Orthodox Thought for the Day


Friday, March 25, 2016

On works of love

O wondrous path of manifest works, I sing a hymn to thee! People, surround yourselves, gird yourselves with small good works—a chain of small, simple, easy—costing you nothing—kind feelings, thoughts, words, and deeds.

Only in works of love toward our neighbor must we see and feel the possibility of transforming our love, the possibility of salvation. For only through mercy and love can we acquire the Holy Spirit of God, which alone can enable us to resist the terrible evil spirits that have possessed people and the world.


Fr. John Krestiankin of blessed memory

Be it unto me according to Thy Word

Look at the man who likes to have his own way. His soul is never at peace. He is always discontented--this is not right, that is not as it should be. But the man who is entirely given over to the will of God can pray with a pure mind. His soul loves the Lord, and he finds everything pleasant and agreeable.

Thus did the Most Holy Virgin submit herself to God: Behold the servant of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word, - then the Lord’s words written in the Gospels by the Holy Spirit would live in our souls, and the whole world would be filled with the love of God and how beautiful would life be on earth. And although God’s words have been heard the length and breadth of the universe for so many centuries, people do not understand and will not accept them. But the man who lives according to God’s will, will be glorified in heaven and on earth.  

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A fast pleasing to God

Right before Great Lent begins, or at the beginning of Great Lent, all Orthodox Christians should read and meditate on Isaiah 58, especially verses :4-11. Great Lent, as God describes a fast, should be about the very things Christ teaches in the parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) which we proclaim 8 days before Lent begins. As Isaiah recorded it, the Lord said:

Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?

Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator[a] shall go before you,
the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.

God does not bless Great Lent to be a season of criticizing, condemning or accusing others of not keeping the fast, of not being rigorous enough, of being too rigorous. The fast that God blesses has to do with virtue, with justice and charity. Fasting as Jesus taught it is do be done secretly. It is not intended to be a public witness.

“And when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  (Matthew 6:16-18)

Unfortunately, this godly emphasis is not always obvious in the Orthodox fast as Lent gets turned into being about menus and diet and personal asceticism, rather than being about how we relate to and treat others. Great Lent is about loving God and neighbor. It is about us humans living as God created us to – as relational beings with a social and theological dimension. As the Lord Jesus taught:

“But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you. But woe to you Pharisees! for you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”   (Luke 11:41-42)

If we search enough we can find these themes in the hymns of Great Lent. Here are a few such hymns below reminding us that fasting is not mostly about changing our diets and our stomachs, but rather is about transforming and reforming our hearts and minds.

Now the season of virtues has come,
And the Judge is at the door.
Let us not hold back with a darkened face,
But offering tears, contrition and giving of alms
Let us keep the fast, and let us cry:
Our sins are more in number than the sands of the sea,
But forgive each of us, that we may receive an incorruptible crown, Savior of all!


The goal of fasting is to overcome sins and all evil influence in our lives. The perfect fast does not consist of checking the labels on every food item to make sure it adheres to strict rules limiting which foods we eat. We can strictly keep the rules, but if our hearts remain unchanged, if we are not conformed to the image of Christ, then the fast is not going to be well-pleasing to God. We are not trying to torment the palates of family members, rather we are trying to transform our hearts so that we are virtuous, humble, loving, forgiving and asking forgiveness. Fasting that leaves us angry and judgmental does not form us in the image of our Savior.

Let us use fasting as our sword,
To cut away all evil from our heart.
If we do this, we shall receive the true crown
At the day of Judgment from Christ the King of all!

Cutting away evil from the heart, not cutting calories is the purpose of the fast. We fast from food in order to help train ourselves to adhere to the Gospel. Abstaining from food is not the goal, abstaining from evil is.

Let us present a good fast, well-pleasing to the Lord!
A true fast is alienation from the evil one;
The holding of one’s tongue, the laying aside of all anger,
The removal of sensuality,
Of accusation, falsehood and sins of swearing.
The weakening of these will make the fast true and well-pleasing.

Indeed, we want a fast that is well-pleasing to God, not one that inflates our spiritual egos. We are to fast from evil thoughts, evil words, evil images, evil actions. Fasting from food is supposed to help us learn that we can in fact say no to our desires. We are not controlled by our genes, nor by nurture or nature. We have free wills and can refrain from some things we like and desire in order to do things which are desirable and pleasing to others and their salvation.

Restrain yourself, soul, from harmful passions,
From hate and envy and from every evil.
Be nourished in the Fast with the spiritual meat from heaven,
Which is the Word of God.

If we refrain from hate and envy, from sexual immorality and allurement, from pornography, from lying, drunkenness, impatience and greed, then we really would be doing a fast well-pleasing to God.

21 / 03 / 2016

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Another way of prayer

Prayer is a request for what is good, offered by the devout of God.  But we do not restrict this request simply to what is stated in words... We should not express our prayer merely in syllables, but the power of prayer should be expressed in the moral attitude of our soul and in the virtuous actions that extend throughout our life... This is how you pray continually - not by offering prayer in words, but by joining yourself to God through your whole way of life, so that your life becomes one continuous and uninterrupted prayer.  


Friday, March 18, 2016

On the miracle of the kolyva

The Great Martyr Theodore the Recruit’s Miracle

Georgios Papademetropoulos
8 March 2014

On the Saturday of the 1st Week of Lent, we celebrate the remarkable miracle performed by the Holy and Glorious Great Martyr, Theodore the Recruit, through the kolyva.

After Konstantios, the son of Constantine the Great, the imperial throne of Constantinople passed to Julian the Apostate. He had been a Christian but became a pagan and set in motion a harsh persecution against Christians, both publicly and in secret. So this impious emperor, when he had exhausted ways of punishing Christians openly with brutality and unspeakable inhumanity, began to feel ashamed and harboured a suspicion that perhaps Christians were increasing anyway. So this treacherous and unholy man concocted ways of defiling them in ways which they wouldn’t suspect.

And this is what he did: knowing that the Christians purified themselves particularly through fasting in the first week of Lent and devoted themselves to God, he summoned the eparch of the city and ordered him to withdraw from the market the foodstuffs and beverages that were on sale and to substitute others, having first mixed them with blood from sacrifices. In this way he would pollute them, so that when Christians who were fasting bought and used them, they’d be defiled by the pagan sacrifices.

The eparch at once put the order into practice: he replenished the whole market with food and drink polluted by the abominable sacrifices to the idols. But the eye of God, which sees all things and lights upon those who are trying to be clever and then hoists them with their own petard, took steps to protect us and made short work of the disgraceful ploys of Apostate. And this is how. To Patriarch Evdoxios, who, was not actually all that Orthodox as regards the Faith, He sent His great champion Theodore, known as the Recruit,  because of the regiment to which he had belonged.

Saint Theodore appeared to the patriarch at a time when the latter was still awake, not in a dream, and said to him, roughly, this: “Get up at once and gather together the flock of Christ and give strict orders that no-one should buy anything at all of the food in the market, because it’s been polluted by the impious emperor, Julian, with blood from the sacrifices”. The patriarch was at a loss what to do and wondered how it would be possible for those Christians who didn’t have any supplies of their own in store not to buy from what was on offer for sale in the market.

The saint, however, told him to give them kolyva and in this way he’d satisfy their food requirements. But Evdoxios was again dumbfounded, because he didn’t know what kolyva was and had to ask to find out. The saint immediately told him: “Back in Efhaïta (Euchaita) that’s what we used to call boiled wheat”. But the patriarch wanted to establish exactly who this person was who seemed so interested in the Christian population. To this request, the saint replied: “He who has been sent to help you at this time is God’s martyr, Theodore”. The patriarch then got up at once and gathered together Christ’s flock. Once he had told them what he’d seen, he did as the martyr had suggested. In this way, he kept the congregation of the Church untainted by the repulsive machinations of our enemy and the violator of our Faith.

When Julian saw that his diabolical plan had failed miserably, he was ashamed and ordered that the market be re-stocked, with the usual food and drinks on sale. The flock of Christ, on the other hand, since the end of the first week of the fast was approaching, expressed its thanks to their benefactor the martyr, and, on the Saturday, honoured his memory with kolyva, amid great rejoicing. From that day to this, the faithful have, in a sense, kept reliving this miracle, so that the great feat performed by the martyr should not be eclipsed by time. We honour and pay our respects to God’s great martyr Theodore through the kolyva.

This great Theodore had been summoned by the commanding officer of the regiment of the Recruits, the impious Vringas, who recommended that he renounce his faith, and allowed him time to reflect. Theodore, however, wouldn’t hear of the suggestion. Not only did he refuse to deny his faith, but he also burned down the temple and the statue of Rea, the mother of the gods, having first shared out among the poor the various pieces of jewellery and votive offerings which were there. Following this, he was subjected to various dreadful tortures. Finally, they cast him into a fiery furnace, where the saint, who didn’t suffer in the slightest from the flames, gave up his spirit to God and was adorned with the crown of martyrdom.

George D. Papadimitriou, Με τους Αγίους μας – Συναξάρια Τριωδίου και Πεντηκοσταρίου, Apostoliki Diakonia, pp. 68-71.

Article found at:  http://pemptousia.com/2014/03/great-martyr-theodore-the-recruits-miracle-kolyva/

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

On the sin of Ham

The sin of Ham

A sermon given at the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts,

Fourth Wednesday of Great Lent

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

May God save you for these evening prayers, for preparing yourselves to receive Holy Communion, for your love of God and the Holy Church and for the Divine Liturgy—the highest, the most beautiful, immortal, common act of mankind, the only act that can truly unite people with God and with each other. At the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts we heard the readings from the Old Testament. We have all read them at one time or another, we are all familiar with them, and we know that this is the book in which the God-seer Moses tells the story of God’s creation of the world—not from his own mind, not as he imagined it, but as God put it into his mind. He tells us not only about these great works of God, but also about mankind’s first sins—about pride, about disobedience and betrayal of God, about the first murder, about enmity, and about envy. Now, today, before us at the Vespers, unfolds the story of yet one more sin, for which the Lord curses a man. This is the sin of Ham.

We heard how Ham treated his father. This would seem to be righteous anger to some degree, or a righteous judgment—if judgment can be at all righteous. Judgment can only be righteous if it is God’s judgment—God Who sees the heart of man, Who knows all the secrets of the human soul, even the slightest act. From this we must recognize that from God come fairness, goodness, and just judgment.

But here we have Ham. His father Noah drank to such a degree of drunkenness that he could not even arise. We know how that can be, how it is when someone close to us is completely out of control. He might even become extremely repugnant, and it’s unpleasant to even come near him. And we know what shocking things he says and does when he is in such a state. So Ham went and called his brothers Shem and Japheth and pointed at their father saying, “Come and take a look at what our father has come to.” His two brothers, as we read in the Bible, did not give in to that judgment—however “righteous” it may have been. And it has to be admitted that there definitely was some impropriety in their father’s behavior. But they closed their eyes and looked the other way, covering their father’s nakedness. Noah was so drunk he lay sprawled on the ground entirely unclothed.

God then made a certain determination concerning Ham: to be cursed. Cursed! It would seem that this condemnation was unfair. What was unfair about it? Did Noah do well to get drunk? Of course not—there is nothing good about what Noah had done. However, the Lord God does not look at a person’s actions, but at his heart. Despite the indignation in the heart of Noah’s son, if it were filled with sorrow over his father, if he had been contrite about himself also—because he himself, of course, is not without sin—if he, in grief over that sad incident had not gone and spread the word around, had not called his brothers and other people to take a look, then even that inner indignation he felt over another man’s impropriety would not have been a sin so severe as to merit a curse. But the sin of Ham was cursed by God’s word, as was Ham himself.

And this curse of Ham takes place before our very eyes, because even the very name “Ham” has become a byword among all peoples, throughout all times. We know what that means—to be called “Ham”. There is a curse in this; it meant that Ham and all his descendants would bear the mark of that curse from God, throughout all time. Why? Because God so judged.

The thought might arise in us also: Why? The son is not responsible for the father! Why were all of Ham’s descendants cursed for the sin of their father? But at this we fall into the same sin. We again are indignant, rebellious and mocking against our heavenly father. We can ask for God to give us understanding, saying: Why do we not comprehend You? Perhaps the Lord will answer this question of our heart and mind. He will most probably reveal that answer to us. But this sin is repeated throughout the generations of men, and in every person. The Holy Church reminds us that this is a sin, so that if we want to come closer to God, if we want to attain purity of soul, if we want true repentance and correction of life, if we want salvation, to be able to repent while still on this earth, then we have to remember: Has there ever been anything like this with regard to our own parents? With regard to our superiors, our instructors or benefactors? And even on a broader scale, with regard to ordinary people, our peers, and those younger than us?

Ham’s sin was that he did not grieve over the sin of his father, but instead became conceited, laughed derisively at the sin, was proud, looked down on his father, and had a contemptuous attitude. Every time this feeling arises in our hearts, no matter who is the object of it or under what pretexts—even if it is a reproach against all unrighteousness, even if we consider that we are fulfilling some “just” mission—if we have contempt for our neighbor and not for his sin, if we condemn him and not his sin, if we look down upon him, then no matter what he has done, without exception, if it gives cause for pride in our hearts, then that pride is demonic, and falls under that curse.

This is what our Holy Church teaches. I repeat it during these days of Great Lent, when we are offered a very special opportunity for repentance, for remembering our sins of long ago and not so long ago, for self-analysis, discernment about our own selves, and of course, correction of our lives. The holy fathers say: Remember your sins, repent of them, and ask God sincerely for forgiveness. If you come to hate that sin with all your heart, it will be a sign that you have been forgiven it. May God save you.

Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov)
Translation for OrthoChristian.com

16 / 04 / 2013

Source:  http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/60858.htm

Sunday, March 13, 2016

March 13: St. Patience (Ypomoni) the Righteous

Although there is great emphasis today on the Sunday of Forgiveness, it is also one of the commemoration days for St. Patience, the Righteous.  Please see this link to Full of Grace and Truth blogspot:  http://full-of-grace-and-truth.blogspot.com/2009/05/st-ypomoni-patience-righteous.html.  How appropriate that this Saint is brought to mind at the beginning of Great Lent which is calls upon us to be patient with ourselves and others as we struggle together.


Kali Sarakosti (Blessed 40 Holy Day Fast),
Presbytera Candace

Cheese-fare Sunday homily by Archimandrite John Krestiankin

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

The quickly flowing river of time rushes on to eternity. Only the Holy Church and God’s feasts stop this motion momentarily, as if counting the time. And our entire life, from our birth to departure from it, is reflected in this yearly cycle; it reminds us and calls to us, “Know yourself, look inside yourself, O man. Who are you, how do you live, and what awaits you ahead? You are rushing headlong with this flow of time to timelessness, to eternity.” So it is every day, every year.

Was it so long ago that the cry of the human heart, languishing in sins, rang out it the Church, “Open unto me the doors of repentance, O Giver of Life”? Our hearts trembled—the fast was already in the air. But now, the weeks of preparation for our field of repentance in Great Lent have passed, when:

—the Pharisee and the publican were the mirrors of our souls;

—we called out to the Heavenly Father with the voice of the prodigal son, recognizing also our distance from the Truth, our departure to a faraway land: “O God, I have sinned against heaven and before Thee; make me one of Thy hired servants.”

—a reminder of the terrible and glorious Last Judgment of the Lord, when the books shall be opened and all secrets revealed. Not yet frightening us, it calls us to knowledge of ourselves, to repentance.

Now we are at the last day of the threshold before Great Lent. On this day, the Church remembers the terrible tragedy that happened to mankind at the dawn of its history—its expulsion in the person of our forefather Adam from the face of God; the expulsion of Adam from paradise.

The vale of tears and sadness—the earth—received the outcast, so that at God’s commandment the transgressor would reap thorns and thistles, so that he would eat his bread in the sweat of his brow, so that in pain, tears, and sadness he would give birth to his children and feed them, so that he would reap all the bitter fruits of his disobedience to the Heavenly Father.

Adam wept in his exile, sitting “outside of paradise”; he wept, remembering what he was, what he possessed, and Who he lost. To this day, all mankind weeps and sighs over the first Adam, over the now elusive phantom of happiness. The whole world, harassed and weary, weeps because of its waywardness, because of its naked soul; because life is aimless and joyless. Nothing can fill our life so that we might unconditionally feel the fullness of true—not phantom—happiness; for this fullness is only in God.

But we are exiles. Paradise is far away, and the farther mankind lives from the time of the fall, the more shadowy that beautiful image of paradise becomes in him, the deeper is mankind’s pain and suffering, and the more the image and likeness of God is erased from his soul. The world would have perished long ago, had not the Second Adam, Christ, not reopened locked paradise and given man the opportunity to return to it.

We now bear the weight and sorrow of the life of an exile. Even we, who live the life of the Church, know also the paradisal joy of the open Royal doors, and the life-creating, jubilant words, “Christ is Risen!”; in them is the original nearness to divine love for man. But preceding this paradisal joy on earth is Great Lent, and the Church continually teaches that what we have lost through sin, we can find and regain only through repentance, podvig, and ascetic labors of great temperance.

Just a few hours will pass, and we will all notice with amazement that something will change around us and within us; something will happen that will place a seal of particular concentration and attention upon everything. And along with the Church, we must pass from the call to repentance to the very labors of repentance, to the work of repentance.

Our Mother-Church received the Lord’s commandment of the healing fast, which could be heard in Old Testament times for the people of God through the Prophet Joel: Now therefore, saith the Lord your God, turn to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with lamentation… sanctify a fast, proclaim a solemn service … assemble the elders… and all the inhabitants of the Lord’s house, Let the priests that minister to the Lord weep, and say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach… (Joel 2:12, 15, 16, 17).

The Second Adam, Jesus Christ, began the path of His labors with a great forty days fast, so that by His divine love for fallen man He might open again locked paradise and show the way by which man may return to it.

The Holy Gospels testify that, Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness… And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered (Mt. 4:1–2). And the devil came to Him and tempted Him. Great is the audacity and blindness of the dark power. Having made progress in tempting man in paradise, it began to war against God unto blindness, not recognizing in Christ the Savior and Son of God; it approached His meekness, humility, patience, purity, and holiness with the darkness of temptations woven from pride, betrayal, conceit, and lies. But sinless Christ God, Who needed no purification, opposed the tempter with fasting and prayer, showing all of us who follow Him the path of struggle with sin. And the Lord confirmed by word and deed that this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting (Mt. 17:21).

By prayer and fasting, the Christian receives the strength of the Spirit from the Lord for his struggle with the enemy; through fasting and prayer he receives the gift of discernment and the mind of Christ; prayer and fasting lights the light, which disperses the darkness of sinful life, for, The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not (Jn. 1:5).

But by his will, man chooses between a path of corruption and incorruption, good and evil. If woe, suffering, and death entered life through the sin of disobedience to God, then only through obedience, prayer, and fasting—our living sacrifice of love for God—can the light of supreme righteousness, peace, and joy return. And this, my dear ones, is paradise on earth.

However, according to God’s commandment, love for God on earth manifests only as love for people. The heart of a Christian can warm itself and burn only with a two-in-one love for God and people simultaneously. If our heart is hard and cruel toward our brother, to man, then darkened by dislike, coldness, and cruelty, it becomes indifferent or hypocritical toward God. And paradise, which could have been so close—in our heart—leaves and fades, and the sin of lack of love gives birth to disobedience, conceit, and self-love.

But how can we love a sinner? How can we love those who do not love us, our enemies? Here also, the Lord comes to our aid. He gives us the Lord’s prayer. We hear every day, “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”

By this prayer the Lord is saying to us, look at yourself:

—after all, you are that very debtor who needs to be forgiven;

—you are that very sinner;

—you are the one who does not love—you love by choice;

—you are someone’s enemy—you have offended someone, had contempt for someone, humiliated someone.

You yourself need forgiveness, you need condescending love.

The words of today’s Gospel also resound: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Mt. 6:14-15). Forgive everyone everything, and you will be forgiven. Forgive, and you will be saved, and you will inherit paradise.

Following immediately after these words of the Lord about forgiveness are these other words: Judge not, and ye shall not be judged (Mk. 7:1).

In these words the Lord shows a very short and most sure path to salvation, which opens to us the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord shows us that virtue, without which all our ascetic labors and efforts in life in general, and during the Great fast in particular, will be in vain. Furthermore this is the only path—the path of love for people, beginning with non-judgment.

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged… In His first Coming, the Lord came not to judge the world, but to save it. He came to open locked paradise to it. After all, God gave all judgment to His Son at the Second Coming; but for now, mercy rejoiceth against judgment (Js. 2:13).

Now is yet the time of God’s mercy. God still has mercy on us, but we judge and enforce. Having no doubts at all, we lift ourselves up in opinion and judgment over our neighbors, both near and far, small and great. We judge when we know much; we judge when we know nothing at all; we judge from other people’s words.

Just think, my dear ones, our judgment, as the judgment of an enemy, extends even to the Savior Himself. A person has sinned before God, before people, and we are witnesses of it. But we did not see how he repented, and we did not hear the priest’s consoling words pronounced over his head: “And by the authority given to me, I forgive and absolve all your sins, in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” God’s mercy has already erased the handwriting of sins, but we continue to remember and judge. This is no longer judgment over a man, but a judgment over God, Who has been merciful and forgiven.

Thus, we perish by judgment. For where there is judgment, there is no love. Only love is capable of being at all times an advocate, and only love can cover our brother’s nakedness.

But we judge! And this judgment becomes our own condemnation and sentence, which sounds like this: For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy (Js. 2:13)! And paradise cannot receive us, for we have no love in us. Where there is no love, there is no salvation.

Today, beginning with the podvig of Great Lent, let us, friends, resolve two major spiritual lessons: do not judge and do not tempt! So that we might root ourselves in saving, blessed non-condemnation, that we might place a beginning of this podvig during the very first days of Great Lent, we must learn to see, judge, and condemn only ourselves—the only person that we truly know, from all sides and deeply. This is where judgment without mercy will be unto salvation; for this is the only judgment that will lead us to true reason. It gives us a vision of that abyss on the edge of which we stand, and which we dig out by our sins, our debts to God and people, and by our condemnation of others.

This judgment of ourselves will tear a living, saving cry from our hearts that will reach the heavens: “Lord! Have mercy on me. O God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” And the miracle of our salvation will begin. The Lord will console our repentant souls and hearts with peace, calm, and love. In the words of our dear elder, St. Seraphim of Sarov, “Acquire the spirit of peace, and thousands will be saved around you”—transformation will begin in life around us.

“Now is the spring of the soul!” Holy and Great Lent is at the doors. May the seed of our repentance and prayer sprout forth by it, and produce the saving fruits of our soul’s resurrection in God.

Children of God!

“May your mind fast from vain thoughts; may your will fast from evil desires; may your eyes fast from seeing evil; may your ears fast from base songs and calumnious whisperings; may your tongue fast from slander, condemnation, lies, flattering, and foul language; may your hands fast from striking, and from stealing what does not belong to you; may your feet fast from walking to evil deeds.”   This is the Christian fast, which the Lord expects of us.

Our friends, let us enter the Great Fast, let us enter the field of its ascetic labors—repentance, temperance, and humility—and confirm ourselves in them; so that having received forgiveness, we may meet Christ’s resurrection, Holy Pascha—the heavenly radiance on earth.  Amen.

Given on February 28 (March 13), 1994
Archimandrite John (Krestiankin)

Source:  http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/51820.htm

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Holding thorny hands

February 29, 2016 by Fr. Michael Gillis

A couple of weeks ago, a disturbed young man got onto the metro train in Vancouver and began acting erratically and shouting and cursing.  As people in the car began moving away from him, one woman did the opposite.  A seventy-year old woman moved toward the man and reached out her hand and gently held his hand.  She just gently put her hand in his.  The man immediately calmed down, and then, sitting on the floor, began to cry.  Then after a little while, he got off the train saying only, “Thanks Grandma.”  You can read the story here.
It’s amazing to me how little we really have to give each other, and how much that little means.  It’s as if a touch, a word, communicates the whole heart.  And that’s what we need in this crazy world: someone else who can tell us that we are OK, despite the insanity that slips out, someone else whose heart understands that often insanity is the only sane response to such an insane world.
St. Isaac says that we cannot see the Word of God radiating from the created world except by divine vision.  This is a gift of God that comes only to those who live in repentance, and then only gradually.  To see the beautiful and true and real poking through like spring crocuses here or there, surrounded by the mud and dead grass and woody, thorny branches that hold so much potential for new growth, flowers and fruit—if only spring would come.  And spring never seems to come.  It seems the world is trapped in an never-ending February, never-ending cold and wind and unforgiving brutality.  But our hearts long for June.  Somehow we know we were created for June.  And were it not for the few crocuses, there would be no hope at all.
I have not had much experience with divine vision: just enough to notice a few crocuses here and there.  And this is what I hang on to.  I can’t make the thorny branches of the rose bloom.  In winter the thorns are particularly vicious.  Most of the thorny realities—or false realities—that surround me will not see Spring (they do not want to see Spring) until the Creator comes again and says: “You are rose!”  Then, as Jesus said, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, not—at least according to the vision of St. Isaac—because of punishment, but because of love spurned, because of a lifetime wasted in thorny winter refusing to believe in Spring, refusing to see the crocuses, refusing to breathe the warm air of the resurrection.
St. Isaac says, “Until we find love, our labour is in the land of thorns, and in the midst of thorns we both sow and reap, even if our seed is the seed of righteousness… in every hour we are pricked by the thorns….”   St. Isaac tells us, that the only hope in this world, the only means to divine vision is to “eat” Christ, “the bread of love, which is Jesus!”  This of course refers to the Eucharist (St. Isaac apparently celebrated the Eucharist daily), but it also refers to a eucharistic life, a life pervaded by love: “He who eats of love, eats Christ, the God over all, as John bears witness, saying, ‘God is love.’”  Christ is love and love is Christ: to eat love is to eat Christ. He goes on to say, “Wherefore, the man who lives in love reaps life from God, and while yet in this world, he even now breathes the air of the resurrection.”  Yes, that’s it: the air of the resurrection, the crocuses, “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen” (Heb. 11:1).
And so it is in the hope of Spring, a Springtime we may not see in this mortal life, it is in that hope that we lovingly tend the rose bushes, despising the thorns (despise in the sense of not giving them, or the wounds they cause us, much thought) knowing that in the Spring it will be worth it, finding hope in the occasional crocus poking through the mud.  This is the labour of love in this world, this is the sowing of righteousness.  And this is why we reach out and gently hold a crazy man’s hand.  This is why we hold each other’s hand, even when it hurts, even when we seem insane.  Perhaps especially then.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


Would like to share a link to three installments of an article written about “anger management,” from an Orthodox perspective.  It is worth setting aside some time for reading.  With the Sunday of Forgiveness on the horizon (next Sunday), it seems like a particularly good topic. 

Found on Pravoslavie, written by Archpriest Pavel Gumerov

Fragment from Russian film: Tears were Falling