Counsels from the Holy Mountain

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 8/4/2011, 00:24

Chapter Fifteen.

On Prayer and Watchfulness.


Time is short, and it is unknown when it will expire. Therefore, let us struggle and be careful and expel every evil thought with anger and fervent prayer. And if we shed tears we shall benefit greatly, for tears cleanse the soul and make it whiter than snow. Let us stand ready for battle courageously, for we wrestle against the powers of darkness, which never make allies and never lessen their attacks. Therefore, let us also rouse ourselves and not be drowsy, for our eternal life is at stake. If we lose the victory, we have lost our soul, have utterly lost eternal rest and joy in God, and have condemned ourselves to the second death, which is eternal separation from God—may this not come to pass. While practicing watchfulness, let us be vigilant with thoughts. We fall into sin because of our thoughts. So let us fight powerfully against our thoughts and not allow thoughts to become strong within us due to our negligence, but as soon as they arrive let us drive away the fantasy and with anger seize the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God—that is, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. So as we call on the sweet Jesus, He immediately rushes to help us and the demons flee at once. We must not, however, say the prayer negligently, but with a fervent spirit cry out from the depths, “Master, save me, I am perishing!” (Lk. 8:24 ). The struggle to ward off thoughts in the beginning is small. If, however, we allow the thoughts to become stronger, then the struggle becomes difficult, and often we are defeated and wounded as well. But when we arise and cry out, the good captain Jesus comes again and steers our boat to the calm and peaceful harbor. It is in our thoughts that we either suffer damage and are defiled, or progress and become better. For this reason let us place our nous—that is, our attention—in our heart as a brave guard, armed with courage, the prayer, silence, and self-reproach. If we struggle in this manner, the outcome will be sweet peace, joy, purity, spiritual philosophy, and the prayer, which as a most fragrant incense will cense the temple of God, the inner man. “Do you know”, says the Apostle Paul, “that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16 ). I write these things in order to rouse your souls to spiritual vigilance, so that you may find the inner peace of God and rejoice. Amen; so be it.

2.
Let us fast according to our strength; but in the fasting of the senses, of the nous, and of the heart, let us wrestle against our soul’s enemy with all our strength. My child, guard your senses and especially your eyes. The eyes are like the tentacles of the octopus which grasp whatever moves in front of them. They catch the prey of sin more easily. With the eyes spiritual towers fell and were lost. When David was careless with his eyes, he committed murder and adultery, even though he was a great prophet of God who had grace and the gift of foresight. My child, since you are in the midst of occasions for various sins, be careful with your senses. Above all be careful with your nous, the navigator, “the most shameless bird”, according to Abba Isaac the Syrian. The nous pries into the secrets of the actions of one’s neighbor; it can be a filthy artist when it depicts shameful things. Therefore, at all costs take care to keep your nous pure by immediately driving away every thought and sinful fantasy, having as strong aids the Jesus prayer and the kind of anger for which it was said: “Be angry and do not sin” (Eph. 4:26 ).

3.
Βe ceaselessly vigilant with the guarding of your nous, for the life and death of the immortal soul depend on our diligence or our lack thereof. Everything starts from the imaginative part of the nous. There is no sin or virtue which does not have the imaginative faculty of the nous as its beginning and starting point. Therefore, the holy goal of salvation is attained by diligently attending to this noetic starting point. Spiritual watchfulness primarily means to keep our nous pure of passionate imaginations and to oppose every attack of the enemy with rebuttal and the holy name of Jesus. Without watchfulness, the purification of the soul and body is not obtained, in which case God is not perceived by the senses of the nous and heart. If the Lord does not visit a man’s soul, he remains in the darkness of sin indefinitely. We, however, as monks dedicated to attaining inner purification in Christ from the passions, ought to be instructed very well in this most important lesson of watchfulness, through which we shall draw near to God through the senses of the heart. The devil fights intensely against this most salvific practice of watchfulness, and he employs every means in order to hinder it, creating occasions for sin and attacking us with all kinds of thoughts. But we, too, must at all costs do everything to resist him in order to attain the reward of inner purification and be crowned by the Judge of the contest, Christ our God. Do not falter before the satanic attacks of our common enemy, but struggle with courage and hope in our Lord, Who does not allow us to be tempted beyond our strength. Therefore, take courage, my children, and go forward with sweet hope in our Christ and the powerful protection of our Panagia; and I firmly believe we will obtain eternal life with all those who have struggled well and have been crowned in the Church Triumphant in heaven. Amen; so be it.

4. There was a holy man who cast out demons—the demons feared him. One of his disciples asked him, “Geronta, why are the demons afraid of you?”
“My child, I will tell you”, said the Elder. “I had a mental war with carnal thoughts, but I never allowed myself to yield to them. I had always arranged the battle so that the war front was at the stage of assault*, and I never allowed the devil to advance further than the stage of assault. And since I had a continuous warfare, God gave me this blessing, this grace that, in spite of my unworthiness, the demons fear me and are cast out”. Just think—he cut off temptations outside the door, as soon as they knocked; he did not open at all. Why didn’t he open? What did he have within himself that hindered them? He had holy recollections which occupied his mind. Temptations knocked from the outside, trying to enter, but there was no place for them; they were given no room to put their own thoughts inside—he had stopped them with the remembrance of God. Through this continual victory this holy man received the grace to be feared by the demons and to cast them out of people. It is a great boast for someone to succeed, by the grace of God, in keeping the devil at the stage of assault. There is no mortal, no spiritual man, no struggler who is not subject to the assaults of the enemy, that is, every human being should expect to be tempted. If people leave their doors and windows open—as people in the world usually do, who do not have knowledge of God—then the enemy advances and conquers them. Spiritual people struggle not to open to the enemy a door, a window, or even a hole. It is often difficult to commit a sin in deed—not a sin that is done in the heart, but a sin done by the mouth or in deeds. Many things must coincide in order for this kind of sin to take place. To sin with the mind, however, is very, very easy. One is able at any hour, place and time to commit a sin in the mind without anybody knowing it. Outward deeds are often prevented from occurring, not only because many factors must coincide, but also because of shame. On the contrary, an inward sin, a sin done by the mind, can persuade a person to commit crimes inwardly, without being noticed. This inward sin is not visible; people do not see it—but God does. And if we do not fear people and do not feel shame, because they do not see the sin, we should fear God, because this moral crime done with the mind takes place in His presence. Many people are deceived; deep down it is due to egotism—it is egotism that does most of the damage. This treason first occurs inwardly, and then it is expressed through the members of the body. So we need intense and constant attentiveness, as we have said—intense vigilance. There should be a guard and sentry within us, which observe the thoughts coming and going and check their identities, so that spies do not enter and cause a civil war within the soul. The eye of the soul needs to be very clear and strong in order to see the enemy from afar and take suitable measures. What a great variety of thoughts assail us all the time! Every passion attacks with its own thoughts. If the soul sees clearly, it cuts off the thoughts from afar. Even from their “smell” it realizes which passion is about to rise up and immediately prepares itself, posts sentries, sets up trenches, and gets ready to face the attack of the passion. People become captives. Passion is like a snake that has poison within it. There are said to be big snakes with poisonous breath that poisons any living thing in the area so that they can devour it. The same holds true for the snake of sin: it spreads poison—pleasure—from afar, and the nous is paralyzed; its powers are paralyzed. The person is captured by the passion and involuntarily is carried toward evil. When people are in this state of captivity, they protest and say, “But I am unable to resist; at that time I am unable to do anything”. The answer is: they must take the proper measures, so that the mind and heart will not reach the point of being captured and disarmed. By experience, as soon as the spiritual serpent spreads its poison, while it is still far off and before it reaches us and poisons our mind and soul, we must take measures to escape the danger. For once we are poisoned, we are no longer able to act at all. When a person yields to fantasies and is overcome by sinful thoughts, it is from there, from the imagination, that all evil comes! And when he has suffered many spiritual shipwrecks mentally and has been wounded repeatedly by hedonistic fantasies, then as soon as Satan comes back again with similar fantasies and shows them to the mind, immediately the person is captured. This is why one must not yield to them, so that the passions and fantasies do not become firm and strong.

*Assault (προσβολή )
Assault is the name given to the first stage of a temptation. See consent for more details.


5. Keep the eyes of your soul wide open; guard your senses, both those of the body (primarily the eyes ) as well as those of the soul (especially by keeping the mind from wandering ). This is necessary because it is through these senses that all the poisonous germs of spiritual diseases creep in. and thus, in time, the careless Christian contracts many diseases and loses the invaluable health of his immortal soul. Adultery of the soul occurs very easily when we allow filthy thoughts with their corresponding fantasies within us to overcome us. My child, be careful with your eyes if you want to conquer the demon of lust. Likewise, it is no less dangerous to look at indecent images, newspapers, magazines, etc.

6. My child, fight the good fight of eternal life. Make a good beginning to obtain an excellent end. Keep your nous entirely engrossed in the recollection of Jesus, and He will become everything for you—joy, peace, mourning, and a multitude of life-flowing tears, which will make your soul whiter than snow and lighter than a cloud. My child, when you keep silent and say the prayer with attention—that is, when the nous pays attention to the prayer being said, without wandering off into something else other than the prayer—then your nous will begin to draw near to the sweetness of Jesus. Constantly humbling yourself will greatly help you achieve this goal. Humility is reproaching yourself always in any temptation or any matter whatsoever, and always justifying your brother.

7. The greatest temple, in which God delights to dwell, is that which He skillfully crafted with His own hands—our entire being, our soul, as long as it is pure. Purity of heart consists in the nous being free from evil thoughts, from which evil and passionate feelings originate which cause the body to be passionately excited. For it is then that both soul and body are defiled, and to a certain degree their purity and spotlessness are lost. The first evil and passionate thought—but primarily the corresponding passionate fantasy—is the starting point of all forms of sin. No sin occurs in deed if an evil thought does not precede it by means of the imagination. Therefore, in order to attain the greatest good—purity in the full sense of the word—we need to purify our nous from sinful imaginations and thoughts. Only in this way is purity acquired with a firm foundation. If we want to stop doing evil deeds without paying attention to our inward thoughts, we labor in vain. When we have taken care to purify our soul, the God of glory will dwell in it and it will become His holy and luxurious temple, giving forth the fragrance of the incense of unceasing prayer to Him.

8. What is the use of laboring and toiling with the body night and day, if inwardly we do not take care to pull out the roots from which all evil sprouts? We have an absolute need for watchfulness and unceasing prayer in order to cast off the evil which lurks within us and replace it with spiritual good. Make sure that your daytime work does not rob you of oral prayer; cry out the supremely glorious and sweet name of our Jesus, and it will not be long before He comes to help and console you. What is there that the blessed prayer cannot set aright and renew! Constrain yourselves in the prayer; why should your mind wander around here and there and not turn towards our Jesus, when for Him we left everything and for Him we endure everything?

9. I know by experience that piety through silence, prayer, meditation, cleansing tears, true repentance, and contemplation of divine things renews the physical aspect as well as the spiritual aspect of him who struggles. Ascesis helps, of course, when the body is strong, but when it is weak, thanks-giving and self-reproach make up for ascesis. Overall piety and vigilance are everything; they are the true marks of a soul living in Christ. When these are absent and one practices ascesis one-sidedly, either he benefits little or he is totally lost because he becomes puffed up by the praises of others as well as by his own thoughts. Without watchfulness—that all-embracing light of the soul, inestimable in value—he loses his labors. This is what happened with many ascetics in the desert, and they literally lost their souls, as we read in the writings of the Desert Fathers. Ascesis is depicted by the Fathers as the leaves of the tree, while vigilance is the fruit (Abba Agathon, vid. The Philokalia, vol. IV, p. 199 ). By their fruits you shall know them (Mt. 7:16 ) –it is fruits that we have been commanded to bear. May God enlighten us how to walk, for true guides have vanished and everyone walks his own way. May God be a true guide for all of us.

10. My children, whatever grievous thing the devil, the enemy of our souls, reminds you of, make an effort to drive it away immediately without delay, for every delay brings about unfavorable consequences. The devil is completely vanquished with prayer and vigilance. The essence of watchfulness consists of being sleeplessly vigilant with the nous, pitting it against the passionate thoughts and fantasies of the vile demons. On this depends life or death, degradation or improvement. In other words, a soul that prays noetically and loathes and scorns the various evil thoughts is purified and sanctified with time.

11. In the war of the flesh, only turning our back saves us—that is, we must flee from fantasies and thoughts as soon as they appear. Do not linger at all in order to examine or to converse with fantasies! The imagination is a great and terrible snare; things avoided by the eyes and the touch are approached with the greatest of ease by the imagination. Strive to keep your mind from imagining any worldly thing outside of your monastery. Only one thought should replace them all—the remembrance of the adored Jesus. If something in your cell reminds you of someone, you must necessarily get rid of it, to avert by all means any occasion for war. Make an effort to erase your past. When it rouses itself and tries to choke you, call on Jesus and He will be ready to help you.

12. My child, guard your nous from evil thoughts; as soon as they come, chase them off immediately with the Jesus prayer. For just as bees leave when there is smoke, so also does the Holy Spirit leave at the foul odor of the smoke of shameful thoughts. And just as bees go to flowers which have nectar that makes honey, so also does the Holy Spirit go to the nous and heart where the nectar of virtues and good thoughts is produced. Without imagining anything, the nous should pay attention to the words of the prayer, which are pronounced either by the nous or by the mouth. The objective and focal point of all methods is to pray without imagining anything, while paying attention to the words which either the nous or the mouth is saying.



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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 9/4/2011, 01:00

Chapter Fifteen.

On Prayer of the Nous and Heart.

Pray, I beg you, according to the instruction of the Apostle Paul: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17 ). The Watchful Fathers say, “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly, and if you pray truly, you are a theologian” (The Philokalia, vol. 1, p. 62 ). Indeed, the Watchful Fathers of the desert teach that through various kinds of ascesis, praxis*, contemplation, and the moral and spiritual philosophy of watchfulness and prayer, the nous of man is purified, illumined, and perfected, and subsequently it acquires the gift of theology—not academic theology which the theologians in universities possess, but theology proceeding and gushing forth from the divine spring from which the rivers of true, divine theology eternally flow forth. The holy Watchful Fathers say that a nous that has ceased to contemplate God becomes either carnal or savage. But conversely, through prayer and especially through noetic prayer, the nous becomes godlike and is illuminated by divine radiance. A person’s salvation depends on prayer, for this is what unites him with God and brings him near God. When he is near God, it is natural for him not to deviate from the moral road because he pays attention to every step he takes. Nevertheless, in spite of all this attentiveness, the devil never stops stalking us constantly, in order to find us at a moment of weakness and thus drag us onto his road, which always leads sharply downhill. For this reason, my beloved children, it is a must, an indispensable requirement that we always be armed with the continuous prayer of our sweetest Jesus. We must not forget that the demons assail and attack prayer in order to render it ineffective by means of evil distractions. Thoughts of every kind encircle the poor man’s nous at the time of prayer in order to plunder the fruit of prayer and leave only its bones—that is, the labor and effort—for him who prays. This is why one who desires to pray well should drive away every sort of care and any thought whatsoever in advance, before beginning to say the prayer. The nous as an overseer should supervise very attentively the words spoken by the mouth, so that prayer becomes a fruitful spring of divine help and grace. According to the Fathers, Satan will always position himself as a thorn and stumbling block for holy prayer. This is because he is greatly troubled and burned by it. Therefore, my children, compel yourselves in prayer, and also remember me, your wretched Elder, so that the Lord may have mercy on me.

*Praxis (πράξις )
Praxis is the practice of the virtues, in contrast with theoria. It refers to the external aspect of the ascetical life (namely, purification, fasting, vigils, metanoias, etc., and in general the keeping of the commandments ) and is an indispensable prerequisite of theoria.


2. The main goal of the monastic life is to unite monks very strongly with God, Who is the ultimate. When a person is united with God and God dwells within his heart, he lacks nothing. There is no void within his soul. Furthermore, he does not even lack any material thing necessary for living in this present life. This is but one more proof of how much God loves those who obey Him. Prayer is the means by which we are united very closely with God. By “prayer”, we do not mean just praying now and then in front of icons, but along with this—which we must do—a monk uses seven words of prayer, which he says when he works, when he eats, when he sits, and when he occupies himself with anything whatsoever, without stopping! We say these words with the mouth, with the nous, or with the heart: “LORD JESUS CHRIST, HAVE MERCY ON ME”. Saying them constantly does not tire us. In the beginning one must persist a little; but later, he becomes accustomed to it and says the prayer with great ease and does not want to stop. When he says it, he feels so much spiritual exultation that even at the most difficult moments, if there are any, he is not disturbed or troubled. Rather, with patience he takes refuge in Christ, Whom he entreats to have mercy on him, and Christ consoles him and gives him joy. What is more beautiful than to entreat Christ at every moment and to say His holy name with these lips of clay? Is there a greater honor? These words contain our whole faith. In saying “Lord”, we believe that we are servants of God and that He is our lord. This honors Christ, that we make Him our lord, but it also honors us, who are servants of such a lord, Who is God. When we say “Jesus”, which is the human name of God, all the earthly life of Christ, from His birth to His Ascension, comes to mind. In saying “Christ”, which means anointed by God, king of heaven and earth, we confess and believe that Christ is our God, Who created everything and is in heaven and will come again to judge the world. In saying “have mercy on me”, we entreat God to send us His help and His mercy, for we acknowledge that without divine help we are not able to do anything. This, in brief, is the explanation of these holy words. Whoever says them experiences many things. With my whole heart I pray that our sweet Jesus will give you this prayer within your soul, that you may taste the spiritual ambrosia of prayer and are replenished overall.

3. To guard love, the pinnacle of virtues, diligence in prayer is an immediate spiritual necessity. Struggle in prayer if you want our Christ to dwell in you, and He, the most experienced general, will struggle together with you. He will fight for us and grant us the victory. We become like roaring lions when we get a good grip on the prayer—not when we pray carelessly or lukewarmly, but with strength of soul! Invigorate yourselves with the thought that the prayer is everything. Without the prayer, expect a general decline, going from one fall to another. If we hold on to the prayer with all our strength during temptations, we will certainly overcome the devil and we shall ascribe the victory to the all-holy name of Christ.

4. My child, with the weapon of prayer in your hands, fight for the divine battlements. Whoever struggles is crowned, not with olive branches, but with the unfading crown of eternal glory in the heavenly Jerusalem! This struggle is worth it because the glory it brings remains unfading and eternal, whereas the glory of athletes who struggle for transient things is ephemeral and vain! Therefore, we must struggle by making sacrifices and bearing privations, so that the holy name of God may be also glorified by us worthless ones.

5. My children, I beg you, for the love of God, do not stop saying the prayer of our Christ, not even for a moment. Your lips should continuously murmur the name of Jesus Who destroys the devil and all his plots. Cry out incessantly to our Christ, and at once He will hasten wholeheartedly to help us. Just as iron cannot be grabbed or even approached when it is red-hot, the same thing happens with the soul of him who says the prayer with the fervor of Christ. The demons do not approach it—and how could they? For if they draw near it, they will be burned by the divine fire which the divine name contains. Whoever prays is enlightened, and whoever does not pray is darkened. Prayer is the provider of divine light. This is why everyone who prays well becomes all radiant, and the Spirit of God dwells in him. If despondency, indifference, listlessness, etc., approach us, let us pray with fear, pain, and great noetic vigilance, and we will immediately experience the miracle of consolation and joy by the grace of God. It is not possible for a person who prays to hold a grudge against someone or to refuse to forgive him for any fault whatsoever. Everything is reduced to ashes when it comes near the fire of the Jesus prayer. So, my children, struggle in the salvific and sanctifying prayer of our Christ, so that you may become radiant and holy. Pray also for me, the indolent sinner, so that God may be merciful on the multitude of my sins, as well as on my countless liabilities.

6. My children, always remember Jesus so that in all your weaknesses you may find the appropriate medicine. Are you in pain? By calling on Jesus you will find relief and enlightenment. Are you in affliction? Call on Jesus and behold, consolation will dawn in the realm of your heart. Are you overcome by discouragement? Do not neglect to set your hopes on Jesus, and your soul will be filled with courage and strength. Are you bothered by carnal thoughts that allure you to sensual pleasure? Take the consuming fire of the name of Jesus and set fire to the tares. Are you oppressed by some worldly affair? Say: “Enlighten me, my Jesus, how to deal with the matter which lies before me. Work it out in accordance with Thy holy will”. And behold, you will be at peace and will walk with hope. In all and through all, set the name of Jesus as a foundation, support, adornment, and protection, and do not be afraid of the enemies. But when you go through anything without Jesus, then you should be afraid. Without medication do not expect to be healed—putrefaction will be the result. Make an effort in the prayer, my child, and then you will experience enormous benefit and refreshment and repose of soul.

7. Cry out the name of God; He is ready to help everyone who asks. Do not forget the prayer; man’s entire being is sanctified by the prayer. It is the only thing which those who do not struggle to the point of shedding blood are unable to do. What is more beautiful than prayer! Whoever prays is enlightened and comes to know the will of God. And how does he know it? When he prays well, of course. And when does he pray well? When he sends his prayers to God with all the right ingredients. And what are the ingredients that make prayer savory? Humility, tears, self-reproach, simplicity, and especially obedience with love. Prayer sheds light, and this light shows the right path which God wills. The prayer should be said without flagging; by praying thus you will remain invulnerable on all sides. When you find yourselves in a state of passionate thoughts, resume the prayer eagerly and assiduously, and immediately you will find relief. Hold on to the Jesus prayer steadfastly.

8. Say the prayer with pain and mourning of soul, and then you will feel different. Pay attention only to yourself! Then you will see yourself and you will feel pain, and that pain will bring you the mercy of God. Do not pay attention to heartbeats when you say the prayer. Just keep your mind from wandering away from the prayer—this is the center and the aim of prayer. Pray continuously with the Jesus prayer; it will set everything right. Whoever prays is enlightened, whereas whoever neglects prayer—like me—is darkened. Prayer is heavenly light, and whoever has the prayer within him or on his lips has the light of prayer welling up within his heart, and this enlightens him what to think and how to guard himself against the snares of the devil.

9. Compel yourselves in the Jesus prayer; this will become everything for you—food and drink and clothing and light and consolation and spiritual life. This prayer becomes everything for him who possesses it. Without it, the emptiness of the soul cannot be satisfied. Do you want to love Christ? Long for the prayer and embrace humility, and then you will realize that the kingdom of God is within us. Do not let evil thoughts rule over you; drive them out immediately with the prayer. Oh, this prayer—what miracles it performs! Cry out the prayer, and your guardian angel will send you spiritual fragrance! The angels greatly rejoice when a person prays with the prayer of our sweetest Jesus. May Jesus be the delight of your soul.

10. Cry out the prayer without ceasing. May God grant you a blessed beginning! May it not abandon you, or rather, may you not abandon the prayer—the life of the soul, the breath of the heart, the sweet-scented springtime which creates a spiritual spring in the struggling soul. My children, prayer and humility are the all-powerful weapons which we must keep continuously in our hands with sleepless attentiveness, because these, with God’s help, will give us the victory against the demons.

11. Patience, my children; do not lose your courage. Say the prayer intensely; do not scatter your mind among earthly things, even if you have cares—consider them as passing. Just keep prayer and the remembrance of death continually before your eyes: “I beheld the Lord always before me, that I might not be shaken” (Ps. 15:8 ). If you pray intensely and without ceasing, you will not fall. You should realize, though, that if you neglect prayer, you will suffer a general fall.


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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 9/4/2011, 23:47

Chapter Fifteen.

On Prayer of the Nous and Heart.


12. Persist in the prayer; do not think that great things are achieved so easily. You will labor; you will sweat—and God will see your labor and humility, and then He will easily bestow upon you the gift of prayer. The more you say the prayer, the more you will bring joy to me –primarily to God—and the more you will alleviate your souls. You must help each other in this sense: when you say the prayer out loud, and someone else is not saying it and his mind is wandering elsewhere, as soon as he hears the others saying it, he wakes up from his daydreaming. Then his conscience reproves him because he is not saying the prayer, too, but is just sitting there, letting his mind wander. So he also begins to say the prayer, and thus the sayings are fulfilled: “A brother helped by a brother is like a strong city” (Prov. 18:19 ), and, “bear one another’s burdens” (Gal. 6:2 ).

13. Pray as often as possible. Try to feel compunction and to weep, and you will see how much you will be relieved from thoughts and grief. Prayer is a conversation of man with God. He who prays with a broken and humbled spirit is filled with divine gifts and blessings—that is, with joy, peace, comfort, illumination,and consolation—and he, too, becomes blessed. Prayer is the double-edged sword that slays despair, saves from danger, assuages grief, and so on. Prayer is a preventive medicine for all diseases of soul and body. Likewise, entreat the Mother of Light, the immaculate Theotokos, to help you, for she is the greatest means of consolation after God. When a person calls upon her holy name, he immediately senses her help. She is a mother; when she was on earth, as a human being and fellow-sufferer she suffered the same things we do, and for this reason, she has great sympathy for pained souls and swiftly comes to help them.

14. Let our throat become hoarse from crying out the sweetest name of Jesus all day long, and it will become “sweeter than honey and honeycomb” (Ps. 18:10 ) to the noetic larynx—the heart. With no other name will we be able to overcome the passions within us, except with the name of Jesus. With no other name will we be able to expel the darkness from our heart and to have the radiance of luminous knowledge shine forth in our nous, except with the name of Jesus. With this name we shall arm ourse;ves, and in every war and battle we shall call on Him as our general for help. And at the first call, He comes; then our soul is filled with courage and we fearlessly advance towards the unseen war, with Jesus as our champion. Let us struggle in our thoughts, always hoping on God. Let us always stand armed with the prayer and vigilance. Let us always be on the watch for thieves—thoughts from the left—without leaving those from the right unexamined, lest we accept evil thoughts which feign innocence.

15. Work at noetic prayer with much diligence, patience, persistence, and humility. You should know that thiw method of prayer is not achieved by chance; it takes quite a struggle, as well as much time. We must not forget that the devil hates noetic prayer more than we can imagine, and consequently we shall face fierce opposition from him in various ways. Therefore, have forcefulness, courage, patience, persistence, humility, and a loving disposition towards our Jesus. Do not be discouraged at the first difficulties of the struggle; good things are achieved with labor and pain. But when you see fruit—and oh, what fruit!—then you yourselves will say, “it was worth the effort for such a spiritual harvest”.

16. Pray, pray—just pray continuously now. The miracles of ardent prayer are beyond description and explanation. One marvels how the sea subsides and how the fierce winds stop! Many times temptations arise like a fearful storm and relentless winds that threaten us with total destruction. But by crying out the prayer: “Master, save us, we are perishing” (Lk. 8:24 ), you will see that all becomes calm miraculously, and we are saved. Amen.

17. My child, I received both of your letters. You seek to acquire divine love and unceasing prayer—supremely rich gifts; gifts which require afflictions, trials, time, etc. Therefore, my child, your trials are normal, and you should not wonder why you have them. So struggle to obtain divine love by constantly saying the Jesus prayer. At every fall, do not despair, but rally yourself for a counterattack!

18.We live in this vain world, but it must not attract and engross our heart so as to deaden its spiritual stamina and separate it from its Maker and God. Therefore, we ought to pray constantly, my child, in order to communicate ceaselessly with our Christ and draw spiritual strength from Him, so that we may face every demonic attack victoriously. Pray with the Jesus prayer, and He, the wonder-working Lord, first of all will forgive us the multitude of our sins, and secondly, by His grace will help us defeat the flesh, the world, and the devil—our three great enemies. Moreover, prayer is the provider of joy and peace in God. Consider how much we need joy of soul and especially divine joy. Therefore, let us see to it that at all costs we take advantage of all our spare time and utilize it for prayer.

19. Pray, my child, because everything depends on prayer—especially the salvation of our souls. When we pray with pain and humility, God hears our prayer and responds according to what is beneficial to us. Often it happens that after we pray for something, the will of God is expressed in a way that is completely different from what we had prayed for. This often grieves us, because our own will was not done. We do not understand the depth of the divine judgments and that, despite all the disparity between the expression of the divine will and our own will, the omniscient God is working things out for our benefit in many different ways. Therefore, my child, let us muster all the strength of our soul to persevere and implement that great virtue which is called Patience.

20. Glory to His holy name, because we came to know Him and worship Him as much as we are able, and we shun the confusion and vanity of this age. “Glory to God Who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5 ). Know, my child, that when the heart is free from the things of this world and occupies itself with the study of the divine Scriptures, vain thoughts flee, and the nous is confined to thinking divine thoughts. It is not interested in this present life, but by the great pleasure of continuous meditation it is lifted up to God. Through the continuous invocation of the name of God by means of the unceasing prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”, man receives a sense of the other life, of the age to come, and of the hope which is stored up for the righteous. He foretastes the magnificence of that life and says with astonishment, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of the unsearchable God!” (cf. Rom. 11:33 ) –for He has prepared another world that is so wondrous in order to bring into it all the prudent people to keep them there in life everlasting.

21. My children, work diligently at the spiritual fragrance—I am speaking of prayer—this holy conversation with Jesus, which abundantly provides His blessings. Yes, children of the Spirit, love prayer with your whole heart so that all of you become a fragrance of grace, and that you smell sweet to those near you and make them say, “Truly, monasticism makes monks give off an angelic fragrance through spiritual grace”. So, let the filthy passions be far from you, for they cause a foul smell and make a bad impression.

22. Let us compel ourselves, children, in the prayer of our sweetest Jesus, so that He may grant us His mercy, so that we may be united with His grace in order to carry out His divine commandments and acquire His love. And when we acquire it, it makes us gods by grace and by participation—and then the path of our Christ will not be harsh and steep for us, but sweet and pleasant. And then we shall carry out His commandments with great ease.

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 10/4/2011, 23:35

Chapter Fifteen.

Homilies on Prayer.

On Watchfulness and Noetic Prayer.


The Watchful Fathers labored greatly in order to find the grace of God through prayer. This is why we, their children, owe them eternal thanks, for they showed us a road which leads the soul to union with God. One wonders and says, “But how is it possible for people, and especially for monks and priests, to live spiritually and satisfy their spiritual needs without prayer, which our Watchful Fathers gave us out of their experience?” St. Gregory Palamas—the great luminary of hesychia, vigilance, and especially unceasing prayer—wrote the greatest and most systematic lessons on prayer and received the title: “the head and chief of the Watchful Fathers”. When he lived ascetically outside the Great Lavra on Mt. Athos, together with his synodia, he had a vision in which he saw that he had before him a vessel like a pitcher, which contained a liquid material. It was so full that that liquid was overflowing and was going to waste. That beautiful white beverage which was within the vessel looked like milk. A man of sacred appearance said to him, “Gregory, why do you let so much spiritual material overflow and go to waste, instead of giving it to those who need it?” The saint, of course, understood that it was the grace of God. It was that spiritual material and drink which he had within himself as the grace of God, as wisdom, as experience, as watchfulness, as the gift of speaking. “Why do you neglect these gifts”, he said, “and confine them here in this place instead of imparting them to the weak, the hungry, the starving, the thirsty people?” Indeed, years later, with God’s help and guidance, of course, he found himself among many people and he dispersed spiritual benefit and quenched the thirst of souls in need. Even when he was in the world, he prayed by himself; he practiced hesychasm alone in his cell, and only on Saturday and Sunday did he attend the Liturgy. All the other days of the week, he confined himself to his cell and did not go out at all. He neither ate nor drank. Only on Saturday did he break his silence and go to the Divine Liturgy. After receiving communion, he would go to the refectory and speak with the fathers and the brethren. Then once again he kept silence from Sunday afternoon until Saturday. These great Fathers taught us that when a person’s soul is attacked by thoughts that are filthy, proud, egotistical, blasphemous, sinful, etc., the soul must struggle to expel the thoughts with anger and wrath, as well as with the prayer and rebuttal. It is not enough to employ only anger and wrath against evil fantasies and thoughts. It is absolutely necessary for the person who is being fought against to pray with the unceasing prayer, with the invocation of the divine name, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. According to the Fathers, the name of Christ has restorative power within it. That is, this prayer of Christ has power to restore the soul which has fallen low and has become weak, which has become negligent and has sinned. There are days and times in the life of a spiritual person when he feels an emptiness within himself, a weakness of soul. Something is missing; something within him has left, and he does not quite know how to come to himself, how to bring back the initial strength and grace which his soul had. He does not know how to bring back the fullness which he lost. In this case, the holy Fathers teach us: Resume the prayer; begin prayer again, either with the mouth, with the mind, or with the heart, and this lost fullness will return. You will find it again, provided that you force yourself to pray. It is of great value when a person does not stop the prayer. “But when one is working”, someone will object, “the mind is scattered here and there”. Nevertheless, it is possible to say the prayer very well with the mouth at such a time, discreetly and quietly, and thus to restore the feeling of grace to his soul. Our Fathers have left us a great inheritance of limitless value, which cannot be measured, weighed, or calculated. This inheritance is called watchfulness. Watchfulness means attention to thoughts, fantasies, and the movements of the senses; it is a spiritual strength that opposes evil; it is clear perception, that is, the nous sees temptations from afar and flees, taking the appropriate safety measures; it is when the nous oversees the heart and the thoughts coming in and going out of it. Before the Holy Fathers, those teachers of watchfulness, systematized noetic prayer, monks occupied themselves primarily with virtues belonging to praxis. Ascesis done with the body is called praxis, whether it is fasting, abstinence, prostrations, vigil, the church services, obedience, humility, etc. They called this praxis “somewhat beneficial”, while they called watchfulness “great beneficial”. From the 14th century onward, prayer began to be systematized and organized by the Fathers. They left writings about prayer. They made known the work of watchfulness as something necessary for the perfection of man. Before the teaching concerning the work of vigilance had been systematized, before it was known and freely circulated, the Fathers and spiritual people toiled greatly in praxis. They kept many fasts, many vigils, endured hardships, etc. But when the work of vigilance came to light as a systematic method, then the amount of ascesis was reduced—not because it is unnecessary, but because the Fathers dedicated thenselves more to spiritual work than to praxis. Through the work of watchfulness they were freed from thoughts, and the passions were reduced. The work of watchfulness gave them purity of heart. This is why they did not have such an absolute need for bodily ascesis to attain purity of soul. For this reason, we monks must not lay aside this prayer, for it is guaranteed to bring benefit 1000%. For when the work of watchfulness purifies the nous and heart and gives prudent care to the exterior senses of the body as well as to the interior senses of the soul, then a monk does not need much ascesis to attain the same goal. Ascesis through praxis is a helpful means towards watchfulness. For this reason, the Fathers—in part and according to their strength—also exercised themselves in ascesis through praxis, in order, of course, to help the work of watchfulness. But for the most part, they pursued the work of watchfulness, because prayer and watchfulness teach the most thorough lessons about spiritual matters and theoria.
The work of watchfulness leads the watchful person to theoria, from theoria to wisdom, from wisdom to love, and it is from love that divine eros proceeds. Purity was a natural result of this work of watchfulness. Pyrity of both soul and body came on its own. While in physical asceticism the Fathers exerted themselves to death and suffered greatly, the work of watchfulness took away most of the labor and toil. The work of watchfulness led the Watchful Fathers to freedom from care, for they saw that caring unduly for many things and various matters is a serious obstacle to the pursuit of watchfulness, because it gives birth to thoughts. Thoughts draw the attention of the nous away from prayer and theoria. For this reason, the Fathers call the care for things which are unnecessary and superfluous, spiritual tuberculosis. Cenobites* live under obedience. A natural consequence of obedience is freedom from cares for the one who obeys. For as long as I practice obedience and as long as someone else bears the concerns, I can have peace and tranquility, carrying out only my diakonema. When I cary out a diakonema, and I consider that beyond this I do not need to worry about anything else, I can combine my work with prayer very well. If I see that my nous is unable to attend to the handicraft with prayer because it is distracted by many things unrelated to the duties it has at its diakonema, then out of necessity I will begin the oral invocation of the name of Christ, saying in a whisper, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me....” When the mouth prays and the hands work, the work has twice the grace: the grace of obedience and the grace of prayer. Obedience gives us a reward for our work, while prayer sanctifies it; any work escorted by prayer has a special grace. In the monastery of Tabenesi in Egypt there was so much stillness that they called it a necropolis, a city of the dead. By this they meant that the fathers were so silent that it was as if they were not living people, who have need of speech and bustle. Furthermore, since they had this stillness, they certainly had the time to say the prayer or to be occupied with the theoria of God. It is clear that someone who loves stillness has understood the benefit of stillness and prayer. We do not know the benefit of being vigilant with our thoughts. We do not know the value of silence. We have not found out how much benefit comes from remaining in stillness in our cell. A monk who lacks prayer feels empty, unless he has not tasted the benefit of prayer and does not realize his emptiness. If a poor man never had anything, he is not troubled. But if a monk who has been taught the prayer becomes neglectful and loses it, he knows his loss and is troubled. Therefore, monks must pray not only to carry out their duty as monks, but at the same time to be monks in deed; not just monks in name and outward appearance, but also inwardly. According to the Watchful Fathers, one is not called a monk if he does not have this hidden work within him. Therefore, we too must compel ourselves to pray for our soul to be full of benefit. Only then can we consider ourselves to be monks. Just as someone could wonder how a body should live without a soul, likewise a person experienced in prayer would be at a loss and say, “But how can people live without this spiritual nourishment!” The Watchful Fathers tell us that those who pray in this manner acquire great gifts. Through fasting, prayer, abstinence, and vigil we are given grace, the varied grace of the Holy Spirit. The grace of the Holy Spirit has many forms and many sensations. The Holy Spirit, through advanced prayer and the work of watchfulness, bestows the grace of tears, the grace of joy, the grace of foresight, the grace of teaching, the grace of the apostolic charisma, the power of forbearance, of patience, of divine consolation, of great hope, the grace of divine eros, of theoria, of rapture. We, of course, are continuously being taught, and the more we are taught, the more our obligation to God and the Fathers increases. Our passions of soul and body are remedied in proportion to the progress we have made in prayer and the benefit we have received from it. The healing of one’s passions and weaknesses marks how much a person has advanced in prayer. Consequently, we must compel ourselves.
We must constantly urge ourselves not to forget the prayer, not to neglect it. When we notice that the prayer has “sprung a leak”, has weakened and begins to waver and stumble, it is necessary as quickly as possible to strive to correct it, to work with diligence, to restore strength to our prayer. How will this be accomplished? The soul must collect itself immediately, must concentrate, “tighten the belt”, as we say, and vigorously begin to pray. It must drive away thoughts, expel worries, free the mind from distraction and say, “I will occupy myself with the prayer now”. And when we occupy ourselves with it in this way for a while, we shall soon feel the power which proceeds from diligence in prayer. Prayer is the catapult against the demons, against the passions, against sin, and in general against everything that opposes us on the road of salvation. If you call prayer a harbor you are not mistaken; for in the harbor a small boat which was rocked by the storm finds its peace, salvation, and safety. If you call prayer a pick, if you call it an ax, if you call it a compass, if you call it a light, if you call it a thousand other such names, you will not err. Therefore, we monks must not neglect it at all. There are lay people in the world, mainly women, who occupy themselves with and struggle extensively in prayer, even though they have cares, they have children, they have work, they have so many obligations—yet they find time to pray and to meditate upon the name of God. What do we have to say for ourselves, since God has given us so much liberty and freedom from cares? What do we have to say for ourselves, when we neglect prayer and say it so weakly that its weakness allows the disease of sin and of the passions to crush us and make us ill? Do thoughts war against us? Prayer is a great weapon. The attraction of sin pulls the mind towards evil. But when the mind takes hold of the ax of prayer and lifts it and begins to chop, it uproots even the hardest of thoughts. As long as one gets a good grip of the ax and wields it skillfully, it really brings about wonderful results.
Because the devil knows this, he hinders us from saying the prayer so that he can capture us more easily. He brings negligence upon us; he brings us cares; he brings us a thousand and one obstacles with the sole aim of hindering prayer. As experience has shown many times, the demons shudder at the name of Christ. They themselves admit, through people’s mouths, that they are burned when a person prays. There was a monk who had fallen into so much negligence that he not only abandoned his rule but was also ready to return to the world. He went to his homeland, the island of Cephalonia, where people possessed by demons stream to be healed at the shrine of St. Gerasimos. Since he was near the shrine he also went to venerate the Saint, but a possessed woman met him on the way and said to him, “Do you know what you’re holding in your hand? Ah, if you only knew what you’re holding in your hand, you wretch! If you only knew how much that prayer rope of yours burns me! And you just carry it like that out of habit, as a formality!” The monk stood thunderstruck. It was from God that the demon spoke like that. The monk came to himself. God enlightened him, and he said to himself, “See what a fool I am! I hold in my hand the most powerful weapon and I can’t even strike one demon. And not only am I unable to strike him, but he drags me captive wherever he wants. I have sinned, my God!” And at that very moment, he set out in repentance for his monastery. Once he got there, he made a good beginning again. He made so much progress in the prayer and in the monastic life in general that he became a model for the benefit of many others. I, the lowly one, also had the chance to meet with this Elder. All you ever heard him say was, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!”—unceasingly. If you said something to him, he would answer with a few words and then his tongue immediately returned to the prayer. That is how accustomed to it he was. That is how much it had changed him. And imagine that the value of the prayer and of the prayer rope had been revealed to him by the devil—involuntarily, of course—according to the judgments and the unfathomable plans of the Most High! Let me tell you another similar story: When we were at New Skete, when my Elder, Joseph, was still alive, a young man who was possessed came to us. The Elder, out of compassion, welcomed these unfortunate people. They stayed as long as they liked and then left of their own accord. These people are not able to stay for long in one place. All those who lack consolation from God within themselves seek it by moving from place to place, and from one group of people to another. This young man had the demon of a prostitute. When it seized him, his voice changed into the voice of a common woman, and he said things which “it is shameful even to speak of”, as the Apostle says (Eph. 5:12 ). He was a barrel-maker by trade. He stayed in our synodia for some time, and during the work hours he came to help however he could. On the third day he said to me, “Father, won’t you teach me to carve prosphora** seals, too? Those barrels I make are hard work, and I’ve got this thing inside me that constantly disgraces me”. “I will teach you, my brother; may it be blessed! Look, this is how you do it. The tools are here, the wood is there, and the samples are in front of you. You will work at this bench. The only thing is that, as you see, all the fathers here in this synodia don’t talk; they are always saying the prayer”. I said this to avoid, as much as possible, idle talk and distraction from prayer. But also something else crossed my mind at the moment: I wondered if demoniacs can say “the prayer”. So we began to work, saying the prayer. Only a few moments passed and the demon flared up within him. His speech changed and he started shouting, using foul language, threatening, and swearing: “Shut up, you scum!” it said from within him. “Shut up! Stop that muttering! Why do you keep saying the same words over and over again? Quit saying those words. You make me dizzy. I’m fine inside you—why do you want to disturb me?” It went on like this for a while. It tormented him. Then it stopped. “See what it does to me?” the poor fellow said. “This is what I go through all the time”. “Patience, my brother, patience!” I said to him. “Don’t pay any attention to it. These are not your own words, so don’t get upset. You just concentrate on the prayer”. We stopped working and went to the Elder. On the way, he said to me, “Father, should I say a prayer also for the one inside me, for God to have mercy on him as well?” what a thing for that poor fellow to say! At once the demon seized him, lifted him up, and slammed him down. The whole place shook. His voice changed and it started up again: “Shut up, you scum!!! Shut up, I told you. What are you saying? What do you mean, “mercy”? Not mercy! I don’t want mercy! No! What have I done to ask for mercy? God is unjust! For one little sin, for one proud thought, He banished me from my glory. It’s not our fault; it’s His fault! He should repent, not us! Get mercy far away from me!” It tormented him terribly and left him a wreck. I shuddered at what the demon said. In a few minutes I had learned more about demons through experience than I could have grasped from reading thousands of books. We went on to my Elder. My Elder always receive him and talked to him with great love, and that young man was always calm when he was with him. He prayed a great deal for such people, for he knew what a martyrdom they went through from the demons. And he said to us: “If we, who have the demons outside of us, are so tormented by thoughts and passions, what a martyrdom must these unfortunate people endure, who have the demons inside them day and night!” And shaking his head sadly, he concluded, “Perhaps they are going through their hell here. But woe to those who will not repent so that God may chasten them compassionately in one way or another in the present life!” And quoted the words of a saint, who said, “if you see a person who sins openly and does not repent, and nothing grievous happens to him in the present life up to the hour of his death, then know that the examination of this person will be without mercy in the hour of judgment”. As the Elder said these things, we regarded that troubled brother eith more and more sympathy. During the services, he did not come inside the church with the fathers, but wandered around outside on the rocks with his prayer rope and kept shouting out the prayer continuously: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!” The whole place echoed with it. He had experienced how much the prayer burns the demon. And as he roamed around the rocks, incessantly saying the prayer, suddenly his voice would change and the demon would start: “Shut up, I told you, shut up! You’re choking me! Why do you stay out here wandering around the rocks and muttering? Go inside with the others and stop this muttering. Why do you keep repeating the same thing day and night and not give me a moment’s rest? You’ve made me dizzy, you’ve scorched me; you’re burning me—don’t you understand?” And when the time of temptation was over, he would go back to the prayer with the prayer rope: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me....” He had understood very well something that the demon thought he could not understand. It was with pain of soul and yet with hope that we saw him suffer, struggle, and endure. Anyway, he stayed with us for a while and then left, considerably improved. We never saw him again, though. God knows what became of him. Do you see the power of the prayer and the demons’ refusal to repent? They are consumed with fire and they cry out, “Not mercy!” And they never stop blaming God. Oh, what satanic pride! I wonder, how does an egotist, a person who is utterly unrepentant, differ from a demon? Someone who does not deign to confess Christ as God and man and to seek His mercy and compassion as long as he lives? Do you now see the deeper significance of the prayer and that it reveals how near or far people are from Christ? We let our thoughts loose, and they take control of us. We let our thoughts loose, and they imprison us, while we could use the resplendent weapon of prayer—that weapon whichis called fire and flame. This prayer is a whip that scourges every demonic thought. But we—first of all, I—are unworthy to occupy ourselves with it. Not that we are unable or that we do not have the calling for prayer, but we are lazy and negligent. The devil leads us astray, and we obey him and do not occupy ourselves with prayer as we should. If we did occupy ourselves with it, we would not have let so many passions and weaknesses conquer us.
We see that even lay people who occupied themselves with prayer were sanctified. The father of St. Gregory Palamas was within the palace, in the Imperial Council of Andronikos, the Byzantine Emperor. Despite the fact that he had so many concerns, worries, and business matters, he was involved with prayer and experienced the benefit and progress which come from it. This goes to show that wherever a person may find himself, wherever he may be, whatever life he may lead, he can attain the grace of God when he occupies himself with this wonder-working prayer. We see also St. Maximos Kafsokalyvis, who wandered around the wilderness of the Holy Mountain in quiet places, to be able to increase prayer. The fathers asked him, “Father, why do you go into the wilderness, and why do you flee men and not come near them?” He answered, “I wander out in desolate places in order to increase prayer”. Experience has shown that without the proper stillness, prayer does not achieve the greater and additional gifts which issue from it. Both in the world and in the stillness of the mountains, much is accomplished by prayer. We who are in a cenobium must hold on to the prayer and implement the virtues of praxis: being obedient, cutting off our will, loving each other, being tolerant towards one another, confessing our thoughts frankly, remaining spiritual obedient to our Elders, saying the prayer continually at our diakonema. And when we have carried out all these things, the grace of God will come in proportion to our intention and our faith, in proportion to the faith and obedience which we have towards our Elders, in proportion to our ascetical struggle. We here, under one roof, under the guidance of one shepherd, are also able to attain a sufficient measure of grace, for God does not show favoritism. He rewards those who work at His commandments with a pure heart, with a pure conscience, and He comforts them and gives them the hope of salvation. In conclusion, there is nothing left for us to do except to compel ourselves; to compel ourselves constantly. We should occupy ourselves with prayer above all, saying continuously: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. As we wake up in the morning we should say the prayer; then, we should do our work with the name of Christ on our lips. By saying the prayer like this, we cut down on idle talk, superfluous words, criticism, anger, and grumbling, and each one of us keeps stillness within himself. Woe to us when we are taught and do not practice, when we do not compel ourselves, when we are furnished with the means to compel ourselves and yet do nothing. What is left for us to do except to condemn ourselves continuously as unworthy, wretched, and lazy? At least through self-reproach and humility, we may regain forcefulness in prayer. For humility and self-reproach bring the grace of God. And grace in turn brings eagerness and facilitates prayer. As I also said in the beginning of this homily, we owe continual gratitude to our Watchful Fathers. Let us revere them, love them, and glorify them. Let us seek their prayers and intercessions, and let us entreat them to send us also a small gift, a little blessing of prayer.

*Cenobites, Cenobium (κοινοβιάτης, κοινόβιον )
Cenobites are monastics who live in a cenobitic monastery or cenobium, that is, a monastery where all things are held in common.
**Prosphoron (πρόσφορον )
Α prosphoron (plural: prosphora ) is a round loaf of bread specially prepared to be used in the Proskomidi in preparation for the Divine Liturgy.


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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 12/4/2011, 00:21

Chapter Fifteen.

Homilies on Prayer.


The Art of Prayer.

For a monk, prayer must be like an inseparable companion. During the time which we have set aside to pray somewhat more collectedly and attentively, we must force ourselves, in a sense, to try and fix our nous in the place of the heart—without imagining it, of course. We should breathe slowly and with our inner voice* say the prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. We should set our nous as a guard, as an overseer, to follow the inner voice which is saying the prayer. Furthermore, our nous should make sure that the imagination does not accept any image. Together with this, we shall rouse a loving disposition in our soul, so that our prayer will be strengthened and made whole with good results. This result may be ease in saying the prayer, spiritual warmth, joy, tears, etc.
Of course, before we start saying the prayer, it is helpful to look back for two or three minutes at our sins, our passions, and to reflect on our sinfulness, our passionate condition, the lowly state of our soul, and that we cannot do anything without God. Likewise, one can call to mind the judgment of God or a state of damnation in the other world. With the feeling which will be created within the soul in this manner, we shall be moved to regulate the prayer with our breathing. In this way the soul is prepared so that after a few minutes, when we begin praying, the prayer will have a certain spiritual impetus and hue. By doing so, the nous is more collected, more attentive. This contemplation, this meditation, encloses the nous and confines it. Thereupon we give the prayer to the nous, and thus it begins to pray well. When a person acquires the habit of praying in this way, after a period of time (the length of time is different for each person, depending on his eagerness ) he progresses in prayer—of course, by the grace of God, for I believe that the entire matter of prayer clearly depends on the grace of God. One becomes a co-worker with grace through his methods of praying, but it is an accomplishment of grace for him to remember the name of God. The proof of this is that a person is able to think any other kind of thought that he wants; but to keep the name of God in mind requires a very great effort. Something similar happens with plants, to offer an illustration. Wild plants and thorns sprout on their own, without anyone making an effort, whereas cultivated plants must be looked after with much labor. Furthermore, if God does not help, if He does not send sunlight with its wonder-working rays, nothing is able to sprout and grow and flower. This is how it is spiritually, too: man strives to attain union with God through various methods of prayer, but if God does not send His blessing, if He does not assist, all these methods and the great effort man makes in prayer remain spiritually fruitless. For this reason, before beginning prayer, we need contemplation—spiritual contemplation, that is—with humble thoughts, thoughts of self-reproach, the remembrance of death, and so on, in order to elicit help from God when we pray. Even when a person is praying, if he accepts vainglorious thoughts, prayer ceases—that is, the grace of God is immediately obstructed; it does not act. Then he becomes indignant with these thoughts and thinks: “As soon as the prayer began to act and I started feeling the grace of God, thoughts intruded and grace withdrew”. Furthermore, many times various evil thoughts approach and at once the prayer is cut and one asks oneself, “But I did not accept these evil thoughts; why am I now deprived of prayer and its grace?” Even so, this happens certainly by the providence of God to instruct a person. It is as if God were saying to him: “Do not think that it is only when you accept proud thoughts that you are deprived of the grace of prayer; but also whenever I will, even without proud thoughts, I take away from you the impression and conviction that through your own preparation and effort you can succeed in finding active prayer”. This is something I have come to know so fully from experience that nothing can take this thought, this conviction away from me, that prayer is the work of grace. Of course, we mean active prayer, prayer when one perceives the presence of grace—because any other kind of prayer, without the perception of grace, is also called prayer. So it is to one’s advantage to be deprived of prayer from time to time in order to learn this lesson of humility well. After years, after losing prayer many times because of thoughts, a natural inner conviction develops, that it is only with the help of God that prayer is achieved. Abba Isaac the Syrian says, “It is not when you prepare yourself with every means and way of prayer that you will obtain the grace of God, but it is when God wants to that He will give it to you. When you have not prepared, it happens that He gives it to you; and when you have prepared, it may happen that He does not give you prayer”. This is a very great truth. Many times when I, the lowly one, had taken all measures to find prayer at night, for the most part I would not find it. I would get up on time, in my stillness, according to my schedule; I would do everything attentively; I would not make a sound. I struggled for hours, yet I would not find prayer. Then, after this lengthy struggle to pray attentively, I would do something else, some other spiritual work, and would find so much grace from God. I thought to myself, “So much labor, such a great effort, so much attention resulted in nothing, and now suddenly so much grace?” God gave me to understand that I should not abandon my efforts, but that I should not trust in my own efforts to find prayer. It is within the power, within the authority of God to make the prayer be felt even without effort. At any rate, he who prays must, on his part, take all measures necessary to find prayer, without believing that these measures will definitely bring prayer. Rather, he should believe that if God wills, he will be given prayer—otherwise he will accomplish nothing. The farmer sows: he cultivates the field well, makes sure that the plow goes deep, rakes up the earth, brings what is underneath to the top, and then he sows. Afterwards, he waits for rain and fair weather. If fair weather coincides with rain and the proper atmospheric conditions, the seeds will sprout, grow, and yield their fruit. Otherwise, nothing will happen—or if they do sprout, they will yield so little that the farmer will not even recover the seeds he sowed. However, the farmer hopes in God and says, “If God wills, I shall obtain fruit”. And in times of drought, the poor farmer prays and has the fields blessed with holy water, because he believes that if God wills to send rain, sun, etc., his labor will bear fruit. Otherwise, in spite of all the measures he has taken, he will not obtain fruit. The same thing happens in the spiritual realm: no matter how well a person may prepare, he will bear fruit only if God wills. For this reason, humility must precede all spiritual pursuits. One reaches the point of being convinced that absolutely nothing can happen without God’s help. He believes this and says, “I sign with my own blood that I am nothing and that I am unable to do any good”. And while he has not yet finished signing that he is nothing, immediately he sees vainglorious thoughts! And he reflects, “Just now I was signing with my blood that I am nothing—how could a vainglorious thought attack me?”
So it is clear that God must even give us humility. Despite all the work we do to realize our nothingness, it is still God Who must give us the sense of the nothingness. So then, what is one to do, since this is how things are? Should he do nothing good and make no effort, waiting for God to give him humility and grace? No. He must do whatever is required of him concerning this or that virtue, and then wait humbly with the awareness that, if God wills, this virtue will receive flesh and bones, and then he will be able to bear fruit. Otherwise, only the labor remains. Getting back to the subject of prayer, I repeat that we must prepare ourselves for it. We must enclose ourselves within our cells at the appointed time. We must make an effort to reflect on something related to prayer: for example, our sins, or the fact that time is passing and we are not doing anything, or that death and the tribunal await us, and so on. After this sort of improvised and brief meditation, immediately a mood for prayer comes. We put our nous into our heart and breath in a restrained manner, saying the dear little prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. And if sometimes we feel that it is laborious or that we are sleepy, we must persist. We don’t seem to get anything out of it, of course, but imperceptibly something good is created within us. The next time we sit down to pray, we shall feel somewhat better, and the next time, better yet. Thus, little by little, we shall begin to get something out of prayer, and, with time, we shall find more and more. Of course, in this effort the devil shall most certainly attack us. He will distract us and bring us various fantasies. Our effort must be to exclude all these things and attend to prayer. The work is not easy. It seems simple: you bow your head, collect your thoughts, and follow the prayer. In essence, however, it is difficult, because the evil one does not want to hear this prayer. Noetic prayer is an implacable enemy of Satan! Consequently, it is not so easy for the devil to tolerate it burning and scalding him, to permit it to establish Christ in man’s heart, and to expel him from the region surrounding the heart. As we have said, the purpose of prayer is to bring Christ within the heart of man—something unacceptable to the opposition, to Satan. This simple, single-phrased prayer is so powerful that it is not possible for man’s mind to contain it. For this reason Satan combats it, fights hard against it, and brings us distraction, restlessness, distress, and suffocation, with the sole aim that the person not pray. “Continuing steadfastly in prayer” (Rom. 12:12 ). Prayer takes patience, persistence, forbearance. Let us not say that we are unable to do anything, because then we shall not succeed in acquiring this prayer, which is so vast that it contains heavenly things within it! Let me explain: When prayer becomes active, the nous becomes so clear, so illumined, so dynamic, it receive such strong wings, that it ascends very high and meets God with all His graces. Then the nous becomes so receptive to spiritual contemplations that one says, “Which contemplation shall i choose?” On the other hand, when the nous is not enlightened by prayer, it is extremely sluggish; it cannot be moved fruitfully to even a single contemplation.
When one makes an effort and does not find prayer, the evil one comes and says, “See, you made such an effort and didn’t find anything, so give up this prayer”. But experience tells us in its own language that patience and persistence are needed, for the heart does not easily open to prayer. Many blows and much effort in prayer are needed. What happens with a seed? It sprouts; little by little it rises upwards; it breaks the surface of the soil and emerges into the light of this world. Then it puts out a shoot, grows, blossoms, and bears fruit. The same thing happens with prayer as well. Little by little it will break the hardness of the heart; it will emerge at its surface, and when it emerges into the light of the spiritual world, it will begin to sprout, grow, blossom, and bear fruit. When God counts a person worthy, after years of working at this spiritual prayer, then—although previously he himself had felt that he was weak in humility and lost prayer easily—he sees humility established as a spiritually natural state. Then prayer is also established and retained. A little child, when he first begins to walk, is not strong. His knees are not strong, and he easily falls and hurts himself. As he gets older, of course, his ankles become stronger. Then it is easy for him to walk without falling. The same thing happens with prayer, too. So we must do all these godly labors, because they predispose God to send His grace. That which is harmful in the spiritual struggle is despair and hopelessness. There is no need for despair. Despair, in any spiritual sector whatsoever, is from the devil. It is never from God but always from the devil. And whenever it approaches us, we should say, “This is from the devil”. The devil does attack every prayer, but he is particularly aggressive towards this one. One can say all other prayers easily with the inner voice. When one begins this prayer, however, all the demons gather. Satan’s opposition and the war he wages against it reveal how good, spiritual, and fruitful this prayer is. We have not understood what we shall gain, how much we shall benefit from this prayer. That is why we do not have the appetite and patience for prayer. So let us struggle; let us labor in prayer until God sends His grace—and then, when grace comes, it will instruct us in everything.


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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 13/4/2011, 00:32

Chapter Fifteen.

On the Practical Method of Noetic Prayer.

When we were in the wilderness, our vigil began at sunset and lasted until the morning hours. My Elder of blessed memory, Joseph, in teaching us the duties of the monastic life, greatly emphasized the practical method of noetic prayer. Just as he continually forced himself in prayer, he insisted that we also force ourselves as much as we could, in order to establish deeply within our nous and heart the name of the Lord, which is the cornerstone of the whole spiritual building. After sleep, my Elder would tell us, man’s nous is fresh and clear. It is in a perfect condition for us to give it, as its first spiritual food, the name of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ. But since the devil knows this, he hurries as quick as lightning to sow the tares of his evil thoughts when we wake up, so that the memory like a mill will begin to grind them and the noise made by its turning will sound like his kind of “prayer”. In millers’ jargon, the part of the mill where they put the wheat, the barley, the corn, or whatever else is to be ground, is called the hopper (in Greek it is called the “desire” ). It is open and wide on the top, but becomes so narrow on the bottom that it permits only a few grains to fall rhythmically between the millstones. Whatever enters the “desire” will pass between the millstones and be ground. But whatever enters the heart—which has the human desires within it—does not have to ascend and pass between the millstones of the nous. “Out of the heart”, said the Lord, “proceed evil thoughts” (Mt. 15:19 ), and ascend and pass one by one and are ground. The more unclean and earthly the heart is, the more dirty and base the thoughts are. Therefore, in order to keep all the muddiness of thoughts from ascending into the nous and to cleanse the heart, as its Creator desires, we bring our nous down into the heaven of our heart through noetic prayer, and thus we transform the place of the passions, where Satan is indirectly worshipped, into a holy temple of God, a dwelling place of the Holy Trinity. This figure we have sketched is simple to describe with words, but to apply it requires all man’s powers with the full cooperation of divine grace. And since God always offers Himself, and even entreats, “Son, give Me your heart” (Prov. 233:26 ), it is necessary that we also offer ourselves entirely and obediently to the ascetical rules of our Watchful Fathers. So be careful with your first thoughts after sleep. Dreams, fantasies—whether good or bad—whatever sleep bequeathed to us, we must obliterate immediately. And right away we must immediately take the name of Christ as the breath of our soul. Meanwhile, after we throw a little water on our face to wake up, and after we have a cup of coffee or something else to invigorate us—as long as our vigil begins long before midnight—we say the Trisagion, recite the Creed and “It is truly meet” to the most holy Theotokos, and then we sit in our place of prayer with the weapon against the devil—the prayer rope—in hand. “Did you sit down on your stool?” my Elder would ask. “Wait a minute! Don’t start praying in the prescribed way before you concentrate your thoughts and meditate a little on death and on what follows it”. Consider that this is the last night of your life. As for all the other days and nights, you are sure that they have passed and have brought you to this point of your life. But as for this night ahead of you, you are not sure whether it will hand you over to the day that will come, or to death, which is coming. How many people will die tonight! And how do you know that you will not be among them? So reflect that you are about to leave shortly, and either the angels or the demons will come to claim your soul, according to what you have done. At the hour of death the demons are bitter prosecutors and bring all the works of our life to our memory and push us towards despair. The angels, on the contrary, show the things we have done for God. And from this preliminary court, the course of the soul is determined. Then come the aerial toll-houses, the dread tribunal of the Judge, and the verdict. And if the outcome of all these proceedings will be damnation, then what will you do, wretched soul? What wouldn’t you give at that hour to be delivered! Come to yourself like the prodigal son, and repent and seek the mercy of the most merciful God. Whatever you would want to do then, do now. Have you sinned? Repent. Behold, now is the acceptable time (2 Cor. 6:2 ). If one meditates upon these thoughts for even a short time, without images or fantasies, he is moved to contrition; his heart is softened like wax and his mind stops wandering. The memory of death has this natural advantage: to overcome all the illusions of life and create godly mourning in the heart. Within this contrite atmosphere you can begin your single-phrased, unceasing noetic prayer. While your thoughts are collected and your spirit is broken and humbled, bow your head slightly and turn your attention towards the place of your heart. It is also broken and humbled and waits for the nous to descend in order for them (the nous and the heart ) to offer a supplication to the most compassionate God with the hope that He will not disregard it. The bodily process of respiration begins with breathing in through the nostrils. Attach there, too, the respiration of your soul through prayer. As you inhale, say the prayer once, following it to the heart, and as you exhale, repeat it once again. Establish your nous where the breath stops, in the place of the heart, and without distraction follow, through inhaling and exhaling, the prayer being inhaled and exhaled: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me!”
Assume the disposition of someone in love, and without fantasies or images, say the name of the Lord Jesus with the inner voice. Send away every thought, even the most beautiful, the most pure and the most salvific. They are from the evil one, from the right, to stop your prayer. Disregard all evil thoughts, however obscene, profane, and blasphemous they may be. They are not yours; do not be concerned about them; you are not responsible. God sees where they come from. Just do not be enticed by them; do not fear; do not be carried away; do not consent to them. If you are distracted for a little while, as soon as you perceive that you have strayed from the place and the manner of your prayer, immediately return. And if you are carried away again, return once more. If you keep returning every time you are distracted, God will see your labor and your eagerness, and by His grace, little by little, He will make your nous steady. The nous is accustomed to run around and only remains where we feel pain. Therefore, pause momentarily after you inhale; do not exhale immediately. This will cause a slight, harmless pain in the heart, which is the place where we want to establish our nous. This small pain greatly assists by attracting the intellect like a magnet and holding it there to serve the nous somewhat like a servant. Indeed, little by little as time passes, the sweet name of the Lord, the name which is above every name, when called upon with pain and contrition, works the change of the right hand of the Most High (cf. Ps. 76:10 ) on our soul in the place where sin had previously encamped. The circular* movement of prayer in the place of the heart enlarges its boundaries so much that it becomes another heaven, a heaven of the heart, able to contain the Uncontainable. There will be a war, a mighty struggle for the throne of the heart. In the beginning, the devil will act through the passions and their fumes—that is, various thoughts opposed to prayer. And the more he loses ground through fasting, vigil, prayer, and other ascetical efforts, the more he will roar and the more forcefully—by the permission of God—he will try to manifest his evil and cunning through various influences, temptations, and afflictions. But the affectionate providence of the Heavenly Father will always trace out the limits of his jurisdiction, in proportion to our strength to resist his attacks. Before a temptation, Christ, the Judge of the contest, always provides hidden grace to the combatant so that the rage of the enemy is crushed by it, and the combatant prevails and emerges victorious. We have to please the Lord by bearing afflictions in order to make up for all the grief we caused Him when we were lured by sin. At that time the devil rejoiced and God was grieved; now it is God’s turn to rejoice and the devil’s turn to be grieved and be torn apart.

* Circular prayer (κυκλική προσευχή )
Quoting St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite: “St. Dionysios the Areopagite refers to three forms (of prayer ) : direct, spiral, and circular—which alone is without deception. It is called circular prayer because as the perimeter of a circle returns to its starting point, so also in this circular movement, the nous returns to itself and becomes one. This is why St. Dionysios, that superb theologian, said, “The movement of the soul is circular because it leaves the externals, enters into itself, and unites its noetic powers in a circular movement which keeps the soul from deception” (Divine Names, ch. IV ). St. Basil also noted, “A nous that is not distracted toward externals or scattered through the senses to the world, returns to itself and through itself rises to the understanding of God” (Epistle 1 ). St. Gregory Palamas also mentions in his letter to Barlaam that deception can enter into direct and spiral prayers, but not into circular prayer. According to St. Dionysios the Areopagite, direct prayer is the activity of the nous based on external perceptions that raise it to a simple intellectual activity. Spiral prayer occurs when the nous is illumined by divine knowledge, not entirely noetically and changelessly, but rather intellectually and by transitions, combining direct and some circular prayer. Therefore, whoever wishes to pray without deception must occupy himself more with the circular prayer of the nous, which is accomplished by the return of the nous to the heart and by noetic prayer in the heart. “This prayer is very arduous and toilsome, yet correspondingly fruitful because it is free of deception. This is the most important, the most sublime activity of the nous, for it unites the nous with God Who is above all things. In short, this circular movement of the nous purifies, illumines, and perfects the nous more than all the algebra, physics, metaphysics, and other sciences of secular philosophy. This noetic prayer makes man spiritual and a seer of God, whereas those other intellectual disciplines make him only a natural (ψυχικός ) man. But as St. Paul says, “The natural [unspiritual ] man receiveth not the gifts of the Spirit, for they are folly to him” (1 Cor. 2:14 ).
--St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel, pp. 116-117 (Greek ed. ).




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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 13/4/2011, 22:56

Chapter Fifteen.

The Path to Unceasing Prayer.

The heart of man is the center of movements above nature, in accordance with nature, and contrary to nature. Everything begins from the heart. If the heart of man is purified, he sees God. But how can we see God? Does God perhaps have human form? Does He have the shape of a human? No, of course not! God is invisible; God is Spirit. He is able, however, to reign in man’s heart when it becomes a vessel fit to receive Him. For the heart of man to become a vessel fit to receive God, it must be cleansed of unclean thoughts. But in order for the heart to be cleansed, some kind of cleaner must enter into it. This cleaner is prayer. Wherever the king goes, his enemies are driven out. And when Christ—or rather, His holy Name—enters into the heart, the phalanxes of demons are put to flight. When Christ is enthroned well within, then everything becomes submissive. It is like when a good king conquers a country and is enthroned in the capital; then he subjugates all the rebels with his army. That is, he pursues the enemies and pacifies the country from internal troubles, and then there is peace. Meanwhile, the king sits on his throne and sees that everything has been subdued. Then he rejoices and delights in seeing that the labor and fight have ended and that they have brought obedience, peace, and all the desired results. Thus it is also with the kingdom of our heart. It has enemies within it; it has rebels; it has thoughts; it has passions and weaknesses; it has storms and disturbances—all these are within man’s heart. For the kingdom of the heart to be pacified and subjugated, Christ, the King, must come with His regiments to take control of it and drive out the enemy, the devil. He must subjugate every agitation from the passions and weaknesses, and reign as an omnipotent emperor. The resulting condition is called by the Fathers “stillness of the heart”—when prayer reigns unceasingly, bringing about purity and stillness of heart. There are many ways to pray. In the beginning, we must first pray orally in order to attain our final goal. This method is necessary because the nous of man is in perpetual motion. And since it moves not in accordance with nature as it should, but rather is misused because of our indifference, it roams the entire world and rests in different pleasures. Sometimes it goes to carnal thoughts and enjoys their pleasure; sometimes it goes to other passions, and at other times it loafs around indifferently here and there. Wherever it may go, wherever it may stay, it finds some sort of pleasure. Therefore, a person who aims to gain “prayer without ceasing” (cf. 1 Thes. 5:17 ) must collect his scattered nous—that vagabond that roams around all the alleys—so that it may be tidied up and become neat and clean. In order to collect it, however, we have to offer it something sweet; for as we have said, it finds pleasure and delight in roaming here and there. Again, we have to attract it with something that has pleasure. For this reason, in the beginning we need to say the prayer with the mouth. The beginner who is taught the prayer must begin to say with his mouth, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”, and must make an effort to pull his nous away from worldly things. The sound that comes out—the sound of his voice—will attract his nous to pay attention to the prayer, and thus, little by little it will get used to being collected instead of scattered. Of course, the effort, the attention, the intention with which we pursue unceasing prayer, as well as keeping the goal in mind, all help us to concentrate our nous. In time, as we say the prayer in this manner, it also begins to create within us a certain pleasure, a certain joy and peace, something spiritual which we did not have before. Little by little this attracts the nous. As oral prayer progresses and attracts the nous inward, it also begins to give the nous the freedom to say the prayer on its own, without the mouth saying it—that is, it begins to bear some fruit. Later, when the prayer is said sometimes with the mouth, sometimes with the nous, it begins to take over the soul. Then, as the nous occupies itself with the prayer, it begins to enter the heart, to the effect that one feels his heart saying the prayer as he just stands there. However, in order to reach this point, the correct method of saying the prayer will greatly help. When we abandon the regular and natural rhythm of inhaling and exhaling, and breathe in and out slowly, less oxygen goes to the heart. This creates a certain pain, a kind of constriction in the heart. This pain naturally results in attracting the nous and making it pay attention to the heart. This attraction of the nous to the heart brings about their union. It is just as when one has a toothache: the nous may roam about, but it returns to the tooth because of the pain. So as the prayer is said rhythmically with controlled breathing, the nous will go down where the pain is, and thus distraction is eliminated. Once distraction has been eliminated in this way, the nous will find stillness—it will not find a reason to be scattered, since the pain collects it. Controlled breathing (along with attentiveness ) is necessary to keep the nous from escaping. In this way we shall be able to cut off distraction, which bleeds the essence out of prayer. In other words, distraction takes away the benefit of saying the prayer. By eliminating distraction, we give the nous the ease to pay attention to the heart. So we begin by breathing very slowly and joining to our breath the prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. We may say the prayer either once, twice, or three times as we inhale. Then as we exhale, again we join the prayer to it. We might say the prayer three times when we exhale and two times when we inhale—however we are able. In any case, it is this sense that we say the prayer rhythmically with our breathing. Now then, if we are able to say the prayer noetically with controlled breathing, fine. If, however, we have difficulty because the tempter creates problems, we should breathe through the mouth and our tongue may move slightly, which is very beneficial in the beginning. As we inhale through the mouth or the nose, we should be saying the prayer while the nous is in the heart. The nous should pay attention to the heart without imagining it. The nous should simply position itself in the place of the heart, and we should not imagine the heart, because if we imagine it, delusion will gradually enter, and we will be praying with the imagination. Prayer has no danger of delusion when it is done without distraction, without form, with a simple nous, without any shape or figure at all. The nous must be pure of every divine and human imagination. We must not imagine Christ or the Panagia or anything else. Only the nous should be noetically present in the heart, in the chest—nothing else. It should only take care to be in there. But at the same time, along with the breathing, the nous should say the prayer without imagining anything else. The heart should work the prayer like a motor, and the nous should follow the words of the prayer as a simple observer. This is the unerring path of prayer. When we practice this method, in the beginning we will find some difficulty, but afterwards we will find breadth, height, depth. First, a certain joy mixed with pain will come. Then gradually come joy, peace, tranquility; and once the nous is sweetened, it will not be able to tear itself away from prayer in the heart. Such a state will arise that we will not want to tear ourselves away from it. We will sit or stand in a corner, bend our heads down, and we will not want to tear ourselves away from it for hours on end. We might sit there for one, two, three, four, five, six hours rooted to the spot, without wanting to get up and without the nous going anywhere else. We will observe that as soon as it wants to go somewhere else, bending our head down brings it right back. In other words, a kind of captivity in prayer occurs. This method of prayer is very effective. First, it will bring undistracted prayer; it will bring joy and peace. Simultaneously, it will bring clarity of the nous and tears of joy. The nous will become receptive to theorias. Afterwards, it will create absolute stillness of the heart. One will not hear anything at all. He will think he is in the Sahara desert. At the same time the prayer will be said more rapidly. He might want to say it rapidly, or he might want to say it slowly. We should say it however it pleases the soul, however the soul wants it at that time. So we will say, “Lord… Jesus… Christ… have mercy… on me… Lord… Jesus…”, while the nous will be following the prayer as a machinist follows the machine that is working. And then once we cannot inhale anymore, we will exhale slowly, “Lord… Jesus… Christ… have mercy… on me… Lord… Jesus…,” until we reach the end. Then we inhale again slowly—not hastily, but gently, calmly, quietly, without haste, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. And you will see later, while you are working, that as soon as you take a breath you will say, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. Then as you exhale, you will say the prayer again.
The heart and the nous on their own will be so pleased with this method that no matter where you are, the nous will say the prayer at every breath. Of course, you might not say the prayer three times at each breath—in any case, you will say it at least once. Then later, you will acquire a rhythm like the rhythm of a machine masterfully tuned, and then you will see the results that this prayer has. It will attract you more and more. You will say, “Fifteen minutes must have passed”, whereas in fact, two hours will have passed. That is how much a person will not want to take his nous away from his heart and from listening to the prayer. Who needs chanting, or anything else for that matter? This is why the Fathers in the desert did not need such things. Of course, these are sanctioned by the Church, but the people who have found this method of noetic prayer, which is much higher than the conventional prayers, abandoned the conventionalities and laid hold of the essence. Since we have lost the essence—perhaps because we don’t have teachers to tell us how to pray, or because we don’t have the motivation and the desire—we have laid hold of the conventional prayers. Thus, today’s monks do their Vespers, their services, and beyond that, nothing. They also work and say that they do their duty in doing so—but they haven’t done their duty! St. John the Almsgiver formed a monastery and said, “Fathers, you do your spiritual duties, and I shall take care of your food, so that you won’t have material cares and thus deprive yourselves of prayer. I shall provide you with the necessities, and you pray”. The abbot answered, “Your All-holiness, Master, we do fulfill our duties. We read the First Hour, the Third, the Sixth, the Ninth, Vespers, Compline, and serve Liturgy…” “Ah!” he replied. “It is obvious that you are negligent! Then what do you do the rest of the time?” What was St. John trying to say with this? He was saying that they did not fulfill their duty because they did not pray without ceasing. When we get up for our vigil, after we say the “Heavenly King…,” the Trisagion, the Fiftieth Psalm, and the Creed, we should bend our head a little on top of our chest, and we should try to tear our nous away from everything and put it inside our chest, within our heart. As we bend our head, we should compel our nous to go in there. Once it enters, we should begin by saying with the breathing, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. And you will see. Of course in the beginning, there may be some small difficulty, but a little perseverance and patience will bring the desire result. Then once one’s heart has been ignited and sweetened and he gets the knack of it, nothing can stop him, even if he sits there all night. And then you will see that time passes and you will say, “But I just started to pray”. And you will find immense benefit from this method of prayer. For what purpose did we come here? Didn’t we come to find God? Didn’t we come to find His grace? Didn’t we come to find peace? Didn’t we come to be delivered from the passions? Well then, with this prayer all these things are accomplished. The prayer will produce a warmth, a flame within the soul. After the prayer generates this warmth, the warmth will bring more prayer, and so forth. Then once this happens, you will see that little by little, weaknesses are burned up, thoughts are burned up, the passions are burned up, and we end up with purity of heart. And then the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit will come and make an abode, a dwelling in the heart. The Holy Fathers say that the nous is easily defiled and easily purified, whereas the heart is purified with difficulty and defiled with difficulty. The nous is easily defiled when it is distracted by something evil. The heart, however, does not immediately participate in the defilement. When the heart has created a good spiritual condition but later loses it somehow and the nous begins to be defiled by various things, the heart does not change easily—for previously it had been changed by grace, and so evil progresses slowly and with difficulty. Therefore, prayer is needed to transform the heart from being fleshy, passionate, end egocentric, into dispassionate, so that it feels no passions. When the center is purified, the rays and the circumference will become pure. Prayer will drive out despair, hopelessness, negligence, and laziness, because it will produce a new resolve, a fresh desire for new struggles. So when we sense this transformation within us, then we will understand precisely what the fruit and the goal of prayer are. Then we will understand that the kingdom of heaven is within our heart: “The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:21 ). It is there, within the heart, that we will find the precious pearl, by digging with the prayer, breathing in and out, and striving to keep our nous attentive in our heart. What is that pearl? It is the grace of the Holy Spirit, which we received when we are baptized. But whether out of ignorance or because we progressed in the passions, this grace has been buried. Another helpful method is to inhale and follow the air as it descends from the nose to the larynx, to the lungs, and then to the heart. There is where we should stay, once we take several breaths. This is where we should hold the nous: in the heart. In the meantime, we should breathe slowly, gently, calmly—not hastily. In the beginning, the devil brings distress and the heart feels some difficulty, and other negative feelings. But gradually it will begin to break through this difficulty and the beauty of it will begin. And then there is no need for a teacher—the prayer itself will teach us. You will see that, automatically, the nous and the heart on their own will desire to pray in this manner, because they perceive the benefit to be much more than what you imagine it to be now. For here everything is capitalized on. Here is gold—not coins or silver or anything else. This is solid gold. Who can discover gold somewhere and not go there to collect it with all his eagerness and greediness? I marveled at my Elder. We had special stools for prayer; they were just like regular chairs but lower, and the armrests were higher for more comfort. He would sit there for hours on end, saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. And when divine grace was active and the nous was clear, he would stop saying the prayer and begin theoria with his nous. But when he didn’t find theoria and his nous was wandering, he put it in his heart again and obtained benefit from prayer. Thus he obtained benefit either from the prayer or from theoria, and in this way he would spend seven, eight, nine hours. After praying and praying, you think that you have just started. What are three or four hours? And if the nous wants to escape, to “unwind”, it is pulled back as if there were something in the heart pulling it back and attracting it. Little by little, a person who occupies himself with this prayer is perfected inwardly. His heart is purified more and more, and subsequently he acquires prayer of the heart*. Then he attains high levels of prayer. On its own, the nous follows the heart as it says the prayer. At this level, inhaling and exhaling the prayer is unnecessary. This is called prayer of the heart. Our Holy Fathers, after occupying themselves with the prayer for many years, gradually acquired ardor and then eros for God. Then, once divine eros greatly increased, they went out of themselves and came to theoria and had ecstasies; God took them. Did He take them with their soul? With their body? (cf. 2 Cor. 12:2 ). It is not important; in any case, they went out of themselves. A person does not know if he goes up there with his heart or with his body. He only knows that this high level of prayer brought him to theoria. We see that when St. Gregory of Sinai went to St. Maximos Kafsokalyvis, whom they considered deluded, he asked him, “Geronta, tell me: have you acquired the prayer?” He answered, “Forgive me, father, I am deluded. Do you have anything to eat?” Then St. Gregory answered, “I wish I had your delusion”, and repeated, “Tell me, have you acquired the prayer?” “Well…, that is precisely why I go into the wilderness, so that I can retain the prayer”, said St. Maximos. “Have you experienced the fruits of the Holy Spirit?” St. Gregory continued asking. “Eh, those things are from God”, answered St. Maximos. “And where does your nous go when you have the prayer and the grace of God comes?” “It ascends to divine things. It goes to the Last Judgment, to paradise, to hell, to the Second Coming; God takes it to heavenly light, to the state of heaven”. All these things spring from noetic prayer. Without it, none of this happens. We see how much this method of prayer helps one to attain ceaseless prayer. He who practices prayer in this manner, even when he is at work doing his handicraft, will say the prayer as he inhales and exhales, without even wanting to. The prayer will stick to his breathing. As soon as he inhales, he will start saying the prayer without wanting to—this method has such beautiful results. We must begin with desire, with eagerness, with zeal. One has a little difficulty in the beginning, but the road will open, and then no one can stop him. Let the others say whatever they want afterwards—his soul has been sweetened, and no one can stop him. Then you will see that you find grace, alleviation from the passions, and especially alleviation from filthy thoughts. You will find great relief. They will be obliterated with time. They will be wiped out from the nous through prayer, and the heart will become completely well. The heart will become like the heart of a child who feels no passions. It will see everything naturally. Since we had acquired the habit of saying the prayer with inhaling and exhaling, when we served and had to say the petitions, sometimes—in the beginning, of course—I nearly said, “Lord Jesus Christ…” instead of the words of the petitions! For it was a matter of breathing, and the prayer had stuck to it. A person grows so accustomed to it that nothing can make it leave afterwards. That is how much it overcomes a person—of course, in proportion to the energy he employs. In the beginning, he will be able to say it for a short period of time; the next day, more; the next day even more; and then he will say it constantly. When we were on the Holy Mountain and our Elder was alive, we said the prayer for two, three, four, five hours with inhaling and exhaling. Of course, when sleep fought us, we got up and went outside to say the prayer out loud, for more “relaxation”, so to speak. But when sleep was not an issue, we stayed inside all night. St. Gregory Palamas says that when the prayer is said with every breath, in time a subtle fragrance comes out of the nostrils. Indeed, this is the case. Through prayer a fragrant air will be produced which is nothing but a fruit of prayer. When we were beginners and were saying the prayer like that, there was so much fragrance that everything smelled sweet—our beards, and even out of our chests came so much fragrance. The air we inhaled and exhaled was all fragrant, and I thought to myself, “What is this prayer?” It is the name of Christ! And what doesn’t the name of Christ contain within it? By the name of Christ, the Holy Gifts are sanctified; by the name of Christ, baptism is done, the Holy Spirit comes, the saints raised the dead. By the name of Christ, everything is done. One of the Watchful Fathers said that when the soul departs from a person who has acquired the prayer, it is not possible for the demons to remain near him, since his soul departs with this prayer. The name of Christ is his weapon. His soul is armored with the prayer. How can the demons approach him? That is how great its benefit is. This is why the angel who taught St. Pachomios said, “Many learned men abandoned their studies and their scholarly works, occupied themselves with this prayer, and attained sanctity”. Likewise, the hermitess Photini (The hermitess Photini lived in complete seclusion near the Jordan River in the beginning of the twentieth century. Her life has been published in Greek by Archimandrite Joachim Spetsieris. God willing, we shall publish it in English in the near future. ) wrote that the services are like one’s daily wages: if you worked, you are paid and can buy food; if you didn’t work, you don’t get anything. This is how the conventional prayers of the Church are. But unceasing, noetic prayer gives you not only your daily wages, but it produces great spiritual wealth, and you can put it in the bank and get rich. With this prayer, a person sits and listens to his heart working. This work is very productive! Just as a machine works on its own once we get it started, the same thing happens when one progresses in the science of prayer. As in the old days, machines were manually operated and required a lot of labor, but once it is made automatic and electric, it is more productive and requires less labor. The same thing happens with prayer. In the beginning, it requires labor to regulate the prayer with one’s breathing. But afterwards the work becomes automatic, and the nous monitors it as a machinist monitors a motor. Prayer is aided by keeping silent, by not having boldness or pride. Pride is a very great obstacle to prayer. When praying, as soon as the nous has proud thoughts, criticize yourselves constantly so that pride does not raise its ugly head. It is beneficial even to hit yourselves with a cane and call yourselves names so that pride does not raise its head at all. A person should not be thinking anything at times of prayer but should only try to pray with fear. The more he adorns his prayer with love and humility and the fear of God, the more progress he will have. If you try this out in practice, you will see for yourselves. Just as when we go into a candy store we find chocolates, pastries, and various sweets, so also in the spiritual candy store one finds many different sweets, and we will take whatever the baker gives us. We will do our duty to regulate our prayer and humble ourselves, and then whatever God sends is His business. We will do all the formalities, but it is God Who will give the substance to prayer. But the more humbly we pray, the more benefit we will have. Most importantly, though, the nous must be attentive to the words of the prayer, without thinking anything else at all. This is the heart of the whole matter. It is impossible for a person praying in this manner to be deluded. So this is how we will pray from now on. This method will be our rule of prayer, because it will greatly assist us to see our passions, our faults. All this effort will help us collect our nous. However, light and moving around create commotion in the nous. But when a person remains in one place, whether standing, sitting, or kneeling, his nous has no commotion. This method has a lot of substance in it. If you work at it, you will see for yourselves, and you will find great things. There was a certain pilgrim who had been initiated in noetic prayer. Because he had much meditation, self-denial, and freedom from cares—since he was not bound with a family, work, or any other things—he said the prayer continuously and felt very great love for Christ. That is, he really did have divine eros in his soul. He had a great desire to go to the all-holy tomb of Christ; he thought that there he would in some way have his fill of love for his dearly beloved Christ. So he went down to Jerusalem to the tomb of Christ and went inside to venerate it. Certainly he felt intense feelings of passionate spiritual eros. He reflected that here the One Whom he worshipped—Jesus Christ—had been buried and that here was His empty tomb, and so forth. As he venerated the holy tomb, right there upon the tomb, he gave up his soul! When the others saw this, they said, “Let’s see what this man had hidden in his heart!” They did an autopsy, cut open his heart, and were amazed: there within his heart were written the words, “Jesus, my sweet love”. (A similar phenomenon occurred with the heart of St. Ignatios the God-bearer. ).
Do you see how rich the prayer had made this man? How much it had enriched him with divine love? Just think where he found himself after his death! Certainly angels receive his soul and took it before the throne of Christ crowned in splendor. Only through noetic prayer does man reach dispassion. Neither by much reading nor with much chanting or by any other way is it possible to attain dispassion. He who prays in this way will learn on his own to hate idle talk and boldness, and will try to find time alone in order not to lose the spiritual state he finds through prayer. I pray that God will give you the feeling of this prayer. And when grace comes, then you will discover these things in practice and understand what I am telling you now.
*Prayer of the heart (καρδιακή προσευχή )
«Prayer of the heart» is the highest form of prayer in which the nous is kept in the heart by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and prays there without distraction. Beyond this form of prayer is theoria.



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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 15/4/2011, 00:55

Chapter Fifteen.

Patristic Counsels on Prayer.

“The work of the Jesus prayer is not just for one or two days, but it lasts a long time and many years”, observes the divine Chrysostom. “For much struggle and time is needed for the devil to be expelled and for Christ to take up His dwelling… Devote yourselves to prayer, therefore, and wait on the Lord our God, until He has mercy on us. Seek nothing but mercy from the Lord of glory, with a humble and piteous heart. Cry out from morning to evening and, if possible, all night: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’. And compel your nous in this work until death”. All our Fathers give similar advice, each in his own way and with his own words, depending on his experience of war and victory over the enemy—who is literally unnerved and totally enfeebled by unceasing noetic prayer. “Brethren, always breathe Christ”, urges St. Antony the Great, the Professor of the Desert. “Always remember God, and your mind will become heaven”, declares St. Nilos the Wise. The more one persists in prayer, the more the heart is purified, the more the nous is illumined, the better one’s disposition becomes, and the more the kingdom of God spreads its joy and its presence within man, who is in the image of God and for whom the God-man Jesus covered all the ends of heaven and earth with His virtue, His Passion, and His Resurrection. A person who withers his sense of taste through ascesis, who restrains his senses from all the delights of the world, and who stands courageously until the end against the influences of the ruler of this world, will receive here in this life a foretaste of the good things of the heavenly kingdom: tranquility of thoughts, peace of heart, sweet flowing tears, rapture of the nous, knowledge of mysteries, superabundance of love, theoria of God, perfection” as far as possible for human nature”. All this is attained through a systematic, continual, persistent, unyielding struggle for noetic prayer. But for this unceasing noetic meditation to be heard by God, a person who prays must also fulfill the monastic (and in general Christian ) terms of the spiritual life, which in turn help prayer. As for a disciple monk, unshakeable obedience is required towards the Elder, who is the visible model of the life of Christ the Savior. As for all Christians, it is required that they regulate their lives according to the advice of their spiritual fathers and that they obey the Canons of the One, Holy, Orthodox Church, so that each individual does not wander off on his own road of wishes and desires, just as the Holy Scriptures advise that we be attentive. The very simple and comprehensive view of Abba Minoos is cited in The Sayings of the Desert Fathers: “Obedience in return for obedience: when someone obeys God, God obeys him”. And Abba Isaiah elucidates this at greater length: “It is impossible for God not to hear a person, if that person does not disobey God; for He is not far from man, but it is our will that does not let Him hear our prayer”. If you pray and are not heard, make sure that you are not perchance being disobedient. If you pray at night and are not careful with your lifestyle during the day, it is as though you are building and destroying at the same time. If you are indifferent in little things, you will definitely succumb and fall in big things. Attend to yourself. God will not send His grace permanently into a heart that does not put up a fence against its desires, or into a mind that shows no sign of restraining itself from its aimless wandering. In the beginning God gives His grace to help us, to rouse us, to sweeten the senses of our soul, to attract us. But if we do not labor along with it, grace will have no effect and will withdraw. Appetite comes from eating, and prayer from praying. Are you at your diakonema, at your work? Remember what the Holy Fathers said to themselves as they worked: “Body, work so that you may be fed; soul, be watchful so that you may be saved”. Is your mind wandering? Say the prayer in a whisper and do not talk idly, for you will also harm others, including yourself, through idle talk. Abba Philemon said, “Many of the holy Fathers could see the Angels watching them, which is why they guarded themselves with silence and did not converse with anyone”. Instead of wasting your time, say the prayer. And the more that listlessness and indifference come upon you, the more you should fear the threat which the Lord addressed to the wicked and slothful servant (cf. Mt. 25:26 ). If you let the days and nights pass with increasing negligence, soon you will end up extremely negligent. Will you perhaps boast of your negligence, when others will receive crowns for their labors? Brother, labor a little in prayer and watchfulness, and you will see joy well up in your heart and light dawn in the firmament of your mind: not the kind of joy that disappears before you enjoy it, but the joy that is sweet, similar to the sweetness of the angels, and the light without evening of the other world, which Christ, the light of the world, Who comes through the prayer, will bestow upon you before you depart from this world. Didn’t this happen to our Fathers, and can’t this happen to us as well if our lack of faith and our negligence do not prevent it? My Elder also used to say, “Labor a little in order to have God as your debtor, and in time He will send you much more than what you labored for or sought”. But do not forget the words of St. Isaac the Syrian: “First the devil struggles to do away with the unceasing prayer of the heart, and then persuades the monk to disregard also the appointed times of prayer and his prayer rule, which is done with bows and prostrations”. So do not listen to the whispers of negligence, and if you want God to cover your faults, you also cover your brother’s and bear with him during his temptations and pain. Do not talk back and do not conceal thoughts from your spiritual father, for you will labor your whole life in vain, and your prayer will remain fruitless. If you are not cleansed through frank confession, how will you approach to receive the immaculate and life-creating Mysteries of Christ? Haven’t you heard that they bring life to those who partake worthily, and death to those who receive unworthily? Do not say, “I am just like the others”, for this is foolishness, and the Judge cannot be deceived. Every thought which brings despair and excessive grief is from the devil, and you should reject it immediately, for it will cut the thread of prayer. Every thought which causes moderate grief within the soul, mixed with joy and tears, is from God. The grace of God never drives a person to despair, but only leads him to repentance.


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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 16/4/2011, 02:07

Chapter Fifteen.

Anthology on Noetic Prayer.

1. Prayer is one of the foremost and strongest powers that causes him who prays to be born again, and it grants him bodily and spiritually well-being.

2. Prayer is the eyes and wings of the soul; it gives us the boldness and strength to behold God.

3. My brother, keep praying with your mouth until divine grace enlightens you to pray also with your heart. Then a celebration and festival will take place within you in a wondrous way, and you will no longer pray with your mouth, but with the attention which works in the heart.

4. If you truly desire to expel every anti-Christian thought and to purify your nous, you will achieve this only through prayer, for nothing is able to regulate our thoughts as well as prayer.

5. Be careful, because if you are lazy and inattentive in prayer, you shall not make any progress either in your pursuit of devotion towards the Lord, or in the acquisition of salvation and peace of thoughts.

6. The name of Jesus Christ, which we invoke in prayer, contains within it self-existing and self-acting restorative power. So do not worry about the imperfection and dryness of your prayer, but with perseverance await the fruit of the repeated invocation of the Divine Name.

7. When guided by prayer, the moral powers within us become stronger than all our temptations and conquer them.

8. Frequency in prayer creates a habit of prayer, which quickly becomes second nature and which frequently brings the nous and the heart to a higher spiritual state. It is the only way to reach the height of true and pure prayer. It constitutes the best means of effective preparation for prayer and the surest road for one to reach the destination of prayer and salvation.

9. Each one of us is able to acquire interior prayer—that is, to make it a means of communication with the Lord. It does not cost anything except the effort to plunge into silence and into the depths of our heart, and the care to call upon the name of our sweetest Jesus Christ as often as possible, which fills one with elation. Plunging into ourselves and examining the world of our soul give us the opportunity to know what a mystery man is, to feel the delight of self-knowledge and to shed bitter tears of repentance for our falls and the weakness of our will.

10. May your entire soul cleave with love to the meaning of the prayer, so that your nous, your inner voice, and your will—these three components of your soul—become one, and the one become three; for in this way man, who is an image of the Holy Trinity, comes into contact with and is united to the prototype. As the great worker and teacher of noetic prayer, the divine Gregory Palamas of Thessalonica said, “When the oneness of the nous becomes threefold, yet remains single, then it is united with the divine Triadic Unity, and it closes the door to every form of delusion and is raised above the flesh, the world, and the prince of the world” (The Philokalia, vol. IV. p. 343 ).

11. Wherever the prayer is active, there is Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Holy Trinity, one in essence and indivisible. Wherever there is Christ, the Light of the world, there is the eternal light of the other world; there is peace and joy; there are the angels and the saints; there is the splendor of the Kingdom. Blessed are those who in this present life have clothed themselves with the Light of the world—Christ—for they have already put on the garment of incorruption.

12. Since Christ is the light of the world, those who do not see Him, who do not believe in Him, are all most certainly blind. Conversely, all who strive to practice the commandments of Christ walk in the light; they confess Christ and venerate and worship Him as God. Whoever confesses Christ and regards Him as his Lord and God is strengthened by the power of the invocation of His name to do His will. But if he is not strengthened, it is evident that he confesses Christ only with his mouth, while in his heart he is far from Him.

13. Just as it is impossible for someone who walks at night not to stumble, likewise it is impossible for someone who has not yet seen the divine light not to sin.

14. The goal of noetic prayer is to unite God with man, to bring Christ into man’s heart, banishing the devil from there and destroying all the work that he has accomplished there through sin. For, as the beloved disciple says, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 Jn. 3:8 ). Only the devil knows the inexpressible power of these seven words of the Jesus prayer, and this is why he wars and fights against the prayer with furious rage. Countless times the demons have confessed through the mouths of possessed people that they are burned by the action of the prayer.

15. The more the prayer unites us with Christ, the more it separates us from the devil—and not only from the devil, but also from the spirit of the world, which engenders and sustains the passions.

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 17/4/2011, 03:22

Chapter Fifteen.

Anthology on Noetic Prayer.


16. The prayer’s satan [i.e., adversary] is listlessness. Satan’s satan is the desire for the prayer, the fervor of the heart. “Be fervent in spirit”, says the apostle, “serving the Lord” (Rom. 12:11 ). This fervor draws and retains grace for the one who prays, and it becomes light and joy and indescribable consolation for him—but to the demons it is fire and bitterness and persecution. When this grace comes, it collects the nous from its wandering and sweetens it with the mindfulness of God, healing it of all evil and unclean thoughts.

17. Is the prayer on your lips? Then grace is there as well. But from the lips it must pass into the nous and descend into the heart—and this takes much time and labor. The tongue must toil in order to pay for all its idle talk and its falls, and it must acquire the habit of praying. For without labor and practice, a habit cannot be formed. Humility must also appear for grace to come. After that, the road is clear; the prayer cleaves to our breathing and the nous wakes up and follows it. With time the passions abate, thoughts subside, and the heart grows calm.

18. Do not get tired of bringing your nous back every time it wanders. God will see your eagerness and your toil, and will send His grace to collect it. When grace is present, all is done with joy, without toil.

19. with the prayer, we pass from one joy to another; without the prayer, we pass from one fall to another, from affliction to affliction, and heavy is our remorse. In short, with a little labor and pain in the prayer, we obtain much joy-making mourning, compunction, and tears, along with the sweetness of the presence of God and the immaculate fear of Him, which cleanses and purifies nous and heart.

20. The heart must be purified for the nous also to be enlightened by it with the pure thoughts reflected towards the nous from above.

21. It is not the unrepentant who enter the Kingdom of God, but sinners who are transformed through repentance and tears. Nothing helps man fight and conquer the passions as much as unceasing noetic prayer.

22. when you are attacked by listlessness, when the nous, the tongue, and the fingers on the player-rope are flagging, I beg you not to give up. Make a little more effort, so that God will see your resolve and strengthen you. There is something more that God wants from you, and He allows this time of temptation so that you may give it. For He knows—and you know—that you can do more. Therefore, compel yourself as much as you can at your appointed time of prayer; do your duty to have God as your debtor. And if you do not receive grace, you have prepared yourself for the next time or the time after that. In any case, sooner or later you shall receive grace; it is impossible for you not to. In fact, it is God’s practice to give much more when He delays.

23. The field of the heart yields in accordance to how well it has been plowed by prayer, watered by tears, and weeded of thoughts.

24. From time to time it happens that, without your being at fault, grace withdraws. It is as if God were saying to you, “All your works are fine, but do not think that everything depends on you. I shall come and go as I see fit, to teach you to completely cut off your will and to be patient, so that you learn the lesson of humility well”.

25. Those who are advanced in the prayer have the indubitable conviction that, in spite of all man’s labor, prayer is the work of grace.

26. St. Symeon the New Theologian says clearly that no one is able to glorify God on his own, but it is the grace of Christ, which has taken abode in him, that glorifies and hymns God and prays within him.

27. It is a sign that the grace of God has visited the soul when one prays with fear and reverence, standing with much orderliness and giving great attention to what one is praying.

28. Attention must be inseparably bound to prayer in the same way the body is inseparably bound to the soul. In other words, the nous should guard the heart at times of prayer, always circling around within it, and from there, from the depths of the heart, it should send up prayers to God, continuously saying “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”. Once it tastes and experiences there in the heart that the Lord is good, and it is sweetened, the nous no longer wants to leave the place of the heart, but says along with the Apostle Peter, “It is good for us to be here” (Mt. 17:4 ). It wants to circle around, pushing out and expelling, so to speak, all ideas sown in there by the devil, not allowing any thought of this world to remain, and thus becoming poor in spirit—bereft of every worldly thought. Such a task seems very arduous and oppressive to those who do not know about it. But those who have tasted its sweetness and enjoyed its pleasure in the depths of their hearts, cry out with the divine Paul, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35 ).

29. Our Holy Fathers, heeding the Lord Who said that the evil thoughts which defile man proceed out of the heart (cf. Mt. 15:19-20 ) and that we must cleanse the inside of the cup for the outside to be clean also (cf. Mt. 23:26 ), left every other spiritual work and devoted themselves completely to this work—namely, to the guarding of the heart—being certain that, together with this work, they would easily acquire every other virtue as well.

30. The God-bearing St. Symeon the New Theologian says, “Let us purify our hearts, so that we may find the omnipresent Lord within us. Let us purify our hearts with the fire of His grace, that we may see within ourselves the light and glory of His divinity”.

31. Fortunate are those who have approached the divine light and entered into it, and have been united to the light and become all light; for they have completely stripped themselves of the defiled garment of their sins and will no longer weep bitter tears. Fortunate are those who have known already in this life the light of the Lord as the Lord Himself, for they will stand before Him with boldness in the life to come. Fortunate are those who have receive Christ, Who came as light to them, who were formerly in darkness, for they have now become sons of the light and of the day without evening.

32. St. Gregory Palamas says that when the prayer is practiced in conjunction with breathing in and out, in time it causes a sweet breath of grace, a savor of spiritual fragrance, to come forth from the nostrils of the person praying—“a savor of life unto life” (2 Cor. 2:16 ) according to the great Paul. Truly, there is nothing like the breath of the prayer, of unceasing noetic prayer. The prayer sheds grace not only on the person praying, but it also overflows and is diffused, spreading through him to creation. As he breathes in, he is purified, vivified, and sanctified; as he breathes out, he purifies, vivifies, and sanctifies creation—it is not he, but divine grace that accomplishes this.

33. In these last days, when the breath of the Antichrist pollutes land and see and every breath of life, God fans the activity of noetic prayer in the bosom and heart of the Church like a refreshing dew of grace, like the breeze heard by the Prophet Elias (vid. 3 Kings 19:12 ), as an antidote for the health and salvation of soul and body in the days that are upon us and those to come.

34. I know thousands of souls in the world—throughout the whole world, I would say—who compel themselves in the prayer with wondrous results. The prayer fortifies them in their spiritual struggle; it enlightens them inwardly, and they confess thoroughly and sincerely. Distressed by the thoughts and temptations which the demons rouse against those who say the prayer, they run with longing to the immaculate Mysteries. Then, they run back to the struggle with thoughts and passions, and then, back again to the Mysteries—they can no longer do without the prayer.

35. The prayer is breath. When a person breathes, he is alive, and he attends to his whole life. Whoever begins to say the prayer, also begins to correct his whole life, with his spiritual father as a guide. Just as the rising sun awakens, illuminates, and gives life to creation, so also when Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, rises by means of the prayer in man’s nous and heart, He awakens him to do the works of light and of the day without evening.

36. Therefore, brethren, “breathe Christ continuously”, as St. Anthony the Great, the chief of the ascetics, used to say. And the Apostle to the Gentiles advises, exhorts, and commands all Christians of every place and time to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17 ) . The divine Fathers explain that “without ceasing” means that there is no end or measure to it. So in time of peace do not be negligent, but pray; correct yourself; prepare for war. Take courage. Do not fear temptations. Everyone experiences changes, but patience and perseverance are needed in the struggle. The righteous man, even if he falls a thousand times a day, rises again and it is considered a victory for him. This is what the prayer means: continuous repentance, incessant calling on divine mercy. To Christ our God, Who gives prayer to him who prays (1 Kings 2:9 ), be glory and thanksgiving unto the ages. Amen.



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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 18/4/2011, 03:39

Chapter Sixteen.

On Contemplation.


“A nous that has ceased to contemplate God becomes either carnal or savage” (cf. St. Mark the Ascetic, The Philokalia, vol. I, p. 132 ). In other words, when the mind of man strays from the various ways of contemplating God—that is, praying, meditating on spiritual contemplations such as hell, paradise, one’s sins, one’s passions, the countless benefactions of the Lord which He bestows upon each of us in a wondrous manner, and so forth—then evil demons come and fill him with their own contemplations which lead him into the mire of carnal, passionate sins, or into the sins of wrath and anger! When the mind does not contemplate salvific thoughts—except for thoughts necessary for the sustenance of life—it will be obsessed with sinful contemplations, and then it will be either carnal or savage! Let us then, my children, pay close attention to what we are thinking, so that we do not let our mind slip into passionate, sinful thoughts, because this is a very serious sin with grave consequences. Be careful with your imagination. Do not let your mind accept fantasies of people and sinful images that carnally scandalize you or lead you to wrath and anger! Rather, see to it that with every good effort you keep your mind pure of such fantasies, so that being free and pure of such things, it will be able henceforth to pray constantly and have godly contemplations. Through them it will be made spiritual and make heavenly ascents towards the soul’s sanctification.


2. Fear of God is necessary. “I beheld the Lord ever before me… so that I not be shaken” (Ps. 15:8 ). One must remember that God is everywhere present and fills all things; we must remember that we breathe God, we eat God, we wear God, and that we have God within our heart and nous. God knows our thoughts, our recollections, our words, our deeds, our intentions. Nothing escapes His all-seeing eye—not only present things, but even past and future events; not only those of men alive now, but of all men from Adam until the last man before the end of the world. Man is unable to do anything without God knowing, since everything is done before His eyes. When a person meditates upon and contemplates all these things, he feels sharp pangs of conscience for his transgressions and weaknesses. A genuine fear of God overcomes him, and he tries to change his life and conform it to the divine commandments. By meditating upon these things, he feels the presence of God, which previously had escaped his notice due to his ignorance. A genuine fear guides him to clean the inside of the cup, as the Lord has said (vid. Mt. 23:26 )—not saying one thing with the mouth and another in the heart. By meditating upon these things, his conscience awakens, and at the slightest thing, it cries out through the voice of censure. He then acquires keenness in the spiritual life: his spiritual eyes are opened, and he sees clearly what is lurking within him. He prays fervently to God: “From my secret sins cleanse me, and from those of others spare Thy servant” (Ps. 18:13 ).

3. It is not so easy for the demons to harm a person who keeps the constant remembrance of God in his soul. They can tempt him, but it is difficult for them to harm him. This is because he does not permit them to trip him up, for he is armed with the weapon of the constant remembrance of God. Whoever has his soul’s eyes open and sees God is not easily harmed by the enemies. The very spiritual men of old did not need spiritual books. They did not have such a great need to read many patristic books, because they constantly meditated upon things about God. Whatever they saw immediately gave them an opportunity to meditate upon something, to discover something unknown. All of creation was a university for them. Wherever they turned their eyes, they saw something to meditate upon—sometimes the providence of God, other times His wisdom; sometimes His judgment, other times His teachings, and so on. With the eyes of their soul they saw invisible things. Meditating upon them filled their hearts with spiritual knowledge. We people of today—since we do not have the eyes of our soul open—do not have the ability to remain in the spiritual meditation. Even when we do see something, we need religious books to know something about God. The minds of these spiritual men were so strong that they could conceive thoughts and ideas with deep wisdom. Our minds are so weak that they can barely retain anything. The Fathers then were, for the most part, simple people; yet, they acquired full knowledge, because the Holy Spirit helped them understand the Scriptures. The remembrance of God is an all-powerful weapon, a mighty suit of armor against Satan and the various sins. When the mind ceases to remember God and meditate upon divine things, man is overcome by negligence, indolence, forgetfulness, and then by evil desires!
If you see your mind rushing towards the world, know that your soul lacks divine consolation, which is why it turns to the world for consolation. When a person’s soul is warm towards God, he is enlightened and feels compunction, and it is impossible for his mind to incline towards the world at the same time. The soul inclines towards the world when it is not united, in a sense, with God. The mind is an area, a place. If God does not occupy it, then the enemy will occupy it. This place cannot remain empty, having neither God nor evil, sin, temptation, or the activity of Satan. The mind is like a mill that is turning. Whatever is thrown into the funnel, which leads to the nillstones below, will come out as flour of that type. If you throw wheat in, you will get wheat flour. If you throw thorns in, you will get thorn flour—a harmful substance. The mill is always turning; the mind of man is always working—like a mill. Do you want to have good results? Put good material into the mill. Do you want to find compunction, tears, joy, peace, etc.? Put good thoughts into the mill of your mind—for example, thoughts about the soul, about the Judgment, the remembrance of death, and so on—and then you will get corresponding spiritual results! But if a person puts sinful thoughts into the mill of his mind, he will definitely have sin as a result. The material that will be given to the mind depends on the intentions of man. And these intentions will be either commended or censured. We should always strive to have salvific thoughts and beneficial images in our mind, so that we do not leave room for Satan to throw in his garbage—sinful thoughts and fantasies!


4. Progress in prayer brings us to theoria, and we may even see indescribable things. It brings us to the Last Judgment, to paradise, to the sight of hell, before the throne of God, to heavenly light, and so forth. One might begin chanting and then stop at a point, and be overcome by the meaning of the words chanted. He might start reading something from The Song of Songs, and then stop somewhere, and the theoria may widen and end up wherever God leads it. One might be reading the gospel about the Passion of Christ, and then stop at a point—for example, at His arrest, His suffering, His crucifixion, His resurrection, etc.—and contemplate it with feeling, compunction, and self-reproach. Sometimes we might be fathoming the Judgment, thinking for example, “If I die now, how shall I present myself to God? What will the decision be for me? Shall I be damned, perhaps? How shall I pass the toll-houses? Other times we might be contemplating the Panagia, her glory, her virginity, etc., or contemplating the saints, and so on.

5. “When Thou openest Thy hand, all things will be filled with goodness; when Thou turnest away Thy face, they will be troubled” (Ps. 103:28-29 ). Our all-good and munificent God created two worlds. First He made the spiritual world in the heavenly realm with the orders of the innumerable angels, the countless host of these ministering spirits, with many “mansions” (cf. Jn. 14:2 ), and various dwellings. Then He made this tangible world with man as the crown of His divine wisdom, and He commanded him to reign and exercise dominion over everything therein. The goodness of the all-good God inundated the heavenly realm with holy angels, and due to the extreme bliss, they chanted and incessantly hymned with ceaseless doxologies, thanking in this way the eternal goodness and compassion of our holy God, Who blessed them with such honor and glory and delight! But alas! The first of the angels, called Lucifer, revolted and rebelled against God. He wanted, desired, wished for equality with God. “I shall ascend above the clouds”, he said in his heart, “and be like the Most High” (Is. 14:14 ). As soon as he consented to this blasphemous and proud thought, the just God turned His sweet, beautiful, divine face away, and immediately with a most frightful crash, Lucifer fell down from his lofty position and rank, and was bound with unbreakable bonds in the gloom of Hades, dragging along with him the entire order which had followed his most evil will! These events took place in the heavenly realm. Now, here I come, the ignorant and wretched one, to recount and briefly set forth the point and significance for man of the psalmic verse, “When Thou openest Thy hand, all things will be filled with goodness; when Thou turnest away Thy face, they will be troubled” (Ps. 103:28-29 ). So, once God created man with such wisdom, He bestowed upon him His image and likeness; He endowed him with reason and freedom; He made in the east the palace of exquisite paradise abounding in countless very fragrant flowers, plants, and trees varying in kind and fruit: “God made trees grow out of the earth”, say the Scriptures, “trees that were pleasing to the eyes and good for food” (Gen. 2:9 ). Furthermore, He enriched it with birds of various shapes and colors to fly and sing most sweetly. In addition, He placed the wild animals and the cattle in the plains as companions for Adam, and made a river to pass through the middle of Paradise and water it with brooks and streams of profuse, crystal-clear water to vitalize and feed the roots of the trees. He also made fresh air and fragrant breezes to bathe the face of the small god, man. In a word, the Scriptures tell us, “And God made… all the animals of the earth… and all the birds of the sky… and a river coming out of Eden to water Paradise” (Gen. 2:10 ).
This paradisiacal day bathed in sun was not followed by night. And behold, the goodness of our holy God dwelled and rested in the palace of the first-formed man. But who can truly describe the goodness and majesty of God, which His almighty right hand lavishly bestowed upon man? He honored him with His image and likeness; He made him immortal; He made him worthy of speaking with Him, so that by sweetly communicating with God and delighting in His infinite source of blessedness, he would be amazed at the riches of spiritual pleasure. Throughout his body and soul, dispassion reigned; nothing disturbed him; he ruled over everything; simplicity and innocence enriched his entire state. Everything was subject to him, as to their small god and king. His soul was adorned with virginal purity, which reflected on his exquisitely beautiful body, an original creation of the omnipotent hand of God. God’s supervision and goodness reigned over both this earthly king and his palace, as well as over all of creation. Everything had a divine hue, for man, too, kept the divine commandment. But alas and woe to me! How and from where shall I, the wretch, begin to recount with lamentation the terrible storm that broke out when God turned His face away? With what words and with how much mourning shall I declaim the miserable plight and tragic fall of man from the delight of Paradise—he who was so honored yet so ungrateful? Who could ever honestly grasp in its entirety the tragedy of God turning away His face, of the exile of Adam, of the affliction of nature? Certainly, no one! And who can fathom the abyss of lamentation and inconsolable wailing of the miserable transgressor, sitting at the place of condemnation and gazing from afar at his lost palace? Adam was deceived by Lucifer, he voluntarily consented to proud thoughts; he, too, entertained fantasies of being equal to God! Adam transgressed the commandment, and the punishment of God fell upon him as a fearful tempest and changed the paradisiacal blessedness into a life full of misery and tears. The poor king of earth became proud, and behold, he was driven out of the exceedingly beautiful and delightful Paradise, from his splendid palace. And fallen thenceforth, he was exiled to the bitter earth, full of thorns and thistles, to work laboriously and eat the bread of pain in sweat, with a despairing and deeply sighing soul. “When Thou turnest away Thy face they will be troubled” (Ps. 103:29 ). Everything is troubled, all things lose their harmony and grace, they get out of order, they forget the joy of Paradise and fall into corruption. This holds true for all of nature, but especially for man. The ghastly face of accursed sin, which first appeared in Paradise, drove the sovereign out of his delight, once he himself approached it and was lured by it. Thus, from immortal, man became mortal, and from dispassionate, he became passionate! The elements, which were previously submissive and harmless, were altogether shaken at once and arose to destroy him, to mangle him; for they, too, were condemned along with him to the accursed earth. Earth groaned beneath the burden of transgressions that were committed on it, as it awaited with an intense desire and hope the revealing of the children of God so that it might be delivered from its bondage and glorified, as the divine Paul writes to the Romans (vid. Rom. 8:19-21 ). God turns away His face and everything changes. Right after the first fall a second one followed, when Cain killed Abel—that wicked fratricide—and thenceforth sin reigned. God turns away His face because of the impious deeds of men, and water floods the whole world, turning it into a horrifying tomb for the entire race of man, except for Noah and his family. God turns away His divine manifestation because of man’s lechery, and fire burns up the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, God turns away His face and His forbearance, and the proud Pharaoh is engulfed along with all his army, and the water of the sea becomes his eternal tomb. Time and again, moral evil and sin—as a transgression of the divine law—cause God to turn His face away from men, so that natural evil follows as an inevitable consequence, in the form of diseases, various afflictions, and ultimately—death. But when the munificent God opens the hand of His goodness, the heart of man becomes a royal palace! The luxuriousness of the royal majesty occupies the most prominent position within him. The royal servants serve their king as he sits upon his inconceivably resplendent and extraordinarily beautiful throne of grace. The royal guards, both those of the high throne and those of the gates, guard the king with vigilant attention! Everything bears witness to the wealth and magnitude of the king’s presence and favor. But who is this king, and who are the servants and his guards? The king? Who else could he be but He Who through holy baptism made the heart of man His own house, the kingdom of the heavens! As He Himself declared in His gospel: “The kingdom of God is within you” (Lk. 17:21 ). The royal servants? They are the divine thoughts that minister to the grace of God so that the royal palace is decorated and so that the glory and comeliness of God shine in it! And who are the royal guards? They are watchfulness, attention, and the thoughts of divine zeal, through which the palace and the king are guarded! Then, goodness and sweet repose in God prevail in the realm of the heart. When, however, some of the royal guards neglect their duty, some give themselves over to gluttony and drinking, while others rush into licentiousness, and yet others betray the king to his enemies—then this good King, the grace of holy baptism, hides, leaves, and is no longer visible. Grace turns away its face from those servants and the palace, for the betrayal defiled it. Then—oh, then—the last state of that man is worse than the first. Then he becomes like him who goes down into the pit of the tomb, whose lot is an unbearable stench. This is why the psalmist prayed fervently, “Turn not Thy face away from me, lest I become like them that go down into the pit” (cf. Ps. 27:1 ). When youth is in the glory of its blossom, oh, how much beauty it has! It is so beautiful that some people do not differ from heavenly angels. But when the sharpened scythe of death strikes and reaps them, they have to be buried quickly, because there is an imminent danger of infection. They are hidden in frigid tombs, for soon a terrible stink will replace beautiful, fragrant youth! Something similar takes place with the soul of man. When man is pure of sins and attentive to himself, the grace of God reigns in him, divine goodness adorns him, and everyone delights at the very sight of such a person. But unfortunately, when man sins and does not repent, God turns away His divine eyes, and at once moral darkness overcomes his soul. Then he begins to work evil deeds, and the unclean demons defile that miserable soul more and more each day, and lower it from sin to sin and from passion to passion, thus rendering the soul so fetid that even the holy angels cannot tolerate the stench or stay beside him to help. Therefore, divine grace withdraws, and the putrefaction of sin begins its destructive work. Then the soul resembles a corpse that is tossed in the grave: if by chance it is opened shortly thereafter, the sight and stink of the worms, and its revolting condition in general, evoke horror. My dear children, let us say along with the Archangel of God who, wishing to prevent other heavenly angels from slipping perchance into Lucifer’s dark road of disobedience and pride, said: “Let us stand well”. Let us raise our soul every time it stoops, my beloved children. “Let us stand with fear”, for the gloomy tomb of sin opens its mouth menacingly, if we are not careful at every moment. But if we are careful, vigilant, and watchful, then by all means the open hand of the Ruler of All shall fill our heart with divine goodness, and He Himself shall visit the assiduously kept palace of our soul, so that it may taste in this life divine exultation and delight, followed, according to His promise, by the full rendering in His endless kingdom of the good things prepared as a reward since the foundation of the world for those who love and fulfill His commandments. Amen; so be it.




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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 19/4/2011, 01:59

Chapter Seventeen.

On the Love and Humility of God,
on Grace, and on the Fear of God.


May the Lord our God give you peace and love, for God is love. Always remember the words of the Lord, Who said: “He who keeps My commandments, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father… and We shall come to him and make Our abode with him” (Jn. 14:21,23 ). Let us love God with all our soul, with all our heart, and with all our strength, and may our works keep in step. That is, our works should be a reflection of our love towards Him. And when our works are wrought lawfully, God will repay us with divine love in our souls. He who has found love partakes of Christ every day, and thus he becomes immortal. “If anyone eats of this bread, which I shall give, he will live forever” (cf. Jn. 6:51 ), says the Holy Gospel. He who partakes of the love of Christ bears much fruit. The souls that love Jesus breathe the spiritual air of the other world, the world of the spirit, which is the kingdom of heaven. Even in this life they taste the waters that flow from the throne of God’s grace! The drink at the heavenly table is divine love. The licentious drank this drink, and the wounds of their sins were soothed; drunkards became fasters; rich men desired poverty in Christ; paupers were enriched with godly hopes; the weak became strong; the unlearned became wise! Love is the Christian’s triumph over the devil, hatred, and envy. In order to reach the divine harbor of God’s love, we must first fear Him as God, Who chastens sin and transgression. It is not possible to cross the sea and reach the harbor without a boat. Likewise, it is impossible to reach the harbor of love without repentance. The fear of God appoints us commander and captain in the boat of repentance, and it takes us across the murky sea of life and guides us to the divine harbor of divine love. Just as we are unable to live without air, likewise it is impossible to live in the eternal life with God if we do not breathe the very sweet and fragrant air of God’s love. Let us shake off the burden of our sins with the power of repentance, and thenceforth light and free as eagles, let us fly high above where the eternal God has stored up the inexhaustible treasures of virtue and wisdom, so that we may drink the waters of eternal life and be deified, as the Scriptures say: “You are gods, and all of you are the sons of the Most High” (Ps. 81:6 ). Let us compel ourselves, my children, for the love of God is not gained through negligence and sluggishness but through eagerness, obedience, patience, forbearance, silence, prayer, and forcefulness in everything. So shall we be negligent for such an eternal gift? No! Then let us cry out in lamentation: “Christ, our Master, shut us not out of Thy kingdom, but open unto us out of Thy compassionate mercy. Amen”.

2. God is love and full of compassion. Let us not sadden Him in anything! He endured the Cross for us; His head was pricked by the crown of thorns; His side was pierced by the spear; His feet were nailed; His back was scourged; His all-holy mouth was given gall and vinegar; His heart ached from the insolence and ingratitude; He was naked up on the Cross in front of such a demonic mob. This, my children, is Whom we should not sadden with our carelessness, which intensifies His suffering. The Jews were His enemies, whereas we have been baptized in His holy Name—we are His disciples who are devoted to serving Him! His disciples abandoned Him out of fear of the Jews, and how much He was grieved is beyond description! And now, how will all who deny Him, all who abandon Him, all who promise Him one thing and do another, find themselves before Him at the hour of judgment? What shall they say when our Christ begins to enumerate His sufferings one by one, while they will have only their denial and a multitude of evils to present? Let us attend to our life, my children. Let us have love and patience in everything. Let us not criticize, let us drive away every evil thought, let us humble ourselves, let us bear in mind the difficult hour of death and judgment. When you do all these things, know that you will live with Christ eternally! Like angels beside His throne, you will chant everlasting hymns full of joy! What bliss we shall have then! All things here will be forgotten! Only joy and Pascha with no end! Glory to God, Who gives us the victory.

3. I pray that the love of God will refresh your thirsty soul, as the hart quenches its thirst at the fountains of water. “Thus does my soul yearn for Thee, O God. When shall I come and appear before the face of my God?” (Ps. 41:1,2 ). Glory to Thee, for Thy great mercy upon me! Without my doing anything good on earth, He consoles and comforts my soul. From time to time the blessed dew of God’s love affects my callous soul. Ah, how much it soothes my wretched soul! How much it refreshes my soul and lightens the burdens of life and temptations! Oh, if only God would count me worthy through your prayers to rest eternally in the dew of God’s love for which I long! The salvation of man requires much toil. The tempter—the devil—has activated all his experience and knowledge to annihilate man. Do not depart from us, O God, my God, but be for us as the brass serpent was for Moses, (vid. Num. 21:6-9 ), so that by looking at You, we may be healed from the bites of the spiritual serpents. “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He” (Jn. 8:28 ). My Christ, my light, my crucified love, Who was lifted up on the Cross for our sins, the Serpent that saves souls wounded by the evil serpents, heal us who have been wounded by the stings of sin. May God bless us and in His good will open His sea of compassion to us, so that we may all be found united together in the eternal and blessed life, where there is neither pain nor sorrow or sighing, but life unending. “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 7:17 ). Oh, what joy that cannot be taken away! What a confident awareness that henceforth the torments of this toilsome life have ended! “What god is as great as our God?” (Ps. 76:13 ). He is a Father overflowing with compassion, Who does not take sins into account, as long as His repenting son says: “I have sinned against heaven and in your sight” (Lk. 15:21 ). Then at once the Father embraces and kisses him and obliterates from His heart every trace of displeasure that the child’s profligacy may have occasioned! I lose my senses when I contemplate His abyss of paternal compassion towards sinners!

4. With what love the blessed soul will be fed in the kingdom of heaven! It is He –my Christ, my Jesus, my dearest, the living Logos—Who gave us our existence, as well as the means to exist, eternal redemption, and repose in the bosom of the heavenly Father. “He spoke and they came into being; He commanded and they were created!” (Ps. 32:9 ). He chastens us a little in order to keep us humble, for He knows how easily our weak human nature changes, how easily it turns towards evil. He treats us with paternal solicitude and chastens us lovingly, so that we may obtain firm wisdom. This is the knowledge of the perfect saints: (it is not as some people explain it, but it has its own special power ) to put it simply, one must confess that even when one is at the heavenly height of virtue, it is possible—if God abandons him—for him to fall into the abyss of corruption and debauchery! It is not a matter of just saying this with empty words, but one must really feel this way. But one cannot say this with conviction if one does not first pass through the Babylonian furnace of temptations, and if one’s human nature does not slip by God’s permission, so that he realizes his weak constitution. He then sees with whom he has to wrestle, what the wickedness and malice of his adversary (the devil ) is, and how difficult it is to rise after a fall! In brief, this is what “know thyself” means. When one obtains this knowledge, the Holy Trinity dwells in his heart. Then bliss gushes forth endlessly, and he reaches the point of seeing revelations! This is what Abba Isaac writes—that great boast of hesychasts. One holy monk stood up to say his evening prayers and stretched out his arms. When the grace of God came upon him—he had his back to the setting sun—it overcame him so much that he didn’t come to himself until the sun rose the next morning and warmed his face. Then he realized that it was the next day, and he glorified God Who counts men made of earth worthy to see such mysteries. Oh! Those days of grace have passed, and now there is a bitter cold even in the warm countries, that is, in the dwellings of monks and hermits. Good examples and virtue have vanished! How vividly the monastic saints must have felt grace in prayer! God visits us somewhat faintly in prayer, and we feel a little bit of grace. But they who were engrossed in theoria all night long—how intensely they must have felt the kingdom of heaven! “The kingdom of heaven is within us” (cf. Lk. 17:21 ). Oh, how much I would have liked to live in those days when sanctity and good examples were abundant—now there is only aridity and misery. Let us once again thank God immensely that in such a moral darkness He has given us a little light, so that even by stumbling forward we are able to reach the gates of the heavenly Jerusalem and not be shut out in the eternal darkness. May this not happen to any Christian, my dear Christ, but may all of us together be counted worthy to reach there with joy and a joyful step, celebrating the eternal Pascha! (Paschal Canon, Ode Five ), Amen.

5. A person whose mouth always thanks God will by no means lack the blessing of God, but a person whose mouth grumbles and wounds his great Benefactor shall certainly be chastened by God. He gave us our being; He gives us life; He preserves us in various ways with His divine providence. Through the death of His Son, He reconciled us who were previously His enemies and made us sons and heirs of His kingdom! He purifies us and sanctifies us through His holy Mysteries! He gives us the heavenly, most holy food and drink, that is, His All-holy Body and Precious Blood! He has also given us a guardian for our whole life! He will receive our soul and guide it to the eternal inheritance! But what am I saying? Time would fail me to recount everything; I would be laboring in vain, trying to count the sand in the sea—the infinite benefactions of our good God! Then, even after so many countless good things, we grumble! Oh, my God, overlook our ingratitude and open our mind so that we grasp what Your paternal heart has bestowed upon us, and so that we render a little thanks in order that we may find forgiveness and mercy.

6. Regarding the holy angel that you wrote to me about, it is true that when he receives a decree from the Lord, he neither adds nor subtracts anything, but he remains beside a person, enlightens him, looks after him, delivers him from dangers, and defends him from the devil, as we see in the life of St. Andrew the Fool for Christ, in which an angel was fighting against the devil in order to defend a guilty monk, and so on. Read it and you will see. Man is given a guardian angel as an older brother who, being closer to God and having more boldness, prays for his younger brother. And man entreats his guardian angel as his older brother to protect him and pray for him, since he has more boldness towards God. How many times he whispers in our soul’s ear, “Don’t do this”, or “Do it”, or “Be careful here”. There are many such instances with those who have the eyes of their soul open. Do not forget the parable of the gardener and the fruitless fig tree in the Holy Gospel, “Let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, fine. But if not, after that you can cut it down” (Lk. 13:8-9 ). The gardener symbolizes the holy angel who looks after a person, until he bears fruit and is saved. In The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, many things are written about the angels’ solicitude for man—they were seen weeping while the people they protected were sinning. Just think how much they prayed for them! Their “tears” show their love and compassion for man.

7. My blessed children in the Lord, may the love of our Lord keep you in spiritual and bodily health. Truly how lamentable it is for a child to be living in his father’s house, to enjoy all the comforts of life, and not to acknowledge his own father—or even if he does give him a little respect and attention, not to feel his profuse love and affection—but on the contrary, when the remembrance of his father does come, he considers it something not worth thinking about or occupying his mind with! What verdict could be given for such an ungrateful and arrogant child? Surely, everyone would label him as an unworthy heir of his father’s love and fortune. Unfortunately, though, in this example and in the person of this unworthy child, we see today’s man who is ungodly in his relationship with God, his Father, and, sad to say, we also see today’s Christians, except for a select few. We live in this world, which God has designated as our temporary abode. He gave us the freedom to enjoy the good things of the earth, without leaving Himself unattested to in everything that we see and think, so that through our reason we would render glory and honor to Him, with whole-hearted love for Him as our supreme offering. Let us briefly go over the world-saving and momentous events, beginning with the disobedience of Adam and Eve, so that we may perceive more clearly the wealth of God’s love. Because of their pride and disobedience, Adam and Eve were banished from the garden of delight and inhabited the land of thorns and thistles. But the infinite love of the Heavenly Father, Who had been forgotten by the human race, sent His only-begotten and beloved Son into the world, to remove man’s enmity towards Him. We see His supreme love leading Him to sacrifice His sweetest Son through a tragic death on the Cross, since this is what the grave fall of guilty mankind required! The Apostle Paul presents this sacrifice with the following words: “He (the Father ) who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32 ). He also says: “He became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8 ). But after three days He rose by His own authority, as befits God, becoming the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep to confirm that most truly the entire race shall be raised by a common resurrection. Before His Ascension, He commanded the holy Apostles to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit all who believe in His name, simultaneously giving them the power to become children of God through faith. He even handed down to us the holy Mysteries, so that through them we may be united with Him and always live with Him in true happiness, which only union with God can provide. He also gave us a vigilant guardian for our soul and body, our holy guardian angel, whom He sends to us at holy baptism to be our guide and protector. It is through the Mystery of holy Baptism that a Christian becomes a child of God by grace, an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ (cf. Rom. 8:17 ). But I shall not proceed to recount the events that show the infinite riches of the ineffable love of the heavenly Father towards us; for the more man’s mind is enlightened to grasp the love of the Creator for Hiw creation, the more evident our ingratitude and failure to recognize such an affectionate and true Father becomes. We live in this vain world and are truly ignorant—or rather, we have not yet understood why we are alive, what goal this life of ours has, and what purpose man has on earth! Unfortunately, we have become almost like the irrational beasts; we live without considering that the time of our life here is the most precious thing for our future restoration. We use up and waste this time with no regret, and when we come to our senses we shall be unable to bring this time back. Therefore, how truly wise is the man who has realized the great value of time in this transient life and takes advantage of it accordingly, enriching his life with good works, so that when the grievous hour of death comes, his conscience will be confident and say in his defense before the spiritual prosecutors, the demons: “I have done what I should. So why are you still raging?” in the Holy Gospel, Jesus spoke about the purpose of man: “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father” (Jn. 16:28 ). Here our Savior is speaking humanly, for as God, consubstantial with the Father, He was never separated from Him. The fact that man is destined to leave the world at the time determined by God and to go to God where he came from, can be inferred from the Holy Scriptures in Genesis: “And God formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed upon his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7 ). The divine breath came out of the tri-hypostatic God—not that the breath itself became a soul in man, but the soul of man was created by a divine insufflations, which is why it has to return to its God. Here is something remarkable: the breath of God went out and created the soul of man. He made it holy, pure, innocent, good, etc. So when the frightful hour of death comes for the soul, I wonder, will it still have its original sanctity and purity? Unfortunately not, for we have all sinned as descendants of Adam. God, however, Who knows our weakness and that the mind of man is inclined to evil from his youth, (cf. Gen. 8:21 ), certainly does not demand the impeccable purity of its initial state, but what does He seek? He seeks true, sincere repentance, abstention from sin, a heart broken and humbled; He seeks mourning and tears in order to give us a consoling ambrosia, “which the unrepentant world knows not (cf. Jn. 1:10 ). So when a person sincerely repents, God welcomes him with open arms, simultaneously giving him the divine features with which he will be able to ascend unimpeded into the boundless kingdom of God, so that he may live thenceforth with the heavenly Father. Behold, the purpose of man! The mind stands in amazement when it grasps this grand and lofty divine purpose! And yet how great is man’s insensibility and how thick a darkness covers the eyes of his soul, so that he does not think why he exists here on earth and what God wants from him. Unfortunately, his mind’s vision has been impaired by the illness of sin, and especially by self-love. How long, my God, shall we remain sluggish and callous towards this great purpose of ours? Send us a little illumination. Why, has the sun ever stopped sending its abundant light? How much more so will You, the infinite Sun of love, never stop shining! Woe to us, my Lord, for we voluntarily do every evil deed. But since You have endless oceans of love, pour upon us love and affection, compassion and forbearance again and again—perhaps some more souls will be saved before Your just judgement breaks out upon us! Yes, Lord, take pity on me, the miserable one, who does not practice what he preaches, and grant me repentance before I leave this world! Enlighten Your world, for which You poured out Your awesome and all-holy Blood, and give repentance to all.

8. Beloved children in the Lord, I pray that my poor letter will find you in love, obedience, prayer, and circumspection in everything. Today we celebrate the assembly of all the Heavenly Powers; just think what a festival is taking place in heaven! What hymns! What joy for the angels of God! The holy angels, the guardians of our souls, are celebrating today, and since they are our older brothers, we should share in their joy and grace. They invisibly help us so much! From how many temptations and deaths they deliver us! How many prayers they say for us when they see the face of God! When they stand beside us, they offer each person’s prayers! And when we die, it is they who will help us in the hour of death and in the ascent through the toll-houses, and for this reason we should bear a special love towards God’s angels. However, it is more advantageous for us to resemble them in their virtues. The holy angels have perfect obedience to the commands of God; they execute His orders with no objections. They have perfect love towards God and men. The angels have undefiled chastity and invincible humility, while their innocence is beyond description. Other virtues also adorn the angels. If we sincerely love them, if we want to live in the same place that they do, we must compel ourselves to resemble them. The monastic way of life is called the angelic life by the Church Fathers. This is because monastics must live a life similar to the angels. However, when they do not live like that, but live a life contrary to it, they will be ranked with the evil angels. Struggle, my children, my joy and consolation, so that you attain the angels’ level of obedience, love, prayer, and chastity, and so that you may also live together with the angels in the life after death! Amen; so be it.

9. The more you perceive the mercy of God, my child, the more lovingly you will be united with Him. And the more you fathom the magnificence of God’s majesty, the more you will immerse yourself in your nothingness, with a corresponding ascent to the state of spiritual knowledge. The more humility you mix with your unceasing prayer, the more intensely you will feel Jesus, and your heart will feel like another burning bush. Raise your mind up above where our life and joy are, for according to the Apostle Paul, “our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20 ). Long whole-heartedly for the things above, and this holy longing will make monasticism light and very sweet for you. During rapture of the nous by the grace of God, wonder will follow upon wonder, and it will stand completely ecstatic before the abundant light of apprehending the knowledge of God.

10. When Christ lives within you, fear nothing. In order for Christ to live within you, much humility is needed. Mentally fall at His immaculate feet and weep, saying: “My Jesus, Thou alone art left for me in this humble life of mine as light and life. Show me Thy spiritual beauty, so that I may be filled with divine eros and run after Thy myrrh and cry out, ‘My soul has cleaved to Thee, Thy right hand has helped me’ (Ps. 62:8 ). Oh, my Jesus, when shall I come and appear before Thy face? (cf. Ps. 41:2 ). When, O light of my soul, shall I see Thee and be filled and say, ‘Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!’” (Rom. 11:33 ). Yes, my child, love humility above all, and then you will obtain Jesus, Who is lowly in heart, as an everlasting possession in your soul. Inhale Jesus; exhale Jesus, and then you will know what Jesus is! Where is earthly love then! Is it possible for a firebrand to fall upon a parched forest and for anything to survive? The same thing happens with the twigs of human thoughts when the love of Jesus falls upon them.

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Registration date : 12/01/2010

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 19/4/2011, 23:59

Chapter Seventeen.

On the Love and Humility of God,
on Grace, and on the Fear of God.



11. Take courage, my child; through many tribulations we shall ascend to the boundless, divine light of Mount Tabor, and there we shall hear the divine voice of our beloved Jesus. “How beloved are Thy dwellings, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs and faints for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh have exulted in the living God” (Ps. 83:1-2 ). Yes, O Giver of life, Christ our God. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (Jn. 10:10 ). Yes, I pray that Christ, the eternal life, will live and reign within you, so that you cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Gal. 4:6 ). Oh, what is more delightful than Jesus! Who has tasted Christ’s love and then desired another sinful love? No one! For this love is so potent, that even if one goes through a life of afflictions for a hundred years and then feels divine love for only a short time, this love is able to dispel all the afflictions and leave him astounded before God’s majesty.

12. Out of His infinite goodness, and wanting to impart His innumerable spiritual blessings to us, God invites and exhorts us to seek them from Him—and He wants to give them to us; He wants us to knock at the door of His mercy, and certainly He shall open it for us. God wants us to knock, but the devil—that primeval evil, God’s enemy and ours—what does he do to make man not believe God’s exhortations? He gives us thoughts of unbelief, and then thoughts of hopelessness and despair, so that we will not believe that God shall by all means fulfill His divine words. Then he tells us, “You are a sinner, you are a loser—God won’t listen to you; He won’t pay any attention to you, so cry out all you want”. In this way, he weakens our faith and willpower.

13. Christ does not need us, for He has thousands of angels who serve Him impeccably. In addition, by a word He is able to create thousands more of these most holy beings. Byt His infinite love constrains Him to be corcerned about us, without being disgusted by our stench and our festering wounds. So let us remember this love of God at every moment of our life, so that we shall do our worthless deeds solely for the love of God. Just think—we were not crucified for our Christ, our Savior, whereas on behalf of us monstrosities, He endured death on a cross for the sake of obedience!

14. May the grace of Christ be with you, within your soul, my child, to enlighten you and increase your love for Him, so that you may be kept near Him and not be swept away by the current of worldliness and fall away from God and lose your immortal soul, which is worth more than the entire world. The amount of grace that came to you is small; the saints, though, had much grace. In order to increase it, you must humble yourself. If you become proud it will leave, and then you will weep. So be very careful to bear in mind your sins and passions, so that vainglory will not sprout in you and drive away the Jesus prayer.

15. The goodness of God sometimes seems like a rod that disciplines man—for his own good, though. When He sees that the rod is too burdensome, He changes His approach, and it becomes a cane that relieves the burden and thus comforts man’s soul, so that everything turns out for his benefit and spiritual progress. When a person lacks spiritual knowledge, he thinks that the rod, the “chastisement of the Lord”, will kill him, and that it will stay like that forever. But along with the temptation the good God brings the way out, that is, the end of the temptation. Man has discernment and can determine, for example, how much an animal can carry, so he does not overload it. How much more discernment does God have not to overload us with a temptation beyond our strength! So it is not God, but our faintheartedness that leads us to impatience, which makes our burden seem so heavy. Sometimes, however, God allows very strong temptations to come upon people who have much pride and conceit dwelling in them, in order to crush their haughty spirit. But in the end, He does not abandon them; His mercy will come back again. Oh, how good God is!

16. “Today the Virgin gives birth to the Transcendent One”. What can I, the unworthy and filthy one, say about the grandeur of the innumerable dispensations of the Most High God! I am astonished and unable to look directly at it as I contemplate this mystery. How did God condescend to be an infant in a cave of irrational beasts? How was He wrapped in swaddling clothes and carried in the holy arms of the holy Virgin, He Who was born by the Father without a mother! “Great art Thou, O Lord, and wondrous are Thy deeds, and no word sufficeth to hymn Thy wonders!” “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom. 11:33 ). My soul shall rejoice in the Lord; I shall noetically smother with kisses that most sweet and blessed Infant, so that He may deliver me from my irrational passions.

17. Christ commanded that we forgive our enemies seventy times seven every day. How much more so does He forgive, He Who is the Abyss of forgiveness! If you were able to count the drops of rain and the grains of sand, you would be able to measure a small part of the infinite compassion of the infinite God.

18. Let us fall down before the heavenly Queen, the immaculate Theotokos, the Maiden quick-to-hear, that she may help us, for “no one who runs to thee is turned away ashamed, but he asks for a favor and receives the gift from thee, to the profit of the request” (from the Small Supplicatory Canon to the Theotokos ). After God, only she is able to help us. Let us trust in her, and we shall not be put to shame.

19. I pray from my heart that you are well and rejoice in peace of soul, for the peace of God is nothing but a place of God, repose, bliss, and divine delight. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7 ), is given to souls that struggle as a prize and royal gift; it is a property of the children of God. In order for it to dwell in the soul of a Christian, first, godly labor is necessary—labor of a spiritual nature. Then it takes discernment and a blameless, clear conscience shining brighter than the sun, which knows that one has done what he should. Then this soul receives the precious gift of “the peace of God” and delights in it and converses like a bride with her most beautiful Bridegroom Jesus about their eternal marriage and the spiritual riches of heaven. And while one thinks about these things, the peace increases, and one ends up in very sweet tears. The peace of God is one’s betrothal for the future wedding with the slaughtered Lamb. O peace of God, come even to me the trouble-maker, who does not know Your beauty! Come and refresh my wretched, condemned soul!

20. I pray that the love of Jesus will inflame your heart with love, that you will run like a thirsty hart to the monastic fountains of spiritual water and drink your fill of heavenly nectar. May you become entirely spiritual, entirely devoted with divine eros to worshipping Him Who loved you to the point of death, even death on a cross. Only in God will you find true happiness and joy, for the unchangeable and true God is the source. The enjoyment of earthly things is obtained with much labor and hard work, and afterwards it turns out to be harmful, meriting punishment. “Truly all human things are vain; riches do not remain; glory does not accompany one to the other world; when death comes, it obliterates all these things” (from the funeral service ). Do you want to live a pleasant and peaceful life? Keep the commandments of God; keep the fear of God in your every thought, as well as in everything you say and do. The fear of the Lord is the beginning and the end of wisdom (cf. Prov. 1:7 ). Just as a lamp illuminates the path we are walking on, in the same way the fear of God illuminates us spiritually so that we can see how we must walk the path of our salvation. Also, as a lamp keeps us from tripping and falling, likewise the fear of God frees us from the obstacles of sin and guides us to our destination, which is the acquisition of God.

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Αριθμός μηνυμάτων : 402
Registration date : 12/01/2010

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Επιστροφή στην κορυφή Πήγαινε κάτω

Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 21/4/2011, 00:03

Chapter Seventeen.

On the Love and Humility of God,
on Grace, and on the Fear of God.


21. What defense shall we have when our Christ shows us His pierced hands or His speared side or His immaculate head pricked by the thorns or His dry lips embittered by the vinegar and gall, and says, “For you, my dearest soul, did I suffer all these things, out of the great love I have for you. Now show me your marks of love for Me, which will be like balsam on My wounds”. Then, my children, what shall we show? Our ingratitude, our negligence, our ego, our disobedience, and the multitude of our other passions? And then, instead of balsam, we shall put poison in the wounds of His love! So then, onwards! Let us compel ourselves. From now on let us be careful to put balsam on His wounds and be called His true, beloved children.

22. “The Divine is beyond explanation and understanding”. We do not know the nature of our nous; we do not see it, and yet the nous directs everything in man. So how can our finite nous see the infinite Nous, God, in order to believe in Him? God is beyond spirit, beyond everything that man can think of. “Oh, the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (cf. Rom. 11:33 ).

23. I, too, my child, have my sickly body as a thorn along my way. It does not allow me to progress, and thus I remain behind until God has mercy on my weakness. Sin gives birth to all evil, but out of His goodness, God transforms the chastisement of sins into forgiveness, but also into a means of acquiring boldness towards Him. Oh, how great is the love of God for man! Who is able to look directly at this ocean of love? One cries like a baby when his nous is enlightened and sees even in a small way how much God loves him. But how much he must labor beforehand to be given this enlightenment! For it is a gift from above, from the Father of lights; it comes as dew, as a delightful spring day to souls being scorched by the hardships of various trials.

24. Man has failed to recognize his own Father, the Most High God, Who brought him into being out of nothingness. Oh! How harmful this failure to recognize Him has been! This is the cause of all human suffering, the first transgression of Adam and Eve. And their sin of disobedience and lack of repentance brought upon their children—upon us—all the evil results, and we harvest the thorns and thistles of various tribulations. “You shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17 ). Death is corruption of our former incorruption, with all of its attributes: illness, affliction, misery, pain. However, the good God did not overlook His own creation, but gave grace through the death of His Son on the Cross—“by grace you have been saved” (Eph. 2:5 ). Just as the evil one used the crafty serpent as a tool, in a like manner did our Lord Jesus Christ put on human nature to deceive the devil. O Lord Jesus Christ, the light of my darkened soul, the goal of my life, how great has our guilt become with the passing of time! One disobedience resulted in bringing God down to earth—and where did it lead Him? To be crucified at Golgotha! And the small taste of the forbidden fruit was paid by the awesome drama of the God-man. Oh, how much God loves man! So let us be confident in our repentance, my fellow sinners. :Though your sins are like scarlet, I shall make them as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, I shall make them as white as wool” (Is. 1:18 ). So, my child, let us cleave with love to such a merciful God. Amen.

25. Yes, my child, Jesus alone will become everything to you. Put your trust in Him Who said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deut. 31:6 ). Never lose your courage. Always stand tall with Jesus as your boast and with your nothingness as your pride. When the devil raises you high, humble yourself and bring yourself down below the earth through self-reproach; when he brings you down to hell, to despair, fly to the heaven of God’s grace and love—this is the game you should play with him. Do not fear him; you have put on Christ; you are the inheritance of Christ; you have been enrolled with the saints. You still have much to go through to show the measure of your love towards Him to Whom you have devoted yourself. Do not accept any thoughts of pride suggested by Satan, but constantly criticize yourself, for that evil rascal has defiled us with disgraceful passions, so how can we be proud? We need weeping and a river of tears to wash away our filth and sores. Bear in mind the humility of the crucified Lord: “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Mt. 11:29 ). Only by achieving true humility shall we find tranquility and peace in the tempestuous state of our soul.

26. Man suffers because of his sins. However, the goodness of God counts the pain as spiritual work, and He gives wages and a reward. How can we not love such a God? How can we not devote our whole life to worshipping Him? But unfortunately, despite all this, we forget Him—and I do more than all—which is why we transgress His commandments. For if we remembered God, we would remember what God commands, and fear of Him would make us law-abiding and careful; we would remember the Judgment, the fire of hell, and we would shed tears of repentance. The farther we are from tears and mourning, the more attached we are to earthly and corruptible things. Concern for things above engenders the desire to inherit those everlasting good things, and this good concern breaks our sinful attachment to corruptible, transient things that seem good. May God the Lord give us the good sense to take care of our soul before we depart for the other world.

27. I pray with all my heart that the love of Jesus Christ be poured abundantly into your hearts, and that by His grace you will be counted worthy to live in purity of soul nd body all the days of your life. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35 ). Thus spoke the life-bringing fountain, our Christ. He also said” “As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (Jn. 15:4-5 ). With such sublime imagery our sweetest Jesus teaches us that if we do not stay beside Him, it is impossible for us to bear the fruit of eternal life. And in order for us to be near Him, we have to approach Him by practicing His divine commandments. His commandments are not burdensome (1 Jn. 5:3 ), but indolence and our soul’s lack of humility render the commandments an overwhelming burden; yet it is through these very commandments that Christ has secured for us the dominion of happiness and peace. When love establishes its throne in the soul, it bestows the most beautiful spiritual springtime. Everything glistens with the breeze of love’s refreshing fragrance, for it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, thinks no evil (1 Cor. 13:7,5 ), does not act wickedly, sees everything simply; love covers everything. For this reason, it has earned the crowning achievement: “Love never fails” (1 Cor. 13:8 ). When a bride adores her bridegroom, night and day she thinks about him, imagines him, and lives only for him. Not a single moment goes by without him passing through her thoughts and dripping into her heart the sweetness of love and of hoping to meet. In this way she communicates with her beloved unceasingly. So in the same way, we too should remain with our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not permissible for us to limit our love by offering it only to a particular individual, be it to parents and relatives, or even to another member of the synodia, which the Fathers label as “particular friendship”. All of the above are considered to be kinds of spiritual adultery, for the soul exchanges the eternal love of an immaculate, spotless Bridegroom for the love of earthly and corruptible men. Humble yourselves, my children, if you do not want God to let you fall into temptations. For corresponding to the pride we have, temptations will follow us. Temptations will not cease until we humble ourselves with knowledge and consciousness of soul.

28. There were ten lepers in the holy Gospel, and the divine bath—the command of the living Logos of God—cleansed all ten of them. But only one returned to give thanks to his great Benefactor. And then Truth itself, Jesus, asked, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” (Lk. 17:17-18 ). Therefore, in every good turn of events, but also in attacks of misfortune, in good health, as well as in encounters with illness, in joy, but also in sorrow, we should always offer up the fragrant incense of our thankfulness before the throne of God as unprofitable servants who have received mercy through the precious blood of Christ. “Our dear Christ, our good God, give us the gift of thankfulness, so that we will not be condemned even more—the guilt for our other various sins is enough”.

29. Fear nothing but God. Have the fear of God as a lamp, and it will illuminate your path and show you exactly how you should walk. For without the fear of God, we can neither form a clear conscience, nor confess frankly, or ever obtain spiritual wisdom, for the beginning of wisdom and the end of wisdom is the fear of the Lord (cf. Prov. 1:7 ).

30. The death of the Lord on the Cross brought us back to our former status as sons, in which the children of God cry out, “Abba, Father!” (Gal. 4:6 ). The terrible sufferings of the Lord made us worthy to become children of God, heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ! (Rom. 8:17 ). I am so filled with elation when I reflect that I am a child of God and that the good Father has a place of ineffable repose and bliss prepared for me! “O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? (1Cor. 15:55 ). What joy the Christian feels when he considers that when the time comes for these physical eyes to close, at once the eyes of the soul will open, and he will see a new world, new beings, new creations, incomparably superior, incorruptible, eternal! The heavenly kingdom is not eating and drinking, (cf. Rom. 14:17 ), but spiritual ambrosia of the holy love of God, eternal delight, unspeakable joy. “I desire that they may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory” (cf. Jn. 17:24 ). Oh, the infinite depth of God’s love! How much has He honored wretched man by exalting him up to God Himself and bestowing upon him eternal glory and blessedness! So shall we deprive ourselves of such glory and blessedness for the sake of a short-lived, sinful pleasure? May God show compassion on all Christians and enlighten them to follow the path of salvation and repentance. Amen, my Panagia!

31. If one meditates on the crucified Lord and penetrates the mystery of God’s love for man, he sees how much the Lord endured for each one of us personally. What shall we render unto the Lord for everything? (cf. Ps. 115:3 ). Man, however, was not found worthy of this great and immense love. As soon as we do something good, we see our ego jump up as if we have created heaven and earth. Whereas God made everything out of nothing, and yet He humbled Himself so much! The compassion of God has no bounds, and blessed is the man who through prudence has come to realize the love of God. For the sake of earthy, disobedient, insubordinate man, who had become a prey to the passions and demons, the Son of God Himself came down and was hanged on the Cross! Alongside this we see our own laziness, coldness, indifference, while God on the other hand shows us His providence and love in many different ways. Truly, man is a mystery. Boundless and unlimited is God’s patience! What doesn’t He hear and see within each person! When we see some ingratitude in a person close to us; when we see him behave harshly, ungratefully, inhumanly, mercilessly; when we see that he does not say at least one “thanks”, we hold it against him. How many things could God hold against us men who behave callously and abominably towards Him? Every person in this world, every one of us, is more or less ungrateful. God feeds us, He clothes us, He protects us, He has given us a guardian angel, He feeds us with His holy Mysteries, with His Flesh and Blood, He has prepared a vast kingdom for us, He puts up with us when we go astray, He welcomes us when we repent. But we are impious, we blaspheme Him, insult Him, disregard Him, and He is forbearing and tolerant; He awaits our return. But as if God were indebted to us, we never even think in passing about the fear of God, reverence for Him, or the piety we should have when we remember His presence. We forget that we should bow our heads in veneration of this great God—the most wondrous, inexpressible, unsearchable, boundless, and most sweet God. If each one of us had thousands of mouths, we would still be unable to extol Him worthily and fittingly for His countless gifts for us! This is why the Apostle Paul, after repeated ecstasies and theorias and delights of God, was often overcome with amazement and cried out those immortal words: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways beyond finding out!” (Rom. 11:33 ). “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor?” (Rom. 11:34 ). Who can know how the infinite Nous works, not only in the heavenly realm, but also in the earth and the underworld? Just think—effortlessly, without toil, He feeds every living thing: men, the animals, the fields, the reptiles, the fish, the microbes, the millions of living creatures. He cares for everything and looks after everything. “How magnified are Thy works, O Lord! In wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is filled with Thy creation” (Ps. 103:26 ). “He spake and they came to be; He commanded, and they were created!” (Ps. 148:5 ). Let there be light, and there was light; let there be earth, and there was earth; let there be stars, sun, and moon (Gen. 1:3-18 ), and there were these stupendous creations, these colossal, huge bodies, hanging and moving in space, which illuminate and beautify the sky—all came to be at a single command of God! “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn. 1:14 ), the Word of the Father. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1 ). He came and took on flesh and became man, and the world came into being through Him—He made the world! He gave us the right to become children of God (Jn. 1:12 ). He came to His creatures, and they did not receive Him. Now just think—He made the world and the people, and they were cold and callous and did not receive Him. He came as a stranger; He was given hospitality on the wood of the Cross instead of on a mattress; He was given hospitality in a grave; the earth was shaken, the veil was rent, the sun was darkened, the universe was terrified! “What god is as great as our God? (Ps. 76:13 ). “Great art Thou, O Lord, and wondrous are Thy deeds, and no word will ever suffice to hymn Thee fittingly!” The Word became flesh (Jn. 1:14 ). What grandeur this hides! God became man, He descended from the heavens; the bodiless God, the infinite, incomprehensible Spirit came and dwelt within human nature in order to save it. He became a slave to deliver us from slavery; He became man, so that we may become gods by grace; “You are gods, and all of you are the sons of the Most High” (Ps. 81:6 ). We have become a special people (Tit. 2:14 ), a holy nation (1 Pet. 2:9 ), a priesthood of God, through the advent of the divine Child! The divine Word—Who lives, reigns, and governs all of creation—the Only-begotten Word of God, the boundless sweetness of God’s existence, the glory and hymn of the martyrs, the endurance of the holy monks, the sole Bridegroom of pure souls. And as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God—who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, but of God (cf. Jn. 1:12-13 ). Those who will be saved are not born of the will of the flesh and desire, but of God, and they will reign beside Him. “We have received grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:16-17 ). He gave us the ten commandments; He gave us precepts in the new grace of the Gospel, and disregarding the gratitude we owed Him, He gave us even more grace! And from His fullness we have received grace for grace (cf. Jn. 1:16 ). God was not deprived by giving us His glory, but He gave out of His abundance. He was not diminished by giving and creating the whole world, but rather the complete, infinitely perfect God created man and the angels, so that there would be other beings to delight in Him, so that other spirits would become blessed, and that other souls and beings would possess free will—not subjugated slaves, but free beings that obey and glorify Him freely. “I do not want slavery”, says God. “I do not want them like animals which are enslaved by man and led wherever he wants. I want free will”. This is how great the magnificence of God is. Oh, what the demons lost by falling away from such an infinite, most sweet, inexpressible God! What did the dominion of God lose by the insubordination of Lucifer? Nothing: God has no need of anything or anyone. It is we who have need of God—gratuitously He saves man. God is perfect, incomprehensible, blessed unto the ages of ages; He came and saved us gratis. We owe Him our entire existence—and even if we gave it to Him, we would have done nothing, we would have merely done our duty. He is our Creator; He is our Savior.

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 22/4/2011, 00:20

Chapter Eighteen.

On the Divine Liturgy and Holy Communion.


What grandeur the Divine Liturgy has! When God looks upon His humble priest, how strongly he feels the majesty of the Liturgy! How much benefit the commemorated receive! How much God honors man by descending with the angelic orders during every Liturgy and nourishing man with His all-holy Body and Blood! Everything has been given to us. What thing, bodily or spiritual, corruptible or incorruptible, do we lack? Nothing. If He gives His deified, holy Body and Blood us every day, what is higher than this? Nothing, of course. In what mysteries God counts man worthy to serve, though he is made of earth! Oh, heavenly, inestimable love! One drop of divine love surpasses all the physical, worldly love under the sun.

2. In the Skete of St. Anne lived a certain hieromonk* Savvas, the famous “Papa-Savvas” as he was called. Fr. Joachim Spetsieris had him as his spiritual father. The Empress of Russia, Catherine, also had him as her spiritual father. He served the Liturgy every day; he was a God-bearing, clairvoyant teacher of noetic prayer. Once some people asked him, “What motivates you to commemorate so many names in the proskomidi**? He answered, “When I was younger, we called the bishop to consecrate the church above the Holy Monastery of St. Dionysios” (It was there that he first practiced hesychasm, with his elder, Papa-Hilarion, another famous spiritual father. ) “After the consecration, the bishop said to my Elder, ‘ May I give Papa-Savvas some names to commemorate for forty days, since he serves Liturgy every day?’ My Elder told him, ‘Give him as many as you want’. So he gave me sixty-two names. When I had completed thirty-nine Liturgies and was about to serve the fortieth, I leaned against the chanter’s stand and waited for my Elder to come, so that I could say the entrance prayers to serve Liturgy. I fell asleep and saw in my sleep that I was wearing priestly vestments and was standing before the Holy Table. On the Holy Table was the holy diskos (The “diskos” is a small plate with a large base used in the Divine Liturgy to carry the bread of the Eucharist. In the Western Christianity it is called the paten. ), for the Liturgy, and the holy chalice full of the holy Blood of Christ. Then I saw Papa-Stephen come and take the communion spoon and the paper from the proskomidi, approach the Holy Table, and put the paper on it beside the holy diskos. Then he dipped the spoon into the holy Blood of Christ and a name was erased. He dipped it again, and another one was erased, and so forth until all were done and the paper was clean. “Then I awoke, and in a little while my Elder came. Immediately I told him what I saw. The Elder said to me, ‘Didn’t I tell you not to believe in dreams?’ After the Liturgy he added, ‘You are not worthy for their sins to be forgiven; through the power of the Blood of Christ their sins were forgiven’. So this is the reason why I commemorate the names of everyone”.
*Hieromonk (ιερομόναχος )
Hieromonk is a monk who has been ordained to the priesthood.
**Proskomidi (προσκομιδή )
The Proskomidi is the service of preparation for the Divine Liturgy in which the portion to be used for the Eucharist is cut out of the prosphora, and during which the living and the dead are commemorated.

3. Immense is the benefit of the Divine Liturgy, of commemorations for the departed, etc.—of course, they are only full of benefit for those who repented, who had some signs of virtues, but did not have time to knead the bread of virtues due to negligence, indolence, and procrastination. For those people, the prayers of the Church and personal prayers, alms, philanthropic deeds, etc., fill up their deficiencies, through the abundance of God’s mercy! St. Cyril of Jerusalem says that in every Liturgy, all who are commemorated, for whom intercession is being made, receive immense benefit. The new Saint Photini the Nun of Asia Minor, in one of her many ecstasies of soul, saw a man who looked like a priest who said to her, “My daughter, give your names to the priest; give him also money for his toil to commemorate them, for the souls of those who have died receive great benefit! See to it that you do not forget to give the names to the priest!” The greatest charity, the greatest good, which more than anything else relieves a soul that finds itself in the other world, is the sacrifice of the divine Lamb upon the holy altar in the holy Liturgy. The benefit is immense because the innocent Lamb of God is sacrificed in order to purify men from their sins and to free them from the various bonds of captivity to the passions.

4. “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (Jn. 3:14 ). And just as all who were bitten by the serpents and looked upon the suspended brass serpent were healed, likewise every Christian who believes in our Christ and hastens to His life-bearing wounds (by eating His Flesh and drinking His all-holy Blood ), is cured from the bites of the spiritual serpent of sin. By this most holy nourishment, he is given life unto renewal in a new creation, that is, a new life in conformity with His life-giving commandments. Oh, how essential it is for us in every way to approach this heavenly banquet, which this supernatural mystery of the Holy Table provides for us! The angels stand by invisibly. With utmost reverence the priests, who at this moment of the mystery are more honored than the angels, sacrifice the blameless Lamb. The angels minister and the faithful approach to eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ: “Partake of the Body of Christ; taste of the fountain of immortality” to live in Christ and not die in sin. Therefore, “let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup”, according to the divine Apostle, because “he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner, eats and drinks judgment to himself. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord” (cf. 1 Cor. 11:28-32 ). When someone wants to present himself to the king, he prepares himself for days—that is, with an overall preparation in cleanliness, speech, approach, manners, and so on—to attract the king’s sympathy and thus obtain the desired request. Corresponding to the incomparable difference between the two kings, every Christian ought to prepare for holy communion in order to obtain mercy and forgiveness. Cunning, flattery, affectation, and lies often adorn someone who approaches an earthly king so that he may obtain what he wants. Whereas holiness, a humble spirit, and simplicity of soul—which is more precious than perishable gold—must adorn the faithful Christian approaching the King of kings, Who looks upon the inner man. Let us also prepare ourselves with purified intellects, and, aspiring to the mortification of our senses from the passions, let us enter together with the holy Apostles into the Mystical Supper in purity, and let us partake of our sweet Jesus, so that He may abide with us unto the endless ages of ages. Amen; so be it!

5. With fear and reverence you should stand in church, for our Christ is invisibly present with the holy angels. He fills the attentive and reverent with grace and blessings, whereas He censures the inattentive as unworthy. Try to receive Communion as often as possible—you have my permission to do so freely—for Holy Communion is an excellent aid for those who struggle against sin.

6. You should approach the divine Mystery with much compunction, contrition, and awareness of your sins. Great is the mercy of God, Who condescends to enter within you without abhorring the multitude of your sins. Instead, out of boundless love and affection He comes to sanctify you and count you worthy to become a child of His and a co-heir of His kingdom.

7. Unworthily I serve the Liturgy to my God. The office is holy and awesome. Every day I offer the Lamb of God as a sacrifice pleasing to God, the Blameless One to the blameless Father and God, in order that He be merciful to us for everything through which we grieve Him, the most good God, Who sacrificed His Son for us. Oh, my God, Your beloved Son for us! Who are we to deserve such a supreme sacrifice? “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Rom. 5:10 ). The image of the prodigal son, who squandered the property of his father, shows us very clearly the reason why Christ died. The sin of Adam and Eve was the beginning and root of all grievous events that occurred until today and will occur until the end of the ages. That one disobedience, like a seed in the womb of Eve, gave birth to and transmitted a physical and spiritual death to the human race that proceeded from her. And how could poor Eve have imagined that a small taste of the fruit would create so much destruction and punishment that the Holy Trinity would be compelled to send one Person of the life-originating Trinity into the world to suffer from the work of His hands—from man—slaps, blows, scourging, spitting, and all kinds of cursing, and to be hanged on the Cross as a curse: “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (cf. Deut. 21:23, Gal. 3:13 ). The Passion on the Cross and the life-bearing Resurrection of our Jesus—our sweet deliverance and the light of our darkened souls—which expiate every sinful soul, are reenacted in every Divine Liturgy. And if in the old law, in the shadow of things to come, the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer cleansed those who partook, how much more the all-holy Blood of Christ, which is partaken of in the holy altars of the holy Orthodox churches of God, will cleanse us from every sin and warm our souls with the divine eros of our sweetest Jesus! (cf. Heb. 9:13-14 ). Love is born of understanding. For if we do not comprehend and feel what God has given us and in particular to each one of us, and if we do not realize who we were because of our sins when God did this great deed of mercy—in short, if we do not come to know Him and ourselves—we will not bind our souls to the fear of Him, and we will not rejoice in the beauty of His eros. The Apostle Paul said to the Christians in order to arouse in them greater love and thanksgiving to God: “What fruit did you have then (in idolatry ) in the things of which you are now ashamed… for the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:21,23 ). If God had not called us to follow His holy way of self-knowledge and to be aware of our previous sinful life, and if divine illumination were absent, we never would have seen the way of light and of truth. He has called us all—some from childhood, others in middle age, others in old age. Being good, He took all of us as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, in order to make us participants in His divine kingdom. He loathed nothing—neither sore nor wound or sickness or the deformity of our souls’ spiritual features. But as a father He received us, as a mother He suckled us, and as an unmercenary physician He healed and clothed us in the first garment of sonship, of grace, overlooking the great debt of the sins of each one of us. Therefore, we owe Him infinite love and adoration. May love abide in the heart, as a living fountain gushing forth torrents of water, streams of divine eros. Not as the Israel of old—only honoring with their lips, while their heart was far from Christ—but as living fire saying, “Come to the Father”. Just as the athlete is tested in the arena and in the field of action, likewise the Christian is tested in the arena of struggles as to whether he truly loves God. Patience in the struggle against the various sins and courage at their onset to apply the divine commandments characterize the fervent worshipper of Jesus. Let us not grieve with transgressions, grumbling, disobedience, and various forms of sin, Him Who showed us boundless love and affection, but as grateful servants, let us strive to give rest to His compassionate heart, so that He may be comforted as the psalmist said: “He shall be comforted because of His servants” (Ps. 134:14 ).





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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 23/4/2011, 00:37

Chapter Nineteen.

On the Departed.


We received the bitterly joyful news of your child’s departure to the Lord. We mourned and wept along with you, but such behavior is not fitting for such a soul that we hope our Christ has accepted and delivered from the torments of this life in order to give him repose in the eternal abodes. This soul will adorn your noble family as the most bright and sacred decoration, and henceforth will be an everlasting torch interceding with the Lord for us. His virginity, the many years of illness and patience, the second baptism—that is, the Angelic Schema—assure us that our sweet Jesus has accepted him as a fragrant incense. I beg you, do not be sad, but rejoice, for you have deposited a great treasure in God’s treasury, a large sum which will support you. Death is a momentary separation, because Christ came to earth and cast light upon this dark mystery of death. For “He who believes in Me, though he may die, shall live. I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25 ). I pray with all my heart that our holy God gives you patience, consolation, and holy thoughts for deeper spirituality.

2. Do you know how much help the departed seek! Since there is no repentance after death, and as humans they also departed with stains and blemishes, and since they see that the help of the living greatly assists them to be perfected and find rest, they yearn, seek, and long for someone to commemorate them. They also long for one of their descendants to become a priest or a virtuous Christian who will care for them. Let me tell you about a vision of a certain bishop which he himself told me while we were serving together years ego. He told us that there was a priest who had a drinking problem and often got drunk; this was going on for many years. Other than this, though, the priest was virtuous and pious. One day he drank wine as usual and got drunk, and then before he was fully sober, he went and served Liturgy. So God allowed an accident to happen: he spilled the holy Body and Blood of the Lord! The poor fellow froze with fear, while also thinking about the heavy penance his bishop would give him! Finally, after he confessed, his bishop told him, “Go—I will notify you when to return, and then I’ll give you the penance”. So as the bishop was all alone reflecting and pondering, and as he picked up a pen to write his decision to depose him, he saw an endless multitude of people of every age, kind, and class unwind before him like a movie. The bishop was stunned by this vision but was also overcome with fear. Then all those people together said to him, “Your Eminence, do not punish the priest; do not depose him”. Then, little by little, they disappeared. Afterwards, the bishop called the priest to come. The poor priest was terrified, thinking about being deposed. The bishop said to him, “Tell me something, do you commemorate many names when you serve Liturgy?” The priest answered, “In the proskomidi, Your Eminence, I commemorate names for a long time—from kings and emperors down to the last pauper”. The bishop then said to him, “Go, then, and whenever you serve Liturgy, commemorate as many people as you can, and take care not to get drunk anymore. You are pardoned”. Thereafter, the priest—with the help of God—was delivered from drinking.


3. We received the telegram regarding the departure of our beloved sister, and, as is human, we grieved. We shed tears, which bear witness to our soul’ unity through the unbreakable bond of love in Christ. But we must also rejoice for the great “lottery” she won. First of all, because she kept her virginity—that great jewel on the garment of her pure soul. Second, because for years she endured the Lord’s visitation through her illness and lifted her cross until the Golgotha of her perfection, thus proving to be a true disciple of Jesus. Third, because she was given the Angelic Schema, which she did not defile with new sins, and which the Holy Fathers have decreed to be a second baptism! So, cleansed thenceforth by the baptism of repentance, she departed. Our sweet Jesus has called her to be by His side from now on so that she may see His theandric face to her utmost delight. There she will intercede perpetually not only for her parents and the rest of her relatives, but also for the whole world. Once St. Anthony the Great was in ecstasy and saw himself being lifted by the angels to heaven, as if he were departing to the Lord. But the adverse powers—the demons, the toll-houses—were obstructing him and accusing him for sins he had done. The holy angels were objecting, saying, “All the sins he committed before becoming a monk were forgiven by God the moment he wore the Schema. Only sins he did after receiving the Schema you have the right to use against him”. Once the angels said this, the demons could not find anything culpable, and thus he ascended freely.


............................................................... END .......................................................................................................................................

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Απ: Counsels from the Holy Mountain

Δημοσίευση  silver Την / Το 23/4/2011, 17:14

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