Saturday, September 19, 2020

A Cure for Depression.
From Saint Silouan the Athonite

         A letter addressed from an American to Americans, which is needed actually in all the world!.

Saint Silouan the Athonite.

        The greatest plague of the 21st century is not AIDS, nor cancer, nor the H1N1 flu, but something that affects much more people in ways we can barely start to understand: depression. Reportedly one in ten Americans suffers from one or the other forms of this malady. The rates of anti-depressant usage in the United States are just as worrisome. A recent poll unveils that one in eight Americans is using them. Prozac, Zyprexa, Cymbalta are not strange alien names anymore, but familiar encounters in almost every American household. Even children approach the usage rates of adults. These are very high and paradoxical numbers in a country where all are free to enjoy “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

Even in times of crisis, Americans have a better life than most countries in the world, in all respects. Just glance over to the life of the Christians in the Middle East, and you’ll realize the blessings we enjoy every day. Most of us have a job, a house, a car or two, enough food, education, equal opportunity, religious freedom to name just a few. Practically we shouldn’t be in want for anything; yet, every tenth person is longing for something, is missing something so bad, so important, that they cannot cope with this need on their own. This explains the usage of drugs; with them, the negative aspects of life can be more easily coped with. They are a crutch that helps people move along with their lives for a short while.

But a crutch is still a crutch; it can only take one so far. The depressed man needs a different cure, one that will take care of the root of his problems, will erase his desperation and offer him a new lease on life. A cure, however, cannot come without the understanding of the underlying disease. So, this begs a question: why is America depressed? What are we still missing in the abundance that surrounds us?

A short answer is: we miss God. We may think we miss something else, we can justify our depression by creating some imaginary needs, but at the end of the day, we miss Him. He has created us for a purpose: union with Him unto eternity. Losing sight of this, we lose it all and, in our shortsightedness, we keep longing for something we don’t know we have lost. It all goes back to who we are, what are we doing here and where we are going; it is back to the basics.

Saint Silouan and his disciple
Saint Sophrony.
In the midst of the information revolution, the world wide web and the boom of technology, man still yearns for the same fundamental things: purpose and direction. The secular society can’t give him either. The purpose is temporary, ceasing to exist when life expires, and the directions one gets are so contradictory that they end up canceling themselves. So man is confused, lost and at the brink of despair. He is thirsty, but there is no well of life, he is hungry but there is no food for his eternal soul, he is lonely and he has no man.

    So what to do? In an interview I recently read, the Archimandrite Sophrony Sacharov, of blessed memory, at that time a younger monk, was asked by a visiting priest: “Fr. Sophrony, how will we be saved?” Fr. Sophrony prepared him a cup of tea, gave it to him, and told him, “Stand on the edge of the abyss of despair and when you feel that it is beyond your strength, break off and have a cup of tea.” Obviously this was a very odd answer, and the young priest was definitely confused. So off he went to St. Silouan the Athonite, who lived not far from there, and told him everything, asking for advice. Long story short, next day, St. Silouan came to the cell of Fr. Sophrony and the two started a conversation about salvation. The beautiful fruit of their conversation was an unforgettable phrase that I would like to also offer as the answer to our conversation today about depression: “Keep your mind in hell and despair not.”

At first glance, St. Silouan’s take on salvation is not less strange that Fr. Sophrony’s initial answer, but it actually makes great sense. In traditional Christianity, the difficulties of life, the hardships are assumed as part of our fallen existence. Our bodies and our minds suffer the torments, but this is nothing but a temporary stage. The ascetic Fathers considered them as tests on par with the athletic exercises, very useful in practicing and improving the powers of the soul like patience, kindness, hope, faith and so forth. We keep our mind in hell when we consciously assume the pain of living in a fallen world, when we learn from this passing agony to avoid the even greater torture of an eternity without Christ. But there is hope in this suffering because Christ himself has suffered them first and has opened for us a way out of despair, a way out of pain, a way out of death. Christ is the well of life, the bread of eternity, and the only Man we need.

So as Christians we keep our minds in hell and we despair not, but courageously give glory to God in all things, even in pain, hoping, always hoping, in our Savior, the only One who can take us out of the brink of despair and set us for a new life in Him. In Him we put our hope, in Him we find our purpose, and on Him we set our goal.

Through the intercessions of our Father among the Saints Silouan the Athonite, through the prayers of Fr. Sophrony of Essex, of all the ascetic Fathers and all the saints, O Lord of compassion and hope, have mercy on us and save us!Amen.



Saturday, September 12, 2020

Cet "arbre malade",c'est ma propre vie!.
Saint Sophrony l’Athonite.

Saint Sophrony l'Athonite.
    Pourquoi tant de maladies, tant de souffrances de toute la création sont-elles nécessaires? Beaucoup pensent qu'il eût mieux valu ne pas créer un monde où tous souffrent, où tout meurt. Cependant, pour nous, cette question se pose autrement: nous ne comprenons pas pourquoi les souffrances sont nécessaires, mais quand nous lisons le récit de la chute, nous voyons que le fruit de l'arbre interdit apparaissait beau à regarder et bon, agréable à manger (cf. Genèse 2,6). C'est ce phénomène, - c'est-à-dire le fait de se laisser séduire et de transgresser le commandement de Dieu, - qui conduisit à la mort, mais le Seigneur, en venant sur la terre pour nous sauver, meurt afin d'effacer le péché d'Adam.

Toi qui as cloué sur la croix le péché d'Adam ...

Un des tropaires les plus remarquables que nous ayons, et que nous chantons durant le Carême proclame: "Toi qui le sixième jour et à la sixième heure as cloué sur la croix le péché commis par Adam au Paradis, déchire aussi la cédule de nos fautes, ô Christ notre Dieu, et sauve-nous" [cf. Office de sexte]. En quoi ce tropaire est-il remarquable? En ce qu'il nous décrit dans quelles dispositions, avec quelles pensées le Christ est allé à Sa crucifixion pour anéantir par Sa souffrance et par Sa mort, cette délectation qui fut la cause de la chute.

Bien des choses restent encore peu claires pour nous, mais l'être qui nous a été donné, nous l'acceptons tel qu'il est. Les hommes interprètent de diverses manières notre être, notre "existence", mais bien sûr, pour nous, chrétiens, le fondement pour toutes les solutions, c'est le Christ Lui-même, et nous marchons sur Ses traces.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

On the Love and Pain of the Theotokos.
Saint Sophrony The Athonite.

Saint Sophrony with the Icon of our Lady
he painted.
    Our Panagia was pained much more than all other women, much more than all other mothers in the world, because no one else was struck, to no one else was done evil like that which was done to Her, the greatest evil of the whole world. They crucified Her Son.

 And seeing Him upon the Cross, She was pained so much in her heart...Because of this She can understand every painful existence, and She suffers together with every human who is pained, because She exactly knows what "pain" means. When the soul is seized by the love of God, then, O, how gracious, beloved and joyous is everything! Love, however, goes together with sorrow, and the deeper the love is, even greater is the sorrow.

The Theotokos never sinned, not even in thought, and She never lost grace, and even She had such great sorrows. When she stood beside the Cross, then Her sorrow was impassable like the ocean, and the pains of Her soul were incomparably greater than the pain of Adam after the expulsion from Paradise, because Her love was incomparably greater than the love of Adam in Paradise.

 And though She survived it, She survived only with divine power, with the strength of the Lord, because His will was for the Theotokos to later see the Resurrection, and later, after His Ascension, that She might remain the consolation and joy of the Apostles and of the new Christian people. We do not reach the fullness of the love of the Theotokos, and because of this we cannot fully conceive of the depth of Her sorrow.

Her love was perfect. She loved her Son and God incomparably, but She also loved the people with great love. And what did She sense, then, when they whom She herself loved so greatly and whom She so greatly pained for their salvation, when She saw them crucifying her beloved Son?

This we cannot conceive of, because our love for God and man is small. However, the love of Panagia was incomparable and inconceivable, thus incomparable also was her pain, which remains inconceivable to us.

The Theotokos did not relate in the Scriptures Her thoughts, nor her love for Her Son and God, nor the sorrows of Her soul at the hour of the Crucifixion, because even then they couldn't conceive of it. Her love for God was stronger and more fervent than the love of the Cherubim and Seraphim, and all the powers of the Angels and Archangels were amazed with Her.



Saturday, August 15, 2020

“Find a way to save the world”.
Saint Sophrony The Athonite.


Saint Sophrony with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Orthodox monastery of all Celtics Saints. England.
What I want to write of now happened over half a century ago. It was a period of strain. Much - practically everything - was a puzzle to me. And life is so short! And God so immeasurably great and far off! Who will show me the straight way to Him, prevent me from wasting time on alien paths? Of course I sought such a guide, or guides - preceptors who might help me. But the fact that I was caught up by a hitherto-unknown force in the form of prayer which stayed with me day and night naturally made prayer my constant prop. And there were times when prayer, so I believe, brought enlightenment from God.

Unable to glimpse the divine truth in the destinies of mankind, of people in general, and tormented by my own dark ignorance, I was like a small, utterly helpless child. Feeling that there was something that I had to understand, I writhed impatiently and looked to God for help. And the Lord took pity on my ignorance and was not angry at my temerity but like a mother had compassion on me and was quick to respond. And this not once but over and over again. In like manner He had handled Job who suffered so much and protested so stormily.

I remember one such happening, which occurred in France, in the early twenties - before my departure to Mt. Athos in 1925. I wept and prayed to God: “Find a way to save the world - to save all of us, we are all defiled and cruel.” I would pray with particular fervor for the “little ones”, the poor and oppressed. Towards morning, with my strength waning, my prayer would be disturbed by the thought that if I grieve for mankind with all my heart, how is it that God can look on indifferently at the pain and torment of millions of beings whom He Himself had created? Why does He allow the innumerable instances of brute force in the world? And I would turn to Him with the insane challenge, “Where art Thou?” And in my heart I heard: “Was it you who was crucified for them?”… The gentle words uttered by the Spirit shook me to the core - He Who was crucified had answered me as God.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Au Liban, nous sommes crucifiés!.
Archimandrite Touma Bitar.

     Réunis au monastère Saint Jean-Baptiste Essex, Maldon, en Angleterre, avec Saint Sophrony et sa communauté monastique, Père Touma(Bitar) et Mère Mariam(Zacca) se préparaient pour leur profession monastique “pour retourner au Liban et commencer le renouveau du monachisme au Liban”. Nous présentons ci-dessus le discours présenté par Père Touma le Lundi 30 Juillet 1990; qui semble décrire la situation actuelle au Liban “toujours crucifié”.


Vous vous souvenez tous, sans doute de certains détails de la Transfiguration de notre Seigneur ...

Lorsque notre Seigneur fut transfiguré sur le Thabor, les trois disciples qui étaient montés avec Lui, Lui dirent, à leur façon, bien entendu, car ils ne comprenaient pas ce qui allait se passer- ils étaient comme des enfants, et dans une certaine mesure un peu stupides - ils Lui dirent: « Il est bon d'être ici Seigneur. Nous allons construire une tente pour Toi, et une pour Moïse, et une pour Elie. » Ils ne savaient pas vraiment ce qu'ils disaient. Mais Lui savait très bien, car notre Seigneur savait dès le début d'où Il était venu et où Il était en train d'aller. Ayant vu Sa Lumière, et plus tard, quand ils L'ont vu ressuscité d'entre les morts, ils s'aperçurent que, oui, « il est vraiment bon d'être ici», il est bon d'être dans la Jérusalem céleste. Il n'en est pas moins vrai que Pierre et la plupart des Apôtres seront crucifiés par la suite.

Mais il me semble que la croix nous est donnée non pas en tant qu'adultes, mais en tant qu'enfants. Et si nous réfléchissons trop, si notre comportement est trop adulte, nous n'assumerons jamais cette croix, et par conséquent, nous n'atteindrons jamais à la résurrection afin d'y participer. Et c'est pour cela que nous sommes ici en tant qu'enfants. Nous ne comprenons pas exactement ce qui se passe, ni ce qui se passera. Mais nous ressentons qu'il est bon d'être ici, et il sera bon d'être là où nous serons.

« Vous ne pouvez descendre de la croix vous-mêmes. 

L'explosion du port de Beirut. 4 Août 2020.
“L'enfer est grand ouvert devant ce monde, notre monde”
        Nous ne pensons pas spécialement à la croix. [Au Liban], nous y avons été crucifiés pendant une quinzaine d'années. Je disais à certains d'entre nos amis ici combien il est facile de parler de ce qui se passe au Liban, mais à vrai dire cela va au- delà de la tragédie. Je dirai même que c'est l'enfer. L'enfer est grand ouvert devant ce monde, notre monde, et il essaie d'avaler très rapidement et d'une façon anormale tous ceux qui appartiennent au Christ, qui appartiennent à la Vérité, toutes ces brebis que l'on traîne chaque jour à l'abattoir. Oui; nous sommes habitués à une sorte de croix, à la Croix, à notre croix. Nous mourons chaque jour et nous acceptons chaque jour de mourir. Nous voyons chaque jour la mort de nos propres yeux. Et il n'y a pour cela, aucune raison du tout. En effet, personne ne sait vraiment ce qui se passe au Liban. Personne ne saurait expliquer ce qui s'y passe. Et à moins que nous voyions cette affaire à la lumière de l'Évangile, à la Lumière de notre Seigneur, nous ne comprendrons jamais rien. Et à tous ceux qui viennent nous demander une explication ou qui voudraient savoir s'ils feraient mieux de rester sur place ou de partir, notre réponse est la suivante. «Si vous êtes pour le Christ, il faut rester. Vous ne pouvez descendre de la croix vous-mêmes. Il vous sera donné de descendre. Mais si la Croix du Christ ne vous dit pas grand-chose, partez. Allez, partez du pays. Vous n'êtes pas obligés de souffrir sans raison.»

« La sainteté, c'est la seule chose qui nous reste. »

Ce qui nous préoccupe, et c'est pour cela que nous sommes venus ici, mon Père, c'est tout simplement la sainteté. Notre désir est de devenir saints. Et la sainteté n'est pas si éloignée que ça. Elle a été donnée à tout le monde. Nous nous en approchons peut-être comme des imbéciles, ou peut­ être comme des idiots, ou peut-être comme des enfants. Mais nous voulons nous en emparer de force, puisque c'est la seule chose qui nous reste au monde. Nous n'avons plus rien. On parle du désert et de la vie monastique. Le Liban tout entier est un désert. Et tous ceux qui y restent sont passés comme par une sorte d'«ascétisation »forcée par la main de Dieu, car le désir de Dieu pour ce monde est qu'il devienne un monde de saints. S'il est probable que beaucoup risquent d'être brûlés par le feu, il y en a également qui y seront purifiés. Et c'est précisément pour cela que nous sommes ici, et c'est pour cela que nous retournons au Liban.



Référence :

Parole à la communauté. Archimandrite Sophrony. Pâques2004. N*51 .


Saturday, August 1, 2020

Experiences of Divine Light.
Father George Calciu.

Father George Calciu.

Gheorghe Calciu-Dumitreasa (1925-2006) was a Romanian priest and dissident. He served 21 years in prison during the Communist regime. He was first imprisoned in 1948, but claimed his 1978 imprisonment was harsher. He had criticized Nicolae Ceausescu’s repressions and became seen as an "enemy of the state". Reportedly he suffered beatings and harassment in prison. He was released from prison due in part to pressure from supporters such as U.S. president Ronald Reagan. He spent years in exile in Virginia and ultimately settled there permanently. In the mid-1980s he preached on the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe.

After being defrocked by the Romanian Orthodox Church, Calciu-Dumitreasa became a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, which never recognised his defrocking. In 1989 he took charge of the Holy Cross Romanian Orthodox Church at Alexandria, Virginia. In his last years he revisited his native land several times and met some of those whom he had influenced. He remained critical of certain Romanian Orthodox bishops to his last day, claiming they were former Securitate secret police infiltrators.

Calciu-Dumitreasa died of pancreatic cancer on November 21, 2006 at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Woodburn, Fairfax County. He was survived by his wife of over 40 years, Adriana, and their son, Andrei. He was interred at the Petru Vodă Monastery in Poiana Teiului Commune, Neamţ County, Romania.



 I will tell you of my experience. Before I was arrested, I always liked the monasteries. So every time I had the possibility to go to a monastery, I was there. Very near to Bucharest is a very important monastery called Cernica. The prayer of the heart to Jesus Christ was taken by George, a disciple of Paisius Velichkovsky, and brought to Cernica. From then until now-nearly two centuries-in Cernica every monk performs this prayer. Even during the persecution by Ceausescu, nothing could stop them from praying, nothing could make them unworthy to see the true Light, the Uncreated Light.

One Sunday I was there in the church of Cernica, officiating at the Holy Liturgy with some monks. At the beginning of the Liturgy Fr. Benedict Ghius (1904- 1990) was there, a very spiritual monk. He had been the spiritual leader (not the organizer) in the Antim Monastery of the Burning Bush, which was a group dedicated to prayer, formed by monks for the sake of the most important intellectuals in Bucharest during the Communist regime. People from the Burning Bush were arrested until the group was exterminated, and many of them died in prison. Fr. Ghius was arrested, too, but he was set free at the same time I was1965. And he gave up everything and entered the Cernica Monastery, where he practiced the Prayer of Jesus. He was perhaps the most loved by God. I never saw him sad or angry.