Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Gift of tongues.
Metropolitan Athanasios of Limmasol.


Metropolitan Athanasios
 of Limmasol.

    We are talking about the gift of tongues, about this gift that the Holy Apostles had on the day of Pentecost. When the Apostle Peter spoke in Hebrew and the people each heard their own language beneath it. To be precise, the Apostle did not speak Arabic, Greek, Hebrew and so on but spoke in his own language and the others heard the language they knew.

It had an automatic translation, that is, from the Holy Spirit!

This gift is a gift of the Holy Spirit - speaking in tongues - which is often repeated in the Church in the lives of the Saints. We have many instances of Saints who spoke by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and those who listened to them listened in their own languages.

We are told, as an example, in the lives of the Saints: Someone went to Anthony the Great, who did not know Greek but only knew Egyptian - ancient Arabic that is. And the Saint spoke Egyptian while the other listened to Greek. At the same time the other spoke Greek and the Saint heard in Egyptian.

This is what happened in our own days to the modern Saints: With Elder Porphyrios and Elder Paisios. Someone I know who we had in our monastery [at Mount Athos], a French teacher, had come and wanted to go and see Elder Paisios one night. But the abbot did not allow the hieromonk who knew French very well to accompany the French professor because we were having a vigil in the monastery, it was a great feast, and the abbot decided that the monk could not be absent from the vigil and accompany the French teacher to Elder Paisios. And so he did not go with him, but said to him:

"Sorry, I cannot accompany you."

The French professor, however, wanted to leave the next morning and went alone to Elder Paisios and stayed the night there with him. In the morning he came back to the monastery.

When the vigil was over we asked him:

"How did it go?" "Very well!" he said.

"Did you find Elder Paisios?" "I found him!"

"How did you communicate?" "We talked all night," he said.

"But how did you talk?" I asked him. "He doesn't even know English! So in what language did you talk?"

Saint Paissios
 the Athonite

"I do not know," he said, "in what language. I talked to Elder Paisios all night and he answered my questions and told me many spiritual things and I stayed with him for the night."

The man was being very serious, of course, but he did not understand, perhaps, what was happening in the cell that night.

Then I went down to the hut of Elder Paisios and asked the Saint himself. I asked him:

"Elder, was the Frenchman here last night?"

"Yes," he said, "he drove me crazy all night! He was here and we talked all night!" I said to him: "Well, what language did you speak?"

"French!" he said to me. "Elder, do you know French?!"

"How can I not know? I know!" he said. I said to him: "Why not tell me a word?" "Thak you," he said.

Not even "Thank you" but "Thak you"! He made it into a joke, of course; he was also a funny man!

And that was his French!

Nevertheless, the Saint spoke Greek, of course, but the Frenchman listened to French. The Frenchman spoke French and the Elder listened to Greek.

The Holy Spirit did the automatic translation, with the Elder's prayer, of course! We cannot do it. If we try to do it we will hear Gibberish, we will not understand anything!

Saint Sophrony the Athonite.
     Even though this miracle seems so dazzling, it is not a Great Miracle! The miracle is not great, the charisma is not great. The greatest gift, says the Apostle Paul, is love!

Because, he says, if I can speak all the languages of men, that is, know all the languages of men, and I can speak them either with the gift of the Holy Spirit or with my mind, even if I could speak the language of the angels - which is an even greater gift - "If I do not have love, it is like a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."

They once asked Elder Sophrony when he was a monk on Mount Athos - Father Theophylaktos told us this, who was with us in New Skete and was the monk who went to the cave of the Holy Trinity and liturgized with the Elder, that is, he chanted during the liturgy while Saint Sophrony of Essex liturgized. He once asked him:

"Elder, how many languages do you know?"

He (Saint Sophrony) spoke Russian, French, English, Greek.

The Elder said to him: "Father Theophylaktos, if it is possible for a person to forget even his mother tongue!"

That is, if it is possible for man to forget his mother tongue, he ought to speak the language of love and the language of God!



Saturday, June 19, 2021

“The Spirit breathes where it wants”
Hieromonk Nikolai Sakharov.


Saint Sophrony with Father Touma(Bitar)
and Mother Mariam (Zacca). Essex. 1990
    In a farewell conversation with His disciples, the Lord told them: “You are already cleansed through the word that I have preached to you” ( John 15: 3 ). In the tradition of the Church, examples are not uncommon when the word of the saints brought down grace on those who heard, conveying to their souls a state of holiness. It is enough to remember how through the word “through the prayer (of the Apostles) the place where they were gathered was shaken, and all were filled with the Holy Spirit” ( Acts 4:31 ). Other examples: Motovilov's conversation with St. Seraphim of Sarov , when Motovilov tasted the sweetness of the Divine Spirit and saw the saint in the Uncreated Light, or the meeting of St. Silouan with Father Stratonikos, when, during the conversation, Father Stratonikos experienced the state of which St. Silouan . David Balfour experienced a similar blessed visit in 1932 when he spoke with Father Sophrony in the library of St. Panteleimon Monastery. Saint Sophrony, who spent his days in fiery crying, at that moment, through simple words of conversation, conveyed his condition to Balfour. Balfour experienced it as a touch of immortal breath. A reverent feeling filled his whole soul, so that he could not say anything and was even afraid to move. All temporary has disappeared and lost its interest. In this silent amazement, Balfour spent about twenty minutes.

Saint Sophrony’s conversations with the brethren were a conductor of the grace-filled state in which the elder himself lived after many years of monastic exploit: “We must focus all our attention only on not sinning either before God, or before man, or before things,” he said. “And from this life, simple, but focused on this commandment, the state of a person is born, when he is already connected with God in his being”. It is difficult to find words to express this state, which surpasses everything earthly. “We cannot express it in words,” he said in one of the conversations, “we must “get” into this state. And we “get” into this state if God Himself comes and dwells in us - inconceivably great and powerful and inconceivably humble”.

Neither any external structures, nor a charter, nor an administrative structure, namely the word entrusted to him by God through St. Silouan, he put in the foundation of the monastery. For “the word of the Lord is that which abides forever” ( 1Pet.1: 25 ), even when “heaven and earth pass away” ( Mark13:31 ). The word given from God is the most powerful instrument in the economy of salvation. His eternal power is foretold to us through the prophet Isaiah: "My word, which proceeds from My mouth ... does not return to Me in vain, but does what I please, and does what I sent him for" ( Isaiah 55: 10-11 ).

The Lord commanded the witnesses of His word: “... do not worry in advance what to say to you, and do not ponder; but what will be given to you at that hour, speak, for you will not speak, but the Holy Spirit ” ( Mark13:11 ). Therefore, the elder almost never prepared for the conversation: he did not make preliminary sketches, did not study theological books. Each time he went to a meeting with his brothers with fear and faith, prayerfully standing with his mind before the Throne of God, in the hope that God will not despise his prayers and “the Holy Spirit will teach ... and at that hour what should be said” ( Lk12:12). He was brought in half-sick, half-blind, bent over by old age. In the church, the brethren were already waiting for him, sometimes also the pilgrim guests - in an atmosphere of the exceptional importance of the gathering in the name of Christ. The elder began with a prayer, asking God to give him a soul-saving word for all those present. In prayer singing, everyone called on Him, "Who is everywhere and fulfill everything." Then the elder usually addressed the Mother of God with the following words:

"The Most Holy Lady Theotokos, who gave birth to all the saints the most holy Word, now give us a word that is pleasing to the Lord."

Then - to the saints, the patrons of the monastery:

"Great Saint John, Forerunner of the Lord and friend of Christ God, look mercifully on us, who have entrusted you with our life and salvation, and save us ... from every spiritual calamity, so that we also inherit the Kingdom of Christ our God."

"Reverend our Father, Holy Silouan, accept us, your children, and pray to God that we accept your teaching, which is the teaching of God Himself the Holy Spirit."

Saint Sophrony with the community in Essex. 1990.

        Then there was a long pause: Saint Sophrony gathered himself together with his whole being and intensely sought the word in prayer. The old man's heart, refined by many years of crying and suffering, like a kind of sensitive radar, was able to catch the most subtle movements of the Spirit, which “breathes where it wants” ( John3: 8 ). And as if entering this stream of eternity, he began to speak, suddenly transforming and revealing himself in the regal majesty of his word. He spoke slowly, as if from the heart. At the same time, Saint Sophrony always behaved very naturally and simply. There was nothing pompous, untrue, anything resembling an oracle, uttering prophecy in him. Not. Just a rush of fervent prayer to God, through his word, he captured those present and lifted their consciousness into that world where divine realities are contemplated as evidence.

He himself once confessed to the brethren in one of the conversations when there were no guests: “All the time I tried to explain to you how the word of God is born in the heart of man. This process is not so simple and at the same time very clear and clean. How can we hear the voice of our God in our hearts instead of our passionate voice? With all the inexpressibly great task facing us, our life still remains very simple in its outward manifestation. When our conversations took place in the presence of guests, although my word is addressed to the newcomers, I noticed that in a strange way the prayer about the word includes them. And to turn them on means: to change the content of the conversation. So when we are alone, then I hold on more freely, despite the unequal reactions and states of the people present here. However, even in this case we do not free ourselves at all and do not achieve the unity of the word, since our conversation cannot touch the same level for all of us, for we all stand at different levels ” .

Saint Sophrony’s thirst was great to see his pupils possessing "all the fullness of God" (see Col.2: 9 ). Therefore, he was always interested in the question: how to pass on this inner experience to future generations, is it possible to "educate" the gift of speech in others? Thus, he was filled with special hope by the words of the Old Testament, which spoke of the "schools of the prophets" (see 1 Kings 19:20 ; 4 Kings 2: 3 ). He told the brethren: “We all need to develop to hear the unmistakable voice of the Lord. This feat requires constant, day and night, inner attention. And so life, simple in appearance, will be constant communion with God "... He believed that the doors to the highest measures of perfection are not closed to anyone - through deep repentance, the fire of which devours everything unclean in a person, through constant abiding with the mind in God, the Lord, by His grace, can come and accomplish everything Himself.

Saint Soprony’s word had a special "taste." Like any spiritual word born in God, it still possessed the same quality: a person intuitively recognized the Truth in it. It cannot be faked by replacing the truth with external erudition or a mask of piety. A person hears the voice of eternity with his heart, not by way of logical evidence, but through an internal evidence that defies any analysis. Having gone through an intelligent feat - a long, painful and arduous one - with his thought the old man was already relentlessly abiding in God and formlessly contemplated His majesty and wisdom, pouring into the stream of His eternal will. The memory of God sanctified every action and word, and it was already impossible for the elder not to “love Him with all my heart and with all my mind, and with all my soul, and with all my strength” ( Mark 12:33 ).

The ancient Athos tradition commands young monks to live with the thought: "All the elders are holy, but my elder is holier." It was not difficult for those who were with Saint Sophrony to adhere to this rule. However, its simplicity and accessibility hid its true dimensions from the intelligent gaze of contemporaries, the comprehension of which gradually comes only now, when he is not with us.

In a personal copy of his latest book, "Seeing God as He Is," after his death, they found a note carefully enclosed by him, addressed to all those whom his soul loved so much:

It is not easy for me to leave you, but I have some hope that through my writings, you can see my “deep” heart and my thought, which I tried to express through my word, born in fervent prayer with tears. Whenever you wish, you can, while reading, be with me in the plan of the Spirit, especially if this kind of fellowship is also supported by joint prayer.







Sophrony (Sakharov), archimandrite. Spiritual conversations. Volume 1. - Ed. 1st. - St. John the Baptist Monastery, Publishing House "Palomnik", 2003. - 384 p.



Saturday, June 12, 2021

L'amour vit dans l'autre.!..
Saint Sophrony l’Athonite.


Icône de la Sainte Trinité. 

À la base de notre anthropologie chrétienne se trouve l'idée - révélée par le Dieu d'En-haut -, de la ressemblance à Dieu. L'idée de la ressemblance totale, et non partielle, à Dieu est à la base de notre anthropologie chrétienne. Dieu est supracosmique et l'homme, demeurant en Dieu, devient lui aussi supracosmique. L'homme porte en lui-même l'image et la ressemblance à l'Absolu, il porte en lui-même une conscience qui transcende tout ce qu'il voit dans les limites de l'existence terrestre. Le chrétien vit Dieu comme Père et comme Personne. Et lui-même, il se reconnaît comme personne­hypostase. Par la grâce que nous recevons de Dieu, nous savons à présent que l'Être absolu ne peut être que personnel. Car notre Dieu est un Dieu vivant, existant, et non pas une idée philosophique abstraite. Et l'homme-personne voit dans sa «personnalité» l'image-reflet de l'absoluité de Dieu, certes pas encore complètement réalisée, mais dont il est tout de même profondément conscient.

Entre Dieu et l'homme existe et doit exister une certaine commensurabilité [soïzmerimost '], malgré leur incommensurabilité [nesoïzmerimost ']. Si nous refusions cette révélation, toute vraie connaissance adéquate de l'Être Divin serait complètement impossible.

Nous parlons toujours d'un personnalisme chrétien. L'expression la plus parfaite de ce personnalisme chrétien se trouve dans le mouvement de l'amour qui embrasse tout par la prière. Dans l'acte de cet amour semblable à celui du Christ, le chrétien se donne sans réserve aux autres, aux aimés. Avant tout, à Dieu; et ensuite, par la force de l'Esprit, à tous les hommes. Dans cet amour kénotique, le chrétien se transcende lui-même. L'amour vit dans l'autre, non pas en soi-même, et ceux qu'il aime forment la vie du chrétien. Mais vivant dans l'autre, la personne-amour ne cesse pas d'être elle-même. Par cette sortie de ses limites égoïstes, l'amour arrive à la possession de tout, à l'unification de tout en soi. L'individualisme égoïste conduit inévitablement à l'isolement et engendre la division par la lutte pour son existence temporelle.

L'homme-hypostase, à l'image et à la ressemblance de l'Homme­Christ, devient dans son achèvement ultime, porteur de toute la plénitude et de l'Être Divin et de l'être créé. Autrement dit, il devient homme-dieu.

Dans la Sainte Trinité chaque Hypostase contient en elle-même toute la plénitude absolue des deux Autres, sans les abolir, ni les réduire au seul contenu de sa propre vie. De plus, chaque Hypostase entre totalement dans l'être des deux Autres, renforçant ainsi leur propre caractère hypostatique.

De la même façon, dans l'humanité plurihypostatique, chaque personne est appelée à contenir en elle-même toute la plénitude de l'être humain, sans éliminer d'aucune manière les autres hypostases, mais en entrant dans leur vie comme leur contenu substantiel, c'est-à-dire de leur vie. Par ce mouvement elle renforce aussi la personnalité des autres. De cette manière se forme un seul être, [à l'image de] ce qui est exprimé par le dogme de l'unique Essence en trois Hypostases [Divines]. L'humanité doit être une seule nature en une multitude d'hypostases. Telle est l'idée créatrice de Dieu qui a créé l'homme à Son image et ressemblance.

Le tout: ressembler à Dieu jusqu'à l'identité.

Dans la plénitude de la foi et par un long exploit ascétique, l'homme doit atteindre la ressemblance à Dieu, même jusqu'à l'identité. Il doit d'abord saisir, ensuite réaliser dans sa liberté le dessein prééternel du Créateur pour nous. Tel est le sens du commandement du Christ: « Soyez parfaits, comme votre Père céleste est parfait» (Matthieu 5, 48).

Saint Sophrony l'Athonite.
     Si nous nous soustrayons à cet effort, - pour ne pas dire à cette crucifixion -, auquel est liée la réalisation en nous de la ressemblance à Dieu, nous héritons des ténèbres sépulcrales. Dans la liberté qui nous est donnée pour disposer de nous-mêmes, nous pouvons, certes, ignorer une vocation aussi élevée qui exige de nous toutes les forces de notre être. Mais il ne nous est pas permis de changer le dessein pré éternel de Dieu pour nous, d'abaisser notre nature au niveau des animaux, c'est-à-dire au niveau d'une existence temporelle en dehors de la lumière éternelle de la Divinité.  

La voie: la garde des commandements du Christ.

Par ces quelques brèves formules j'exprime l'essentiel de notre vie. On assimile cette vie par la garde des commandement du Christ. Avec son principe de l'obéissance, le monachisme rend l'homme capable d'embrasser tous les êtres humains dans son amour. Et nous devons garder cela dans notre monastère. Je prie tout le temps pour que chacun de nous ait pleine conscience du fait que cette petite famille est sa propre vie. Le succès, la souffrance ou la maladie de qui que ce soit d'entre nous, c'est effectivement notre succès ou notre maladie commune.

Le Seigneur a dit aux apôtres: « Ayez de l'amour entre vous, par ceci on reconnaîtra que vous êtes mes disciples» (cf Jean 13, 35). Comment comprendre ces paroles du Christ : «par ceci on reconnaîtra que vous êtes mes disciples» ? Personne, excepté le Christ, n'a parlé d'un tel amour; c'est Lui qui nous en a apporté la riche révélation.

Rappelons-nous donc ces paroles, et vivons selon elles. Et alors, nous, aussi modestes, petits et pauvres que nous soyons, nous deviendrons semblables aux apôtres des premiers temps. Cette vie est unique; depuis les temps de la venue du Christ sur la terre, elle se conserve jusqu'à présent par chaque personne qui veut comprendre le commandement de Dieu.




Parole à la communauté. Pentecôte 2001. N*45.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

A Walk in the Spiritual Garden of Fr. Elias (Morcos).


An Interview with Fr. Elias (Morcos), published in Majallat al-Nour(issue no. 4, 2010).

Who is Fr. Elias (Morcos)?


Archimandrite Elias (Morcos).
       Archimandrite Elias (Morcos) is the former abbot of the Monastery of St. George, Deir el-Harf. Prior to tonsure his name was Marcel Morcos. Before becoming a monk he worked in the Syrian Department of the Interior first as chief of service in the province and then as qaimaqam of Safita. He was a trustworthy and conscientious civil servant who combined his duties with Christian piety.

How was the situation in the Church in Lattakia prior to the founding of the Movement?

 The general situation was good. Most people prayed and went to the liturgy, however education was weak prior to the founding of the Movement.

 With personal piety and serious commitment to the Church, we came to be concerned with the general situation of the Church and we saw that a revival was necessary. So the revival movement began, and we started to gather young people together and to teach and to follow the practices of the Church.