Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Holy Myrrhbearing Women
An image of seeking the Lord.

   This letter has been written by Saint Theophan the Recluse to the sisters of the Tambov Convent on April 22, 1862, but it applies to every Christian seeking the Lord.

   In the Myrrhbearing Women I see your image, Sisters, the image of a similar attitude of the heart!. For what constitutes the particular characteristic of the myrrh bearing women?. Their constant patient following of the Lord, as if seeking Him. They minister to Him from their substance and accompany Him to Jerusalem; they follow Him as He bears the cross. They surround Him when He is crucified on Golgotha; they watch where He is laid after He is taken from the cross. After the Sabbath, early in the morning they hasten to the grave; and while still in total darkness they are overjoyed by the manifestation of the Resur­rection, and they run to inform the Apostles about Him. With such zeal they cling to the Lord, so insatiably did they want to see Him and be near Him. And so you too, abandoning everything, went to follow the Lord. Blessed is your path. Go and seek always His face.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Thomas l’incrédule.

Père Alexandre Schmemann.

   "Si je ne vois pas - je ne croirai point..." dit Thomas, l'un des douze disciples du Christ, en réponse aux récits pleins de joie de ceux qui avaient reconnu leur Maître ressuscité, après L'avoir vu, crucifié et mort. Huit jours plus tard, selon le texte de l'Évangile, tandis que les apôtres étaient à nouveau réunis, le Christ apparut et dit à Thomas: "Avance ton doigt, mets-le dans mon côté, et crois...", Thomas s'écria: "Mon Seigneur et mon Dieu". Alors le Christ lui dit: "Parce que tu m'as vu, tu as cru. Heureux ceux qui n'ont pas vu et qui ont cru".

Saturday, April 15, 2017

You are free to sing: “Christ is Risen!”.

   Father George Calciu (1925-2006) was a sufferer for Christ. A Romanian by birth, an Orthodox Christian by upbringing, and a priest by vocation, “Calciu” spent a total of twenty-one brutal years in prison, tortured and subjected to brainwashing for his outspoken evangelism and criticism of communist materialism.
   George Calciu was the youngest of eleven children, raised by devout parents as a faithful Orthodox Christian. Romania became communist in 1944, and the government soon began to crack down on the Church. Calciu was a medical student at the time, and his open faith made him suspect. He was imprisoned in 1948, where he was subjected to 1984-style mind control experiments, which aimed to torture the convicts until they denied Christ, and then were forced to torture others toward the same end. “They wanted our souls,” he recalled, “not our bodies.”

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Behold, the Crucified One!.

Elder Philotheos Zervakos.

   Do you see His incorrupt feet which are nailed to the Cross?. They are nailed for us, to direct our own feet upon the way of truth, faith and virtue. Do you see His open arms?. They symbolize the warm love which He has for us; to embrace us, and present us to His Heavenly Father; and to make us His children and His sons, and gods by grace. Do you see that pierced side which pours forth blood and water?. The water represents the baptism by which we were cleansed of original sin. The blood represents the Bloodless Sacrifice which is celebrated on the Holy Altars: by partaking of it, we are sanctified and unified with Him, becoming one Body. Just as a loving mother nourishes her children with her milk, in the same manner, our sweetest Jesus nourishes us as His beloved children; however, not with milk, but with His very Body and Blood.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Principles of Orthodox Ascetism.

Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov).

The tonsuring of Saint Silouan as a monk. Frescoe in
Saint John the Baptist Monastery in Essex.
   In every age the spirit of man finds itself concerned with the problem of asceticism. Asceticism is of pressing importance not only to those who set out to be ascetics in the nar­row and, may I say, 'specialist' sense - monks and hermits, for instance - but in general to every Christian. Asceticism, understood as spiritual labour, constitutes an inseparable part of the histories of all known religions and civilizations, even of civilizations with no religious basis. Every religion, all the old and new para-religious forms, the lives of the mystics - all have their ascetic culture, which varies in accordance with the underlying dogmatic consciousness.

The moral is short-one word.

St Nikolai Velimirovitch

   You do not ask much of me, my love. Indeed, people ask more.
   I am wrapped in a thick wrapping of nonexistence that covers the eyes of my soul. You only ask my soul to take off her misty wrapping and open her eyes to You, my might and my truth. People ask my soul to wrap herself more and more thickly with heavier and heavier wrappings.
   O help me, help me!. Help my soul to attain freedom and lightness, to attain lightness and aerial wings, to attain aerial wings and fiery wheels.
   Stories are long, too long; the moral is short - one word.
   Stories spill over into stories, the way the smooth face of my lake spills over from color to color. Where does the colorful overflowing of the water under the sun end, and where does the overflowing of stories into stories end?.
   Stories are long, too long; the moral is short- one word.
   You are that word, O Word of God. You are the moral of all stories.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Last apparition of the Mother of God
to Saint Seraphim.

   One year and nine months before his departure from this world, St. Seraphim was favoured by a wonderful visitation of the heavenly Queen. This was Our Lady's twelfth visit to him. It took place early in the morning, on the feast of the Annunciation, March 25th, 1831. It was a kind of premonition of his blessed end and of the incorruptible glo­ry which awaited him. "Mother Eupraxia", an elderly nun of the "Diveyev Convent" who died on the 28th of March, 1865, wrote of this wonderful event as follows:
   Father told me two days in advance to come to him on that day. When I came, Father announced: "We shall have a vision of the Mother of God," and making me bend to the ground, he covered me with his mantle and read over me out of a book. Then, lifting me up, he said:
   "Now hold on to me and don't be afraid of anything."
   At that moment, there was a noise like the noise of a forest in a strong gale. When it subsided, we heard singing which sounded like church singing. Then the door of the cell opened of itself, it became light, brighter than day, and the cell was filled with a fragrance like that of rose-scented incense, only better.

L’homme pécheur.

Saint Justin Popovitch.

   Comment le fidèle orthodoxe se sent-il devant la Personne du Dieu-Homme, le Christ?... Entièrement pécheur: c'est là son sentiment, son attitude, son comportement, son intellect, sa parole, sa conscience, sa confession, et lui-même tout entier. Ce sentiment d'être tout entier personnellement pécheur en face du Très doux Seigneur Jésus est l'âme de son âme et le cœur de son cœur. Jetez un regard sur les prières de conversion, sur les odes, les tropaires, les stichères, dans le Paraclitique; et aussitôt, vous constaterez que ce sentiment constitue un devoir sacré et réellement une prière pour tout chrétien orthodoxe sans exception. C'est dans cette direction que nos maîtres immortels, les saints Pères, marchent et nous guident. Nous en citerons deux seulement: Saint Jean Damascène et Saint Syméon le Nouveau Théologien. Leur sainteté est certainement digne des Chérubins, leur prière sûrement séraphique; cependant même eux ont une pleine conscience et reconnaissance de leur état de péché, et en même temps une attitude de profonde conversion. C'est cela l'antinomie vécue de notre foi orthodoxe, évangélique et apostolique, et de notre vie vécue dans cette même foi.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ne désespérez pas.

Archimandrite Sophrony.

   À côté de tout ce qui arrive dans la vie privée, le monde connaît depuis le début XXe siècle une période de guerres incessantes, grandes et petites. Partout, les lendemains sont incertains. On sait que le grand froid tue toute vie aussi sûrement que le feu. Et les guerres ont pris ce double caractère: pour faire la guerre, on combat avec le feu quand c'est possible; quand c'est un peu plus grave, on se sert du froid. Mais c'est la même haine, démultipliée, qui a refroidi l'amour. Mon destin, c'est de prier pour la paix, pour la paix du monde entier. Je sais que la force de la prière peut arrêter les impudents, quoique pas jusqu'au bout. Mais si la prière de l'amour cesse, alors nulle culture, nulle science ne peuvent empêcher l'explosion.

Last Words of Father Zachariah (+1936)

  In his last months the elder lay in bed almost all the time. He spoke seldom, and if he did say anything, it was for the benefit of souls. "Do not forget that the first commandment of the Gospel summons us to repentance: "Repent and believe in the Gospel. These are the words of the Lord Himself" (Mark 1.15).
   "Acquire virtues, which oppose sins."
   "Never be depressed on any occasion or under any circum­stances. Depression is a hangman which kills the energy essen­tial for the receiving of the Holy Spirit in one's heart. A depressed person loses the ability to pray and is dead as far as spiritual feats are concerned."
   The elder's illness was so terrible that anyone else would simply have shouted with pain and complained unceasingly, but the elder Zachariah suffered in silence, offering up thanks to God for everything he sent.
   The elder's face became like a face painted on an icon. It was obvious that he was retreating entirely into deep and secret prayer.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Elder Job and unceasing prayer.

From the life of Saint Gregory Palamas.

   There lived close to St. Gregory a well-known ascetic, the Elder Job, virtuous in his manner of life and simple in his manners, and venerated by all. In time, they developed a close spiritual friendship, for often virtue bonds with other lovers of the same virtues. It happened one time that the Elder Job was sitting with the great teacher Gregory, and with delight Job turned his ear to listen to his discourse. Saint Gregory quoted the Apostle Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians [5:17], asserting that unceasing prayer was necessary for all Christians, that is, men, women and children, wise and simple-not only for monks. He also brought forward the example of the Prophet David, who wrote: "I beheld the Lord ever before me" [ps. 15:8], and then he added that we should pray as often as we take breath.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

L’Iconographie.

Saint Jean de Shanghaï.
   
   Jusqu'à l'avènement du Christ, les paroles de Dieu étaient confiées à Israël. Lorsque Israël vacilla dans la foi, lorsque la Judée commença à chuter, le prophète Baruch, disciple du prophète Jérémie s'écria: "Elle est le livre des préceptes de Dieu, la loi qui subsiste éternellement: quiconque la garde vivra, quiconque l'abandonne mourra. Reviens, Jacob, saisis-la, marche vers la splendeur, à sa lumière ; ne cède pas à autrui ta gloire, à un peuple étranger tes privilèges. Heureux sommes-nous, Israël: ce qui plait à Dieu nous a été révélé!" (Ba, 4, 1-4).
   Cependant, Israël ne demeura pas fidèle au testament de Dieu et, rejetant le Fils de Dieu, se détacha de Dieu. Le Seigneur a fondé Son Église néotestamentaire, dans laquelle sont entrés de nombreux peuples qui étaient païens. C'est Byzance qui fut la gardienne particulière de l'Orthodoxie après la victoire du christianisme sur le paganisme. C'est là que les Conciles œcuméniques et les saints Pères de l'Église établirent l'exposition exacte des dogmes de la foi et l'enseignement orthodoxe.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

On Fasting.

Saint Symeon the New Theologian.

   That one should not embrace and zealously observe the benefit of the fast only in the first week of Lent, but that the zealous must continue the same zeal in all the weeks of Lent.
The first week of lent.
   Brethren and fathers, what we are about to say we ought to have addressed to your charity last Sunday. I was aware, however, that everyone of us believers, [together with] the whole Christian people, both monks and laity, with fervent zeal accepts the blessing of fasting in the holy first week of Lent, and that each one of us willingly puts its yoke upon his neck (Sir. 51:26). Even among those who greatly despair of their own salvation and live their lives without fear and reverence for God there is no one who rejects the law of fasting in that week. Rather, as far as he is able, he joins with all in observing abstinence. So I come today to speak a few short words to you about the present season.

La voie vers le Seigneur.

Archimandrite Sophrony.

   Les commandements du Christ sont formulés en quelques brèves paroles, très simples. Mais quand nous les observons, notre esprit merveilleusement s'épanouit et ressent une soif inextinguible d'embrasser "tout ce qui est au ciel et sur la terre" (Ep 1, 10) dans l'amour qui nous a été commandé. Est-il concevable que ceux qui ont été tirés du "néant" possèdent une pareille force?. Certes, il nous est impossible d'englober tout l'univers dans notre cœur en ne nous fondant que sur nous-mêmes. Mais le Créateur de tout ce qui est, est apparu Lui-même dans notre mode d'existence; il nous a vraiment montré que notre nature a été créée capable non seulement d'étreindre le cosmos créé, mais encore de recevoir la plénitude de la vie divine. Sans Lui, nous ne pouvons rien faire (voir Jn 15, 5), mais avec Lui et en Lui tout devient accessible, non sans "douleur" toutefois. La douleur nous est nécessaire. Premièrement, pour que nous prenions conscience que nous sommes des personnes (hypostases) libres. Deuxièmement, pour que le Seigneur puisse nous donner sa vie en possession inaliénable lors du Jugement (voir Lc 16, 10-12).

Saturday, February 18, 2017

On the Joy in Christ.

Mother Gavrilia.

Frescoe in the Church of the Nativity
of the Mother of God - Saint John the Baptist
Monastery - Douma
   Question: Joy is an integral element in the life of a Christian, is it not?. When you believe in Christ aren't you always joyful?.
   Mother Gavrilia: Indeed, you are. For Christ said: "My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth" ... And again... "that My joy might remain in you" ... This joy is like the Grace of God. It dwells in us. We do not wait for the other one to give us joy, since Christ gives it first.

   Question: This is what I have noticed. Though you see every day people who are sick, poor, helpless ... yet you are joyful!...
   Mother Gavrilia: Yes. Because I love with all my heart those whom I see. I link their life with my own and, at the same time, I think: If I, a mortal and a sinful person, can love them so much, how much more must God love them - God Who created them and Whose children they are. In other words: He is the first to care for them. He knows why they are sick. He knows what effect their sickness will have on their soul. He knows the reason of all things. I can neither judge nor fathom any further. So, this is what I do. I take this sick person in my heart. I make a fervent prayer, with all my love, and I place him at the Feet of Christ. That is, I say: “My Lord, give him Your Pardon, give him Your Mercy, give him Light, give him Health of body and soul. Make Your Will manifest itself in his life".

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Prière de l’aurore.

de l'Archimandrite Sophrony.
   
   Dieu Eternel et Créateur de toutes choses,
   Toi qui dans Ton insondable bonté,
   m’as appelé du non-être à cette vie,
   qui m’as accordé la grâce du baptême
   et de la nouvelle naissance d’En-Haut,
   qui as apposé le sceau du Saint-Esprit
   sur les membres de mon corps
   dans le sacrement de la chrismation,
   et qui m’as donné le désir de Te chercher,
   Ô Toi le seul vrai Dieu, écoute ma prière.

   Je n’ai de vie, de lumière, de joie,
   de sagesse ou de force qu’en Toi seul, Ô Dieu,
   Je n’ose lever les yeux vers Toi à cause de mon iniquité.
   Mais Tu as dis à tes disciples:  
   "Tout ce que vous demanderez avec foi dans la prière, vous le recevrez",
   et encore : "Tout ce que vous me demanderez en mon Nom Je le ferai".
   C’est pourquoi j’ose T’invoquer.
   Purifie-moi de toute souillure
   de la chair et de l’esprit,
   et apprends-moi comment Te prier.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Une rencontre avec Jean-Claude Larchet...

A Selected Letter to Saint Barsanuphius of Gaza.

Saints Barsanuphius and John of Gaza.
   Question from a brother to the Old man: "Father, I ask you to tell me how it is that the daughter of the Canaanite woman and the servant of the centurion contributed [to their faith] in order that they may be healed. Even the other paralytic only asked for bodily health, and yet he first received forgiveness of sins. Therefore, where is their contribution in this case?. The Lord, too, says to the apostles: "Whatever you loose on this earth shall also be loosed in heaven", and: "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them". He did not say: "If they contribute". So please explain this to me". Response:
   Brother, affliction comes to those who do not understand how things are. For the daughter of the Canaanite woman and the servant of the centurion had lost their minds: the first from madness, the second from the danger of the illness. So they were unable to contribute to the faith of those who were pray­ing for them.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Père Sophrony et moi.

Par Mère Mariam.

   St Basil le Grand a dit : «La grandeur de l’homme reste au fait qu’il est un être ordonné de devenir Dieu».

   Introduction

   Mon histoire avec Père Sophrony est le travail du Saint Esprit dans l’humanité en chute… C’est le savoir percevoir et observer le mouvement de l’esprit dans l’homme et le transporter du péché à la santé, du monde matériel au monde spirituel, de la mort à la vie…
   Ainsi est le début de ma connaissance du grand  Père Sophrony, le Staretz russe, qui a quitté la terre de ses pères et de ses ancêtres pour la terre que Dieu lui a fait montrer… Du sol de la Russie, le pays vaste autant que le ciel et la terre, vers la sainte montagne Athos…
   Passant par Paris- France, il a fréquenté les jardins de la Tuilerie- ses expos artistiques, ses gens languissants vers des horizons dévorés par la civilisation du matérialisme, ses salons bourgeois de culture… Puis après, il débarqua au mont verdoyant de la Mère de Dieu, à ses rochers rasés, ses caves érodées par l’humidité… Ses monastères étendus témoignant que le Seigneur est encore adoré et loué par l’esprit et la vérité, dans un temps plein de guerres, de révolutions et d’hérésies religieuses… Dans un temps où l’homme laissa Dieu et proclama qu’Il était mort…

Saturday, January 21, 2017

L’amour.

St. Maxime Le Confesseur.

   1. L’amour est une disposition bonne de l'âme, qui lui fait préférer à tout la connaissance de Dieu. Quant à parvenir à la possession habituelle de cette charité, c'est chose impossible, tant qu'on garde une attache à quelque objet terrestre.
   2. L’amour naît de la liberté intérieure; la liberté intérieure, de l'espoir en Dieu, l'espoir, de la patience et de la longanimité, celles-ci, de la vigilante maîtrise de soi; la maîtrise de soi, de la crainte de Dieu, et la crainte, de la foi au Christ.
   3. Qui croit au Seigneur craint le châtiment; qui craint le châtiment maîtrise ses passions; qui maîtrise ses passions endure patiemment les afflictions, qui endure patiemment les afflictions acquerra l'espoir en Dieu. Et l'espoir en Dieu sépare l'esprit de toute attache terrestre; et l'esprit, ainsi détaché, possédera l'amour pour Dieu.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Do not neglect your salvation.

Saint Anthony the Great.

   Beloved and honoured brothers, Antony greets you in the Lord!. 
   "Truly, my beloved in the Lord, God did not visit his creatures only once, but since the beginning of the world. As soon as anyone has turned through the law of promise to the Creator of all, God embraced him in his benevolence, grace and Spirit. As for those rational beings in whom the law of promise grew cold and whose faculties of the mind thus died, so that they could no longer know themselves after their first formation, they have all become irrational and serve the creatures instead of the Creator. But in his great benevolence the Creator of all visited us through the law of promise, for our essence is immortal.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Baptism as the new birth in Christ.

By Saint Nicholas Cabasilas.

   To be baptized, is to be born according to Christ and to receive our very being and nature, having previously been nothing. This we can learn from many sources. First, from the very order itself: it is the first of the Mysteries into which we are initiated, and before the others this Mystery introduces Christians into the new life. Secondly, we may learn this from the very names which we call it, and thirdly, from the ceremonies which we employ and the words which we sing.
   This, then, is the order which we follow. First we are washed, then, when we have been anointed with chrism, we approach the sacred table. This is a clear proof that the baptismal washing is the beginning of life, its foundation and presupposition, that Christ Himself, who endured all things for our sake, considered it necessary to be baptized and underwent this before all else. As for the names, what else could they imply?. We call it "birth," "new birth," "new creation," and "seal," and in addition "baptism" [i.e., "dipping"], "clothing," "anointing," "charisma" [i.e., "gift"], "illumination," and "washing." These all signify this one thing, that this rite is the beginning of being for those who are in accordance with God and so live.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Church of Spirit and Truth.

“Now anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ,
he is not His (i.e. he is not for Christ).
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God,
these are the sons of God”.(Rm 8:9-14)

   Father Youssef Daros, from Egypt, sent us the following question: “Does the Holy Spirit act in the sacraments of the non-Chalcedonian Churches? (Copts, Syrians, Armenians and Ethiopians), and in the Catholic Church?”.
   Often our questions are incorrect due to our erroneous approach. It is however important, when considering these questions, that we try to explain the correct traditional perspective of “the Church”. Hence, in this correct framework, we can discern the correct question from the incorrect one!
   Firstly, we would like to express our reservation towards the way, the enquirer uses the terms “Church” and “Churches”. To know the cause of our reservation, I refer the reader to one of my previous articles, in the section “Dots on Letters”, titled “Seeking the Church”, written on 13 November 2016.