.

94 (95) So that no spells cause couples to start finding reasons for arguments and fights.

95 (96) So that God gives to the deaf people the ability to hear.

96 (97) So that spells go away from people.

97 (98) So that God gives comfort for those who are in sorrow so that they stop being depressed.

98 (99) So that God blesses and gives grace to those young people who want to leave everything and follow God. [I do not know how succesful is my translation here. To my Greek ear the exact phrase that is used would make me think of people who follow the monastic life but I am not sure. --Trans.]

99 (100) So that God blesses and makes real the desires of the people that are in accordance with His will.

100 (101) So that God gives graces and talents to the good and simple people.

101 (102) So that God blesses the people who hold offices of power so that they help the people with kindness and understanding.

102 (103) So that the monthly flow of blood comes to a woman when it is delayed.

103 (104) So that God blesses the possessions of the people that they are not sad and depressed, but glorify God.

104 (105) So that people repent and confess their sins.

105 (106) So that God gives illumination to people so that they do not move away from the way to salvation.

106 (107) So that God gives the woman who could not give birth the ability to do so.

107 (108) So that God humbles the enemies, so that they change their bad intentions.

108 (109) So that God cures the epileptics. Or, so that God has mercy on those who accuse unjustly and they repent.

109 (110) So that the younger have respect for the older.

110 (111) So that the unjust judges repent and judge justly the people of God.

111 (112) So that God protects the soldiers when they go to war.

112 (113) So that God gives blessings to the poor widow, so that she pays her debts and is saved from going to prison.

113 (114 & 115) So that God cures the mentally retarded children.

114 (116:1-9) So that God gives blessings and comfort to the sad poor little children, so that they are not looked down upon by the children of the rich and consequently feel depressed.

115 (116:10-19) So that God cures the horrible passion of lying.

116 (117) So that families keep unity and love and glorify God.

117 (118) So that God humbles the barbarians when they surround the village and bring fear, and that He reverses their bad intentions.

118 (119) So that God shatters the barbarians and humbles their action when they slay innocent women and children.

119 (120) So that God gives patience and forbearance to those people who have to live together with crooked and unjust people.

120 (121) So that God protects the slaves from the hands of the enemy so that they are not mutilated before they are set free.

121 (122) So that God cures those who suffer from the "evil eye".

122 (123) So that God gives eyesight to the blind and cures the eyes that are in pain.

123 (124) So that God protects people from snakes, so that they do not bite.

124 (125) So that God protects the fields of the just people from the bad people.

125 (126) So that God cures the people who suffer from continual headaches.

126 (127) So that God brings peace to a family when there are arguments.

127 (128) So that the badness of the enemy never approaches the homes, and that there is the peace and blessing of God in the family.

128 (129) So that God cures the people who suffer from migraines, or, so that God shows mercy to the hard and indiscreet people who bring sorrow to the sensitive.

129 (130) So that God gives braveness and hope to those who start a new job and do not know it well yet, so that they do not find extreme difficulty in their work.

130 (131) So that God gives repentance and comfort with hope to people so that they are saved.

131 (132) So that God shows pity to the world when because of our sins there are continual wars.

132 (133) So that God illumines the nations and they become friendly and the people find peace.

133 (134) So that God protects people from every danger.

134 (135) So that people concentrate at the time of prayer and their mind is united with God.

135 (136) So that God protects the immigrants when they abandon their homes and leave so that they are saved from the barbarians.

136 (137) So that God brings steadiness to the person with unsteady character.

137 (138) So that God illumines the masters of the place so that people's requests are treated with understanding.

138 (139) So that God stops the temptation of sensitive people by blasphemous thoughts.

139 (140) So that God makes peaceful the head of the family who has a very difficult character and brings suffering to all the family.

140 (141) So that God makes peaceful the barbarian master of a place who torments his fellows.

141 (142) So that God makes peaceful the rebel who is doing bad; then even if he is a Kurd he becomes a lamb. [St. Arsenios was living in Asia Minor. Kurds, who were often soldiers, had a reputation among other ethnic groups for being brutal fighters. --Trans.]

142 (143) So that God protects the mother throughout the pregnancy so that she does not loose the child.

143 (144) So that God pacifies the people when they are in unrest so that no civil war happens.

144 (145) So that God blesses the work of people so that it is well accepted by God.

145 (146) So that God stops the flow of blood from people who suffer from it.

146 (147:1-11) So that God heals the people who have been bitten and wounded in the jaws by bad people.

147 (147:12-20) So that God brings peace to the wild animals so that they do not harm people or farm produce.

148 (148) So that God makes the weather appropriate so that people have plenty and glorify God.

[These were from St. Arsenios. The following two are from Fr. Paisios of the Holy Mountain.]

149 (149) From gratefulness and thankfulness to God for His many kindnesses and for the plenitude of His love, that knows no limit and bears with us.

150 (150) So that God gives happiness and comfort to our sad brothers and sisters who are in far places, and to those of our brothers and sisters who are sleeping and are even farther away. Amen.



[IMPORTANT NOTE: Only the Septuagint psalm number is given in this index.]

AGRICULTURE: 1, 26, 30, 50, 52, 62, 66, 71, 83, 124, 147, 148

ANIMALS, Unfriendly: 63, 123, 147

CHILDREN: 22, 76, 109, 113, 114


DISASTERS: 17, 21, 30, 50, 62, 68, 85, 89

HEALTH, Physical: 5, 12, 28, 36, 37, 44, 56, 58, 63, 79, 86, 88, 95, 102, 108, 122, 125, 128, 145, 146

HEALTH, Psychological: 4, 7, 8, 9, 11, 24, 27, 41, 55, 56, 60, 61, 69, 70, 80, 81, 84, 97, 100, 103, 128, 136, 138

HEALTH, Women's: 18, 19, 40, 67, 75, 106, 142, 145

LAW AND GOVERNMENT: 14, 16, 32, 36, 47, 51, 59, 72, 82, 84, 93, 101, 108, 110, 137, 140, 141, 143

MAGIC AND DEMONS: 5, 6, 8, 9, 13, 33, 57, 65, 90, 94, 96, 121

PEACE AND WAR: 26, 33, 42, 73, 78, 93, 107, 111, 117, 118, 120, 127, 131, 132, 135, 140, 141, 143

PEACE (among friends and family): 10, 19, 22, 35, 41, 43, 45, 54, 65, 76, 86, 94, 109, 116, 126, 127, 139

PROPERTY: 14, 15, 23, 47, 83, 103, 124

PROTECTION: 9, 13, 34, 47, 48, 57, 90, 133

SOCIAL CONCERNS: 20, 32, 35, 38, 51, 53, 59, 77, 80, 81, 87, 93, 101, 110, 112, 113, 114, 119, 124, 137, 140

SPIRITUALITY: 3, 9, 24, 25, 29, 49, 50, 57, 72, 91, 98, 99, 100, 104, 105, 108, 115, 119, 130, 134, 136, 149

TRAVEL AND EMIGRATION: 28, 29, 31, 92, 135, 150

WORK: 2, 38, 39, 46, 48, 51, 52, 57, 60, 64, 74, 81, 83, 100, 101, 103, 129, 137, 140,144


The St. Pachomius Orthodox Library, Nativity of the Forerunner 1995

Have mercy, O Lord, upon Thy servants the Hieromonk Christodoulos, the translator Vassilios, and Karen.



Saturday, September 28, 2013

The five ways of repentance

Let me describe to you five ways of repentance; each is different, but all point toward heaven.

The first road is the acknowledgment of sins.  If you acknowledge your sins to God, He will forgive you; and this act of acknowledgment will help you stop sinning.  Let your conscience be your accuser, so that you will not have to face a far different accuser at the Lord's tribunal.  

The second road of repentance is the forgetting of the wrongs of others.  This requires you to control your temper and to forgive the sins that others have committed against you.  If you forgive others, the Lord will forgive you.

The third road is prayer: not perfunctory routine prayer, but fervent, passionate prayer in which you lay yourself wholly before God.

The fourth road is generosity, in which by acts of thoughtful love you make amends for the sins you have committed.  

And the fifth road is humility, whereby you regard yourself as having no virtue, but only sins to offer to God; He will then take the burden of sin from your back.

At times it will be right to travel on one of these roads, at other times to travel on another.  But ensure that every day you walk along at least one of them.

Friday, September 27, 2013

This fleeting life

Don't be sad, for we will all depart from here.  We are passing travelers.  We came here to show our works and to leave. 

On secret things

Examining the secret things of the heart
the secret things of others

God has given you one face and you make yourself another.”
Hamlet, Shakespeare

The human heart is so complex; we hardly know ourselves, let alone another human being.  Yet, we spend a great deal of time analyzing and judging the actions and words of others, seeking out their secret motives and basically guessing in the dark. There are a number of reasons why we do this. Part of it is in order to predict what others will do, to protect ourselves in the future, to exonerate our own misbehavior, and to feel somehow superior to them in the present, since we really understand what makes them tick. Obviously, none of these aims helps us to grow in humility. We are like Ham thoughtlessly uncovering Noah’s nakedness, but carefully covering our own. Another reason for prying into the secret motives of others is that we prefer to avoid thoughtfully examining our own lives.
Self-examination takes effort, silence, and faith. The focus within requires more effort than letting our gaze wander on things around us. Self-examination requires silence and slowing down, for the noise of daily life and motion distract us continuously. It also requires faith, because we all fear what lurks inside our hearts—our secrets—those things that we scarcely even admit to ourselves.  However, these are the depths to which the Gospel calls us.  We are called by Jesus Christ our Master and Lord to plumb the depths of our own heart.  He alone can command us to do this, for He alone knows the heart of man, knows its depth, and knows how splendid the heart can be when filled with His light. Saint Ambrose wrote, “The Lord knows all things, but he waits for your words, not in order to punish you, but to pardon you.” But how can we even confess our secret sins and perhaps unknown passions, unless we look deep into the secret recesses of the heart in order to really see them and know them?

It takes courage and receptivity to the promptings of the Holy Spirit to quiet our own heart and look within.  Saint Macarius the Great teaches us, “The heart is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are lions also; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. There also are rough and uneven roads; there are precipices. . . For our Lord Jesus Christ came for this reason, to change and transform and renew human nature and to recreate this soul that had been overturned by passions through the transgression. He came to mingle human nature with his own Spirit of the Godhead.”

In order for this transformation to take place, we must first recognize the “dragons, lions, and poisonous beasts” within our own heart.  We must discover what are those attitudes, ways of reacting, ways of feeling that poison our relationships with others and with God. We must sense the lion, representing passions and bad habits, stalking its prey, our very soul, and ready to strike her down. We must see where the road to do what is right seems so uneven and why it is so uneven. This is not possible if we are busily searching out the sins and secrets of others, rather than concentrating on our own rocky terrain.  Recognition and acknowledgment of the “dragons, lions, and poisonous beasts” within our own heart compels us to cry out to the Lord for help.  Rather than fearing such, we should see this as a moment to draw closer to God.  God’s compassion and mercy allows us to glimpse our own pitiful state so that we recognize our need for Him and begin to become humble, quiet, and full of even greater love for our merciful Savior.  Saint Macarius and the ancient fathers recognize this as a moment of grace and an opportunity for us to embrace the salvation offered us.  This is the “hell” to which Christ calls Saint Silouan to maintain his mind yet despair not.  It is a blessed, salvific moment, full of grace and God’s love, and strange though it may seem, those things that were secret are released and taken from us by the hand of Christ Who in return sheds upon us His great and rich mercy.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

On spiritual deception and Truth

The world lies in a state of spiritual deception and manifests an affinity for those in the same state.  But it despises and rejects those who serve Truth.

Monday, September 23, 2013

On the Book of Psalms

The Book of Psalms contains everything useful that the other books have.  It predicts the future, it recalls the past, it gives directions for living; it suggests the right behavior to adopt.  It is, in short, a jewel case in which have been collected all the valid teachings in such a way that individuals find remedies just right for their cases. 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

A feast for the eyes and the soul

Visit this link for a plethora of beautiful photos from various aspects of the Orthodox Christian life.  It is a feast for both the eyes and the soul: 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Prayer for Saturday

Lord Jesus Christ, my righteous Judge, I know that my sins are without number, therefore I pray to You on this day when Joseph and Nicodemus placed You in the tomb and You descended to hades with Your holy and divine soul.  There, the light of Your divinity drove away the darkness and You brought unspeakable joy to our first parents, saving them from terrible slavery, and raising them up to paradise.  Bury my wicked and evil sins and deeds; erase them from my mind, that they may no longer war against my soul.  Illumine the dark hell of my heart, driving off the blackness of my sins, and raise my mind to heaven so that I may delight in Your face.  Yea, O Lord, accept my humble prayer as sweet-smelling incense, through the prayers of Your beloved Mother who was wounded in her heart by piercing pain when she beheld Your crucified upon the cross between two thieves.  Together with Your apostles and the myrrh-bearing women, she saw You placed in the tomb, and then beheld You risen from the dead on the third day and also ascending, together with Your holy angels, from earth to heaven.  Have compassion O Lord, on the living and the departed, through the prayers of Your saints, to whom I the unworthy one cry out:  O blessed servants of God, do not cease to intercede with Him day and night for us unworthy ones who ever transgress with innumerable sins.  Intercede for us that God will send us His grace and help for we do not know how to rightly petition Him.  Do not cease to intercede, that through your prayers sinners may obtain forgiveness, the poor find help, the sorrowful be comforted, the troubled be quieted, the oppressed find shelter and that God’s grace may descend upon all for whatever is needful for their souls, to the glory of God Who is extolled in the Trinity, and to Whom is due honor and worship forever.  Amen.