Archive for the ‘Lessons from the Fathers’ Category

“The Beatitudes”, with Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

October 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Motto: (Lk. 6:24-30)

The Lord said to the Jews who had come to him, “But woe to you that
are rich, for you have received your consolation.

“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.

“Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.

“Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did
to the false prophets…



“The Beatitudes” with Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain

(Taken from the Elder’ Sixth Epistle)

Sister Abbess Philothei, Your blessing,

Today, a kind of craziness took hold of me and I took the pencil, as does the madman who writes his outbursts on the wall with charcoal, and I sat down to write my own things on paper like one crazed, and, again, like a lunatic, to send them to you in writ ing. I am doing this latter craziness out of much love for my Sisters, that they might be edified, even if only a little.

The reason for the initial craziness was five let ters, one after the other, from various parts of Greece on a variety of subjects. While the events described were great blessings of God, those who wrote to me had fallen into despair because they dealt with them in a worldly way.

After replying accordingly to their letters, I took the pencil like a madman, as I have said, and wrote this epistle. I believe that even a fifty-cent piece from your journeying brother will be something toward a flint for each one of the Sisters so as to light a little candle in her cell and offer her doxology to our Good God.

I feel great joy when every Sister, with her particu lar cross carries out the equivalent struggle with philo timo.

It is a small thing to give to Christ a heart equal in size and as luminous as the sun out of gratitude for His great gifts, and especially for the particular honour He showed us monks by conscripting us with personal sum mons to His Angelic Order.

A great honour also belongs to the parents who were thus made worthy of becoming related to God. Unfor tunately, however, most parents do not realize this and, instead of being grateful to God, are infuriated etc., for they see everything in a worldly way, like those people I mentioned earlier, who became the reason for me to take the pencil and write everything that follows.

1. Blessed are those who loved Christ more than all the worldly things and live far from the world and near God, with heavenly joys upon the earth.

2. Blessed are those who managed to live in obscu rity and acquired great virtues but did not acquire even a small name for themselves.

3. Blessed are those who managed to act the fool and, in this way, protected their spiritual wealth.

4. Blessed are those who do not preach the Gospel with words, but live it and preach it with their silence, with the Grace of God, which betrays them.

5. Blessed are those who rejoice when unjustly ac cused, rather than when they are justly praised for their virtuous life. Here are the signs of holiness, not in the dry exertion of bodily asceticism and the great number of struggles, which, when not carried out with humility and the aim to put off the old man, create only illusions.

6. Blessed are those who prefer to be wronged rather than to wrong others and accept serenely and silently injustices. In this way, they reveal in practice that they believe in “one God, the Father Almighty” and expect to be vindicated by Him and not by human beings who repay in this life with vanity.

7. Blessed are those who have been born crippled or became so due to their own carelessness, yet do not grumble but glorify God. They will hold the best place in Paradise along with the Confessors and Martyrs, who gave their hands and feet for the love of Christ and now constantly kiss with devoutness the hands and feet of Christ in Paradise.

8. Blessed are those who were born ugly and are de spised here on earth, because they are entitled to the most beautiful place in Paradise, provided they glorify God and do not grumble.

9.Blessed are those widows who wear black in this life, even unwillingly, but live a white spiritual life and glorify God without complaining rather than the mis erable ones who wear assorted clothes and live a spot ted life.

10. Blessed and thrice blessed are the orphans who have been deprived of their parents’ great affection, for they managed to have God as their Father already from this life. At the same time, they have the affection they were deprived of from their parents in God’s savings bank “with interest”.

11. Blessed are those parents who avoid the use of the word “don’t” with their children, instead restraining them from evil through their holy life – a life which chil dren imitate, joyfully following Christ with spiritual bravery.

12. Blessed are those children who have been born “from their mother’s womb” (Mt. 19:12) holy, but even more blessed are those who were born with all the inherited passions of the world, struggled with sweat and up rooted them and inherited the Kingdom of God in the sweat of their face (Cf. Gen. 3:19).

13. Blessed are those children who lived from in fancy in a spiritual environment and, thus, tirelessly ad vanced in the spiritual life.

Thrice blessed, however, are the mistreated ones who were not helped at all (on the contrary, they were pushed towards evil), but as soon as they heard of Christ, their eyes glistened, and with a one hundred and eighty degree turn they suddenly made their soul to shine as well. They departed from the attraction of earth and moved into the spiritual sphere.

14. Fortunate, worldly people say, are the astronauts who are able to spin in the air, orbit the moon or even walk on the moon.

Blessed, however, are the immaterial “Paradise-nauts”, who ascend often to God and travel about Paradise, their place of permanent abode, with the quickest of means and without much fuel, besides one crust of bread.

15. Blessed are those who glorify God for the moon that glimmers that they might walk at night.

More blessed, however, are those who have come to understand that neither the light of the moon is of the moon, nor the spiritual light of their soul of them selves, but both are of God. Whether they can shine like a mirror, a pane of glass or the lid of a tin can, if the rays of the sun do not fall on them it is impossible for them to shine.

16. Fortunate, worldly people tell us, are those who live in crystal palaces and have all kinds of conven Iences.

Blessed, however, are those who’ve managed to sim plify their life and become liberated from the web of this world’s development of numerous conveniences (i.e. many inconveniences), and were released from the frightening stress of our present age.

17. Fortunate, worldly people say, are those who can enjoy the goods of the world.

Blessed, however, are those who give away every thing for Christ and are deprived even of every hu man consolation for Christ. Thus it is that they man­age to be found night and day near Christ and His di vine consolation, which many times is so much that they say to God: “My God, Thy love cannot be en­dured, for it is great and cannot be fit within my small heart”.

18. Fortunate, worldly people say, are those who have the greatest jobs and the largest mansions, since they possess all possibilities and live comfortably.

Blessed, however, according to the divine Paul, are those who have but a nest to perch in, a little food and some coverings99• For, in this way, they’ve managed to become estranged from the vain world, using the earth as a footstool, as children of God, and their mind is con stantly found close to God, their Good Father.

19. Fortunate are those who become generals and government ministers in their head by way of heavy drinking (even if just for a few hours), with the world ly rejoicing over it.

Blessed, however, are those who have put off the old man and have become incorporeal, managing to be earthly angels with the Holy Spirit. They have found Paradise’s divine faucet and drink from it and are con tinually inebriated from the heavenly wine.

20. Blessed are those who were born crazy and will be judged as crazy, and, in this way, will enter Paradise without a passport.

Blessed and thrice blessed, however, are the very wise who feign foolishness for the love of Christ and mock all the vanity of the world. This foolishness for Christ’s sake is worth more than all the knowledge and wisdom of the wise of this world.

I beg all the Sisters to pray for God to give me, or rather take from me my little mind, and, in this way, se cure Paradise for me by considering me a fool. Or, make me crazy with His love so I go out my self, outside of the earth and its pull, for, otherwise my life as a monk has no meaning. I became externally white as a monk. As I go I become internally black by being a negligent monk, but I justify myself as one unhealthy, when I hap pen to be so; other times, I excuse myself again for be ing ill, even though I am well, and so I deserve to be thoroughly thrashed. Pray for me.

May Christ and Panagia be with you,

With love of Christ, Your Brother, Monk Paisios

(“Precious Cross”, December 2, 1972).





Cases of Childlessness

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment

—Geronta, a husband and wife that both have Mediterranean anemia [1] asked us if they should try to have children. We told them to ask their spiritual father.
—Spiritual fathers should not tell such couples not to have children. They must guide them in
philotimo, so as to struggle in abstinence (to abstain), and with discernment grant them economia.
—Geronta, there are couples who, although they live very spiritually and want to have children, are not able.
The reason God does not give children to some is so that they will love all the children of the world as their own and help in their spiritual rebirth. There was once a man without children but, when he would walk out of his house, all the children of his neighborhood would run to him and surround him with such love. They wouldn’t let him leave and go to his job. See, God didn’t give him his own children but graced him with the blessing of loving all the children of his neighborhood as a father and in his own way to help them spiritually. The judgments of God are fathomless.

In addition, God may not give children so that an orphaned child might be helped. I once met a good Christian man who was a lawyer. Once, when I passed through the city he lived I paid him a visit and in his great kindness he forced me to stay over and receive hospitality at his house. I also met his spouse who likewise resembled him in virtue. And, while from the wife I learned of the spiritual life of her husband, from the husband I learned of the spiritual state of his wife. Later, I learned about the both of them from many other Christians who know them well and whom they have helped. This man of God honorably worked as a lawyer. If he saw that someone was deceitful not only would he not take his case but he would sharply renounce them in hopes that they would come to their senses. If he saw someone who was guilty but repentant, he would try somehow to reconcile things or to reduce the sentence. If he saw a poor man unjustly accused, he wouldn’t take any money and would try to vindicate him in court. He lived very simply and therefore the little money he made was enough for him with enough left over to help poor families. The house of this faithful lawyer was literally a spiritual oasis in the Sahara of the city. The poor, wounded, unemployed, and those with domestic problems would gather there and he would support them all as a good father. He had acquaintances in different places so that, whomever he called on the phone with a need–to help with those who were sick, etc.—never told him ‘no,’ because everyone loved and honored him. His wife also worked in her own way. She would help poor children or children who had difficulties in their studies. They thought of her as a mother. She once, however, expressed to me a complaint. “Father, when we married” she told me, “I resigned my job as a professor because I said I’d now become a good mother. I even asked Christ to give me twenty children, but unfortunately He didn’t even give me one.” Then, I told her: “Sister, you have more than five-hundred children and still you are complaining? Christ saw your good intention and will reward you. Now that you’re helping with the spiritual rebirth of so many children, you’ve become a better mother than many other mothers and have passed up even mothers of many children.[2] You will also have a greater reward, because with the spiritual rebirth the children are reassured eternal life.” In the meantime they had adopted a little girl and had signed over their inheritance to her. She cared for them in their old age and, when they reposed, went off to a monastery–although their house was like a monastery, reading all the services as they did. For vespers and compline they had other brethren in Christ but midnight office and orthros the three read themselves. These blessed souls gave rest to so many suffering souls. May God also grant them rest.

That’s why I say that the greater and better parents of big families are those who were spiritually reborn and who help in the spiritual rebirth of children all over the world, to ensure their souls in Paradise.

—Geronta, some people who aren’t able to have children of their own, think about adopting a little child.
—Yes, it’s better to adopt. They shouldn’t insist on their own will.[3] That which man wants is not always the will of God.
—Geronta, should the adoptive parents tell the child that they adopted him at a certain age?
—It is better to tell the child once he is old enough. But what matters is to love the child greatly and appropriately. There are children who live with their actual parents but who love other people more because their own parents don’t have love.


[1] Mediterranean anemia (also known as Thalassemia) is a genetic (inherited) blood disease, particularly prevalent among Mediterranean peoples. In Europe, the highest concentrations of the disease are found in Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Crete.
[2] A family with many children (πολύτεκνη οικογένια) in Greece is seen as greatly blessed. As is said in the Orthodox sacrament of marriage: “Bless this marriage, granting to Your servants long life, purity, mutual love in the bond of peace, enduring prosperity, the blessing of children and the unfading crown of glory”.
[3] I.e. persistin
g in the hope that the mother will one day conceive.


September 18, 2010 Leave a comment

We once asked Father Paisios:
– Father, you constantly tell us to have positive thinking. We would like you to give us some advice on how to deal with the following problem:
– Often people come to us to tell us that some priests charge a lot of money for performing the Holy Sacraments; they say that they smoke, or hang around coffee shops; they even say that some priests are involved in immoral acts, and in general, make strong accusations against them and present evidence to justify them. What answers can we give to people who accuse the clergy?

The Elder started telling us:
– I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground. It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. If the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: “I don’t even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt.” There are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good.

The other category is like the bee whose main characteristic is to always look for something sweet and nice to sit on. When a bee is found in a room full of dirt and there is a small piece of sweet in a corner, it will ignore the dirt and will go to sit on top of the sweet. Now, if we ask the bee to show us where the garbage is, it will answer: “I don’t know. I can only tell you where to find flowers, sweets, honey and sugar; it only knows the good things in life and is ignorant of all evil.” This is the second category of people who have a positive thinking and see only the good side of things. They always try to cover up the evil in order to protect their fellow men; on the contrary, people in the first category try to expose the evil and bring it to the surface. When someone comes to me and starts accusing other people and puts me in a difficult situation, I tell him the above example. Then, I ask him to decide to which category he wishes to belong, so he may find people of the same kind to socialize with.

Elder Paisios was constantly stressing the importance of pious thinking in spiritual life. He used to say that a single positive thought equals a vigil in Mount Athos. Once, he told us the following incident:
“One day someone came to see me, but as I was busy I told him to wait in the chapel. Later on, when he left the chapel to come into my guestroom, I did not notice that he had forgotten to take his cigarettes and had left them on the chapel’s seat. Meanwhile, another guest arrived; he also went into the chapel to wait, until I was free to see him. When I called him in, he asked me:
– Elder, do you smoke?
– No, I said. Why are you asking?
– I saw a pack of cigarettes in the chapel, that’s why.
– The person who was there before you must have forgotten them, but I did not notice it.
After he left, a child came to visit me for the first time. He knocked on the door and I immediately asked him what he wanted:
– I wish to see Elder Paisios. Is he here?
– I’m afraid he is not, I replied. He went to Karyes to buy cigarettes.
The child answered innocently:
– It does not matter, Father. I will wait for him to come back.
You see the difference between the two ways of thinking, said the Elder. The first person, who found the cigarettes in the chapel, had negative and suspicious thoughts, whereas the child, even when I told him that Elder Paisios went to buy cigarettes, reacted in the opposite way. He simply said he would wait without asking if the Elder smokes or what he needs the cigarettes for.

“One day, a young man, who was full of negative thoughts, visited me and expressed his desire to become my disciple. I explained to him:
– I do not wish to have disciples. I always have many visitors and they would end up neglecting their spiritual duties in order to take care of my guests. Moreover, I have been a monk for many years and among the virtues I have acquired, I also have developed some weaknesses, which I haven’t managed to get rid of. So, if you come to live here, my virtues (prayers, fasting, vigil) will harm you, as you will be unable to follow my strict schedule; my weaknesses will also do you harm, as they will be impossible for you to bear. For these reasons, I cannot take you as my disciple. He finally left to go visit other monasteries.
After a few hours, I was sitting in the garden eating two plain tomatoes without oil and a small piece of bread, thinking of all the good things God has given me. He gave me a nice house situated in such a beautiful area that even rich people envy; I do not have to pay any rent unlike so many people, who struggle to earn their living; I have my daily food without having to work hard in some factory; the monks around the area I live are nice. As I was filled with these thoughts, I felt a sweet grief inside me for being ungrateful to God, and I started crying being unable to continue eating. While I was in this state, suddenly, I saw the young man, who had visited me earlier and had asked me to become my disciple standing by the fence. I didn’t want him to see me crying, so I went inside to wash my face and then I opened the gate to let him in. Looking disturbed, he said to me:
– Don’t pretend to be an ascetic! I saw you eating meat and when you saw me coming you went inside to hide it from me. Now I know what you really are!
I started laughing, but did not give any excuses; I was stunned by his way of thinking and the way he ‘cultivated’ his negative thoughts.”

Elder Paisios had a very positive thinking. Even under the worst circumstances, he thought positively. He even managed to extract good out of the most harmful things, by using them in a special way. Once, one of the visitors, who had been greatly assisted by Father Paisios, asked him, as he was departing, if there was anything he could send him. The Elder explained that he did not want anything. Since the visitor insisted, he finally said to him jokingly:
– Well, send me cigarettes!
The visitor left and after some time Father Paisios received a package through the mail. It was a big box containing many packs of cigarettes. When the Elder saw this, he was astonished. What was he going to do with all these cigarettes? On the one hand, he could not throw them in the garbage wasting all the money spent for purchasing them. On the other hand, he did not want to give them away causing harm to health of other people. In the following days, Father Paisios asked one of his visitors if he smoked. He nodded his head.
-How many packs a day? asked the Elder.
– Three, he answered.
– Look, said the Elder, smoking so many cigarettes is harmful to your health and also very expensive. Let’s make a deal. During the next few months, I will offer you the cigarettes for free, but you will only smoke one pack per day. He agreed and Elder Paisios gave him the cigarettes feeling satisfied for not throwing them away and for helping someone restrain his passion.

“The spirituality of a person is defined by the quality of his thoughts. One day, three men were sitting in a park chatting. Suddenly, a young man hastily ran by them. When they saw him, they all thought of something.
The first one thought: ‘He must have stolen something, so he is running to escape’. The other one thought: ‘He must be late for his date with some girl that is why he is running.’ And the third one said to himself: ‘Most probably he is a chanter in a church and runs to be on time for the service.”
Three men had three different thoughts for the same person. However, only the last one, who had a positive thought, was benefited, whereas the other two were spiritually harmed.”

Father Paisios always insisted by saying:
“When one of our brothers has a negative thought, we must try to kindly and humbly correct it. It is our duty to do so. Today many people, unfortunately including some of our spiritual fathers, instead of trying to correct falsified thoughts, they either consent to them, or even distort the positive ones. I will give you an example so you can understand the way they function:
Suppose a young man says to his spiritual father:
– A friend of mine did this and that to me.
And thus, he starts telling him his negative thoughts about his friend. His spiritual father, instead of trying to change his thoughts and make him love his friend again, views his problem from a social point of view, and wishing to be nice, says to him:
– Since you know what kind of person your friend is, do not pay attention to him. Just ignore him.
The young man may superficially feel better after listening to the words of his spiritual father, but his negative predisposition towards his friend is still inside him. Now, when his friend goes to the same spiritual father to tell him the same things, the spiritual father faces the problem in the same way. He once again regards the problem from a social point of view and calms him down. He lets him, however, keep inside him the negative thoughts he has for his friend.
This way, the Elder said, I can even please the devil if I wish to. You will now see what happens next, since divine justice exists in our lives. At some point, the two friends, who still have negative thoughts inside them, meet and begin accusing each other: “You are this and that…I talked to my spiritual father and he also thinks the same way of you.” Eventually, they discover that what their common spiritual father tried to do was just to be nice to them. As a result, they end up losing their trust and respect for him. The correct way of dealing with similar cases is the following which I also apply:
A married man came to me to discuss the problems he was facing with his wife and how her behavior has affected his thoughts. I immediately started finding excuses for his wife’s behavior. In the end, I told him that he should glorify God for the wife He gave him and he is the one responsible for destroying their loving relationship. I made him question his behavior and love his wife again, by convincing him that he is in the wrong, and that he should get rid of all his negative thoughts. I did exactly the same thing with his wife, when she came to see me. I also scolded her, so both of them got rid of their negative thoughts, and ended up loving each other again. Moreover, they also understood why I scolded them, as they realised that my only aim was to bring them back together.”

“Thoughts are like airplanes flying in the air. If you ignore them, there is no problem. If you pay attention to them, you create an airport inside you and permit them to land!”

Once, a young man visited the Elder for advice. Being simple-hearted, however, he couldn’t restrain from listening to negative thoughts. These thoughts were acting as an obstacle to every good work he was trying to accomplish. Father Paisios, due to his discretion, realised that his negative thoughts were the cause of his problem and told him the following:
-There was a man who used to say: “If I get married and have children, and my children are boys and there is war, they will have to join the army and finally they will get killed. So, there is no reason for me to get married.”
Then, the Elder turns to him and says:
– Isn’t that a silly thought?
– Yes, the young man replied.
The Elder went on:
-Be careful, because you are doing the same thing. Bear in mind that you will never achieve anything good, if you think and act this way.

I always wondered how our saints managed to willingly endure their martyrdom and how will we be able to acquire their tolerance, since the slightest headache can make us feel totally helpless. One day, as I was heading towards the cell of Father Paisios, I met him by the river situated five hundred meters away from his cell. He had given the river the name ‘Nile’. He was cutting some wood from a chestnut tree in order to make a small bridge, so people could cross the river without getting wet. He had just stopped his work and was ready to return to his cell, because he had cut his left hand with the sharp edge of a piece of wood and was bleeding. I could detect in him a spirit of joy as he was looking at his hand over and over. Suddenly, he turns to me showing the bleeding palm of his hand and says:
– You see, it looks like the crucified palm of Christ.
When we arrived at his cell, we sat at the guestroom and I asked him:
-Father, what made our saints, not only endure their martyrdom but also constantly feel joy about it, while we can’t even stand the bite of a mosquito?
– Everything has to do with having a correct thinking. If our thoughts are firmly secured in our faith, no one can ever take them away.
Then, he brought the Old Testament and told me that section 4 in the Book of Maccabes explains very clearly how positive thoughts can help us disregard pain and torture. He began reading the text and explaining it to me. When he finished, he told me:
– This text from the Old Testament clearly indicates that man is free and with his good thoughts, he can overcome his passions and desires and whatever else derives from them.
Father Paisios explicitly stressed that the words “I can’t” have no validity in man’s life. It is the words “I don’t want” or “I don’t love” which lead man to say “I can’t”. When people are tortured by a specific passion, they claim that a certain power prevents them from restraining and being good. They should know that this power, which acts as an obstacle, is rooted inside them; it can make them love, but it is turned to the wrong direction. Since they love their passions, it is natural that they are unable to get rid of them. When you love something, you want it, and you cannot let it go because you do not want to lose it. First, they must hate their passion and then find something better to direct and transfer their love to. Otherwise, they will keep on suffering.
Many times, people said to Father Paisios:
– Father, I smoke and I cannot stop. What can I do?
– Do you want to stop smoking? He asked in return.
– Yes, I have tried many times without being able to stop.
– Well, that’s it! As of this moment you will not smoke again and God will help you.
Then, the person, who suffered from this passion, said:
-Perhaps, Father…

Father Paisios interrupted him before he was able to conclude his sentence, and said with a sharp, but trustful, tone in his voice: – There is no ‘perhaps’, it is over! Do not consent to the thoughts that tell you that you might not make it. Father Paisios wanted to stress that we are free and self-dependent. If a passion rules our lives, it is because we consent to it. If we remain enslaved by it, we do it because we love our passion and want to be its slave. From the very moment we yearn for our spiritual freedom and wish to abide in Christ, and we really want to, we are freed from our passions and become servants of God. All commandments are given by Christ to those who are enslaved by sin, and He tells them to leave sin aside and follow Him instead. For this reason, God says to the thief: “do not steal”, to the unjust person: “do not be unfair”, to the adulterer: “do not commit adultery.”

If we are forcingly, and not willingly, enslaved by sin, then why is God asking us to leave sin aside and come close to Him? Since He is telling us to do so on our own, it means that we are being subdued by our passions because we love and want them. The moment we hate them and direct our love towards God, we immediately become free. Therefore, it is of primary importance to realise our “illness” (that is, willingly siding with evil) and hate it and love good instead; then we instantly acquire it.


September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

One afternoon, I went to visit the Elder. At the fence of his cell stood a man about thirty years old, waiting for him to open the door. When I arrived, Father Paisios opened his window and asked who it is. I replied:
– It’s me, Father, and one layman, I said (and I told him his name).
– Tell the layman to leave, he replied.
Then, the layman said beggingly:
– Father, I really wish to see you.
The Elder answered reproachfully:
– Go, because you upset me as you only trust your own way of thinking and do not listen to what I tell you. Why are you coming here wasting your time?
And he told him to go away. Then, he came and opened the door for me to come in.
– He is a real burden, Father Paisios told me. He does not listen to my words. He comes, ask questions and leaves; after a short while, he comes back and asks me the same things over and over again. This happens because he always listens to his own thoughts; therefore, he forgets what I tell him or does not understand a word.

There was another young man who relied completely on his own thoughts and was led astray. One day, he visited Father Paisios, who told him:
– Do not listen to your thoughts, because you will end up losing your mind. Be careful, you have a very good machine, but its wheel faces the wrong direction. You have to turn it to the right direction, where the good thoughts are. Only you, yourself, can do this along with the help of God. Nobody else can do it for you, as you are free and self-dependent. You turn the wheel and your spiritual father will show you the direction.

One of the monks, who resided in the desert of Mount Athos, considered himself a saint and thought that there was nobody else in the world like him. Some monks, who knew him well, asked the Elder if they should take him to see a psychiatrist. Elder Paisios told them:
– This kind of people cannot be benefited by doctors; the monk will only make a fool of himself in front of laymen. The doctor will prescribe some pills, which might be of some help in case of a serious condition, but just for a short period of time. Someone else should put the medicine in his food and show him spiritual love and try to correct his thoughts. His problem is a spiritual one; it is rooted in his ego and his excessive love and trust in his own way of thinking. There is nothing worse than to listen to and trust one’s own thoughts.
At this point, Elder Paisios stopped and took aside one of the monks. He told him the story of three people who nearly destroyed their lives by trusting their own way of thinking:

a) Once, a young man came here who was obsessed with the thought that he had the smallest head in the world. He believed his head had the size of an orange. I assured him his head had a normal size; as a matter of fact, I told him, it is a little bigger than mine. But the young man was not convinced. Then, I told him:
– Would you like me to bring a string and measure our heads, so you can see yourself are the way I tell you and not the way your thoughts tell you?
He accepted my suggestion and I brought the string. After measuring our heads, I found that his head was bigger than mine by one inch. But still he was not convinced, so I gave him the string to try himself. Although he also found his head to be a little bigger than mine, he insisted that this was not true; his mind was stuck in his thought, which was telling him that his head is very small. Raising my voice, I scolded him for his disbelief and lack of trust in other people and then I asked him to leave.

b) Once, there was a man who claimed that he heard a bird constantly singing in one of his ears. He was telling everyone about it and as a matter of fact, he used to complain that he could not find peace of mind due to the loud singing of the bird. His relatives did not believe him, since they could not see any bird in his ear; he repeatedly tried to convince them, however, that he was hearing the singing of a bird in his ear. The relatives decided to consult a doctor who was a friend of them. The doctor suggested first to buy a bird in a cage and then call him to come and visit.
After they bought the bird, they called the doctor. When the doctor arrived, they gave him the bird and then told the patient that the doctor is here to examine what causes this singing in his ear. While tactfully holding the bird in his hands, the doctor asked him what is wrong with him. He replied that he was hearing the singing of a bird in his ear. The doctor asked him again to show him his ear.
– Let me see, said the doctor.
While touching his ear, he looked inside it and said:
– Well, of course, there it is, a very small bird stuck inside your ear making you suffer. Hold on for a second, I will remove it. The doctor pretended he was trying to remove it from his ear. Then, he told him:
– There it is. Can you hear anything now?
The man answered happily:
– No, the singing stopped now! Thank you for coming doctor, because this bird was driving me crazy and everybody was making fun of me, as they did not believe a word I was saying.

c) The following incident took place sixty years ago in a monastery on Mount Athos. One of the monks had the illusion that he had become a saint. He used to say:
– I do not need to receive Holy Communion as Christ Himself is inside me.
He wanted to become a martyr, and once he tried to kill himself. The monks decided to lock him up in a room and have one of them look after him. They were very careful not to ever give him any spoon or knife with which he would try “to become a martyr” –according to him, out of his love to Christ- and saw that the food taken to him was ready to be eaten without having to use any sharp item.
One day, there was a celebration in the monastery and all the monks were offered sardines for lunch. They also gave him a closed tin of sardines which he managed to open up and with its sharp edge attempted to cut his throat. He started screaming from the unbearable pain, and the monk, who was taking care of him, ran immediately to his room. He found him bleeding to death and said to him:
– What are you trying to do?
– I want to become a martyr, so I will be crowned with the laurel of martyrdom. The monk took the tin from his hands and told him:
– You cannot become a martyr, because you cannot stand the pain. You thought you would die instantly by using the tin to cut your throat. According to God’s will, your martyrdom is what I am about to do you just now.
After putting a bandage around his neck to stop the bleeding, he brought a leather belt and began beating him hard. He was screaming out of terrible pain and shouting him to stop. The monk, however, was telling him:
– You wish to become a martyr, isn’t that so? Then, I will beat you to death!
Thus, he gradually became aware of his own wretchedness and was humiliated, and as a result, he was cured.

Elder Paisios narrated the above three incidents to the monk who had brought along his fellow monk, who thought he was a saint in order to indicate how destructive it is to trust our own thoughts. He further said:
When laymen listen to and believe in their own thoughts, they lose their minds, whereas monks are filled with illusions. A monk should not take tranquillizers; his medication is humbleness and repentance. This monk lacks both of these virtues. When these will fill his soul again, all his problems will be solved. Sometimes, he went on, when children behave badly towards their parents or insult them, they immediately start to be receptive to the devil’s energies and become confused. By cursing or slandering their parents, they give the devil the right to interfere in their lives and control their actions. The same thing happens to monks, when they accept negative thoughts about their elder or the rest of the monks; this way, they give the right to the devil to fight them. When someone trusts his negative thoughts, he tends to disregard other people’s advice. He can only listen to someone whom he absolutely trusts- after his own thoughts. For this reason, when he needs help, he can only accept it from the person he trusts the most. Concerning medication, that is tranquillizers, they may be of some assistance to people in serious conditions, that is, those who are filled with illusions, or are on the verge of losing their minds.
If, for example, our fellow man’s mental condition is seriously deteriorating, we should give him a certain dose of medication to stabilize it. At the same time, we must show him love and try to correct his negative thinking and persuade him not to listen to his own thoughts. As his condition is improving, the dose of his medication should also be reduced. This should last for a while.
When the mind of our fellow man moves away from humility, it escapes into a fantasy world. When he takes medication, he stops thinking or imaging things and his fantasy world is limited. Then, he starts feeling sleepy, tired, hungry and generally speaking, he is physically humbled; while he thought he was an incorporeal angel, he now feels like a human being bearing flesh.

“There is no magical therapy that will automatically cure someone, whose mind has gone astray due to his constant preoccupation with his false thinking; there are, however, certain steps to follow in order to recover:
First, and most important, is to realise the state of his own wretchedness. After he realizes it, the second step is to repent, go to confession, and never listen again to the voice of his own thoughts; instead, he must follow the advice of his spiritual father. Thirdly, after he becomes aware of his miserable state of being, he should constantly ask God for His mercy through Jesus prayer, so Christ will help him and His divine grace will return inside him. One can only be cured and saved through humbleness, the only miraculous therapy I know of; only humility can save us.”

“Man is changeable; on one hand, he clings to his good thoughts and on the other, to his negative and devious ones. He does what he likes and whenever he likes, for he has a free and independent will. The same thing applies to divine grace and illusion. Since man is constantly changing, divine grace and illusion come and go respectively.
If one lives in the world of his pride, that is the world of his own thoughts, he is filled with illusions and he is in danger. He must not listen to his thoughts, which try to push him left and right in order to destroy him; on one hand, they convince him that he is virtuous, nice, a real striver, talented, almost a saint, and on the other, that he is a failure and there is no hope for him to be saved. His thoughts will either create inside him the false belief that he is perfect and thus awaken his pride, or that he is a hopeless loser and fill him with despair. He must ignore both positive and negative thoughts, and always confess them to this spiritual father, and obey whatever he tells him. He should only trust him and not his own thoughts; furthermore, he must believe that he is nothing but a striving soul and constantly ask for God’s mercy in his prayers in order for his mind to be cleansed. As long as he humbly thinks of himself, God’s grace remains within him and protects him. When he moves away from his humble thoughts and start being preoccupied with what the patriarch or the bishop or the abbot or the monks do or say, then God’s grace starts retreating. Therefore, the most important thing for us to look after is to preserve the sense of humbleness in our lives, and thus allow for divine grace to permanently remain within us.”

“When our soul lives carelessly without watching over its thoughts, it will consequently fill up with dirty and sly thoughts. As a result, people start developing psychological problems which gradually pile up. Some people, while they are found in this situation and come face to face with the problem itself, they do not realise it, and thus are unable to humbly confess to their spiritual father their fall. Instead, they look for a “secular” solution and consult a psychiatrist, who will inevitably prescribe medication. Pills will not solve the problem, but will temporarily cover it. This is not an effective solution, as once they stop taking their medication, the problem will come to the surface again, and the person will be found in the same miserable condition. The only solution is to become aware of the problem and confess it to a spiritual father and then humbly follow his advice.
In our days, people have lost control over their lives, and they do not know what they are doing. The reason being, that they do not wish to be guided; they want to live undisturbed, following their own free will, which will eventually bring their total destruction. God gave man his freedom and independence to do as he likes, but He also gave him the knowledge, the ability to realise, that he is unable to achieve good acts by solely relying on himself, “… for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5), “If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?” (Lk 12:26). Therefore, when man uses his freedom and independence without taking into consideration his human weakness, he becomes deceived; he experiences and interprets everything by using his own logic. Instead of God’s grace, human logic rules his life, and his mind is in confusion. This is terrible.”

“I always give the following advice to people, and I insist that they follow it:

1. To become aware of their problem, in other words, their alienation from God,
2. to repent for this, and
3. humbly go into confession.

Today, people, more than ever, become recipients of the devil’s influence and intrusion in their lives, and only if they follow the above mentioned advice they will be safe.”

One day, three monks and I visited the Elder. He was constantly telling us that we should have good thoughts in our minds. As a matter of fact, he took the book of the Old Testament and began reading the part which refers to the story of King Darius who threw Daniel in the den of lions (Dan 6:14-18). The Elder commented on the fact that the next day Darius went himself to the den to check if the lions had devoured Daniel, and asked: “…’O, Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Then Daniel said to the king, ‘Oh King, live for ever!’… Then the king was exceedingly glad,…” (Dan 6:20-21, 23). Then, he added:
– If Daniel thought negatively, he would have said to Darius: “Shame on you! Not only you threw me into the den of lions, but you have the nerve to ask me if I am fine.”
However, he always had positive thoughts, and for this reason God “spoke” to the lions and prevented them from devouring them. The same applies to the three youths, who were unjustly thrown in the burning furnace. They were not set against God, questioning themselves: “Why did God allow us to be thrown into the burning furnace, since we always obeyed His laws?” Instead, they were blaming themselves and glorifying God, saying: “Blessed art though, O Lord, God of our fathers, and worthy of praise; and thy name is glorified for ever and ever. For thou art just in all that thou hast done to us, and all thy works are true and thy ways right and all thy judgments are true. Thou hast executed true judgments in all that thou hast brought upon us and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our fathers, for in truth and justice thou hast brought all this upon us because of our sins, for we have sinfully and lawlessly departed from thee, and have sinned in all things and have not obeyed thy commandments; we have not observed them or done them, as thou hast comm
anded us that it might go well with us.” (Dan. Prayer of Azarius and the Hymn of the Three Children).

Did you notice, Elder Paisios remarked, the positive nature of the three youths’ thoughts, which was connected to their humbleness? A good and humble thought can tame the lions, cool the burning furnace and transform it into a heavenly place. We should face our problems with patience, positive thinking and humility, so we may allow for the grace of God to help us.

Priestmonk Christodoulos (1998) “Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain”, Holy Mountain


September 11, 2010 Leave a comment

“For perverse thoughts separate men from God” (Wis 1:3)

Elder Paisios always urged us to think positively. Our positive thinking, however, should not be our ultimate aim; eventually our soul must be cleansed from our positive thoughts as well, and be left bare having as its sole vestment divine grace granted to us through Holy Baptism. “This is our aim,” he used to say, “to totally submit our mind to the grace of God. The only thing Christ is asking from us is our humility. The rest is taken care of by His grace. In the beginning, we should willingly try to develop positive thoughts, which will gradually lead us to the perfect good, God, to whom belongs every glory, honor and worship; on the contrary, to us belongs only the humility of our conceited attitude.”

“We must always be careful and constantly question the nature of our thoughts. When someone is preoccupied and trusts his own way of thinking, he becomes vulnerable to the devil, who is capable of transforming us into sly persons, even when we are honest by nature. The older fathers never trusted their own thoughts. Even for minor problems to which they had to give answers, they prayed to God, or fasted, as a way to “force” divine grace to reveal the answer according to God’s will; and after they got the “information”, they gave the answer.
In our days, when someone has a serious problem and asks for advice, we tend to interrupt him and provide an answer without letting him finish his question first. In this case, we do not only seek the assistance of divine grace, but we also misuse our logic, which was granted to us by God. We are ruled by our own thoughts and unhesitatingly rely on them, very often having to face the disastrous results of our acts.”

“Almost all of us consider our thoughts to be simple and natural, therefore, we spontaneously rely on them. On the contrary, we should neither trust, nor accept them. We must not have any thoughts in our mind or heart, neither positive ones, nor negative ones, for this space inside us belongs to the grace of God. We are obliged to keep it clean, not only of our various thoughts but also of the slightest and most elusive slip of the mind. We can only achieve this, if we fervently love Christ and unhesitatingly trust Him. As a result, we humble ourselves, and divine grace, naturally, will be revived inside us, for it is only granted to the humble ones; “God opposes the proud, but gives Grace to the humble.” (1Pet 5:5).

“We must have positive thoughts, otherwise none of the spiritual fathers- not even the saints- can help us. When Jesus was on the Cross and all the terrible events were taking place, two thieves were also being crucified with Him. “And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour” (Mk 15:33). “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs were also opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs, after his resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” (Mt 27:51-53). Each one of them had a different attitude towards Him, even though they were both placed next to the same God; a God who had never been blamed for, or accused by anyone for the slightest sin. On the contrary, many people were benefited by Him: some had cured of a specific disease, others had been resurrected and all these miracles took place in public. Now, even nature was reacting against the injustice done to Him.
The thief placed on the left cross had created inside his mind a “factory”, which produced only negative thoughts. “…
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us’.” (Lk 23:39). Although he could see what was going on around him, he never questioned himself about it. The one on the right, who had a positive way of thinking, reacted as follows: “But the other rebuked him saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom’.” (Lk 23:40-42). Both thieves had the same almighty God placed between them who could help them. The negative thinking of the one on the left prevented God from helping him, whereas the one on the right- who had committed terrible crimes and was legitimately being punished- was able to “move” Jesus with his positive attitude. And He said to him: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Lk 23:43). We should keep in mind that God “cannot” help us, even if He really wants to, unless we acquire a positive way of thinking. Concerning the spiritual progress of a disciple monk, it is more important for him to develop good thoughts than to be guided by a spiritual father who is considered a living saint…”

Looking at this subject from a different point of view, Elder Paisios stressed and greatly emphasised the specific characteristic of love, that is, that “love is not irritable or resentful” (1Cor 13:4). He used to say that “we should never, even under the worst circumstances, allow a negative thought to penetrate our soul. The person, who, under all circumstances, is inclined to have positive thoughts, will always be a winner; his life will be a constant festivity, since it is constantly based on his positive thinking. Our acts depend on and are determined by the “machine” we have inside us, and not by the “material” we digest, or the environment we live in.

I will give you an example, so you can better understand what I am trying to say:
If one has a machine that produces bullets and feeds it with the highest quality material, -let’s say gold- the machine will still convert gold into bullets, golden but destructive bullets; if he feeds it with silver, then it will produce silver bullets; if he feeds it with iron, it will produce iron bullets, or if he feeds it with clay, it will produce clay bullets. In other words, no matter what material he feeds his machine, it still produces bullets, because it was made to manufacture these destructive products. If someone converts the machine into one that produces holy chalices instead of bullets, then whatever material he feeds it, it will always produces holy chalices. If he puts in the machine clay or iron, it will manufacture clay or iron chalices respectively.

I will now tell you a story regarding a very old father from Kapsala. The old father’s “machine” was the kind that produced only positive thoughts. He only saw the good things in life and he was blind to every evil. Once, a group of people visited him and brought him a small radio as a present. The old father took it in his hands and examined it with lots of admiration. He asked where it was manufactured and the visitors told him in Japan. As he was looking at it, suddenly he was filled with joy and started kissing the radio saying:
“Glory to God!” The visitors asked him why he was glorifying God and he explained to them:
“You see, I am very pleased that the Japanese Christians put the sign of the Holy Cross on the products they manufacture.”
The old father had noticed the positive and negative pole (+,-) of the batteries and thought it was the sign of the Cross. His mind produced a simplistic and positive thought for the radio the visitors brought him. Considering he was an ascetic, he could have developed negative thoughts and get angry at them for bringing him such an unsuitable present.
Someone asked the same old father why he was making the sign of the Cross when he saw an airplane. And he simply answered: “Don’t you see, my child, that its shape looks like the sign of our Holy Cross?”
The old father ignored the negative thoughts associated with the sight of an airplane, such as wars and bombing. His mind was attracted by the similarity of its shape to the sign of the Holy Cross; the sight and noise of the airplane made him think of the crucifixion of Christ.”

A few years ago, I went to Athens for business and I stayed at the house of a fellow Christian. The area was very noisy as the house was located near a central road. My friend told me that he had trouble sleeping at night due to the noise, so he ended up taking sleeping pills. After we had dinner, he took me to my room and told me:
-Elder, this is your room and I hope you will be able to sleep, despite the noise of the traffic.
Next morning, when I got out of my room, my friend said:
– I couldn’t sleep all night due to the terrible noise. How about you?
– I have never slept so well, not even on Mount Athos.
– How is this possible, Father Paisios?
Then I told him what had happened since I entered into my room. (At that time the Vietnam War was taking place, and everyday we heard sad stories in the news and I used to pray to God to help people in Vietnam).
When I went into my room, I knelt in front of the bed. I put my head and hands on the bed and started praying for all the soldiers who were fighting and getting killed in Vietnam. I could hear the noise of the traffic, but as my mind was concentrated on the Vietnam War, I converted the traffic noise into the noise of the war tanks that were destroying buildings and killing people. Once in a while, a motorcycle was passing by making a very loud noise that made the windows creak; I immediately associated this noise with the one of the airplanes bombing Vietnam, and I could see helpless children and old people getting killed. I felt a sweet grief inside me, and I was crying for the situation in Vietnam, and I despised myself for enjoying the luxury of a nice meal and a clean room and for not having any problem. As I was crying, I was filled with a peaceful spiritual calmness, and finally fell asleep kneeling in front of my bed. The traffic noise did not interrupt my sleep at all, as my thoughts were directed to those suffering in Vietnam.
You can do the same thing: Think about wars, the people who are being killed or dying of hunger, the houses that are being bombed; and also think about yourself living in a luxurious home, eating plenty of food, having a job, being safe and sound. Then, the association of the traffic noise with the noise of the war will become a very good reason for you to glorify God and will prevent you from taking sleeping pills. There is only one solution: to have positive thoughts.”

-Father Paisios, when I walk in the streets of Thessaloniki, I face the following problem: As I walk, I come across various beggars most of whom are women holding babies in their arms, and claiming they are ill and in need of financial assistance. I always think they are lying to me. What would you do in my place?
-I, too, came across one of these women who asked for help, he replied. I immediately sympathised with her problem but I had very little money on me. I gave her 500 drachmas and told her: “Please forgive me as I do not have more money on me. However, I will give you my address so you can write to me and send me your own. When I go back to Mount Athos, I will try to collect some money to forward you.”
She took my address and I felt she was touched by my offer. After some time, I received a letter from her which did not include her address. Instead, she had enclosed the 500 drachma bill I had given her, and was asking me to forgive her for putting me in a difficult situation and thanked me for my kindness. I believe that if someone develops positive thoughts, even in the case of the woman beggar, he will not be a loser, because God, who knows our deepest intentions, will do him justice.

Once, a journalist, who had a negative way of thinking about everything, visited Elder Paisios. He began asking the Elder about various things and making him feel in distress. At one point, he asked him:
– Why are staying here in the peace and quietness of Mount Athos feeling carefree, and you are not going out in the world to help people who have so many serious problems?
The Elder, slightly raising his tone of voice, told him:
– Your mind machine is a broken one and produces only negative thoughts. You misunderstand everything you see or hear. Now, you see me living here and ask me why I am not going out in the world. If I go to live in the world, you will then say that it is unsuitable for a monk and that I should go back to the quietude of my cell. For this reason, I will only tell you one thing: Repair your broken mind-machine and bear in mind the old saying, which says that
“traffic lights are made for noisy streets, whereas lighthouses for deserted rocky mountains.”

Priestmonk Christodoulos (1998) “Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain”, Holy Mountain

On Television: Comments by Various Saints and Holy Elders

August 28, 2010 2 comments

From the Spiritual Counsels of the Blessed Elder Paisios the Athonite

On how TV is damaging to our souls—especially to youthful ones

Television has done us great damage. It’s especially destructive for children. A seven-year-old child came to the hermitage once. I saw the demon of television speaking through the child’s mouth, exactly as demons speak through the mouth of the possessed. It was like a baby born with teeth. It is not easy to find normal kids; they are turning into little monsters. And you see they don’t get to think for themselves, they only repeat what they have heard and seen on television. That’s why they have come up with television to begin with: to make people numb and dumb, so that they will take what they hear and see on television for a fact and act accordingly.

That we should be trying to lead our children to seek to turn on the “spiritual television”

[Mothers must be helped to] understand that television dulls their children’s minds. They lose the ability to think on their own, to think critically—not to mention the damage it causes to their eyesight. And we are talking about man-made television. But there is another kind—a spiritual television. When people uproot their old self, and the eyes of the soul are cleansed, they can see into the future without the aid of any machines. Have they told their children about this other kind of television? If they won’t, these boxes will make our children dumb.”

From the Spiritual Counsels of the Blessed Elder Lawrence of Chernigov (Russia)

The God-pleasing Holy Elder used to say, “Blessed, and thrice-blessed is the man who does not desire, and who will not see the abominable face of the Antichrist. He who sees him and hears his blasphemous words, his promises of all earthly treasures, he will be deceived and will go to meet him and bow down to him. He will perish together with him and will burn in the eternal fire.”

They asked the Elder, “How will all this come to pass?” The holy Elder said with tears, “In the holy place, the abomination of desolation will stand. And it will show the foul seducers of the world. And they will be deceiving the people who have fallen away from God, and will perform false miracles. And after them, the Antichrist will appear. And the whole world will see him at the same time.”

Then the fathers asked the Elder, “Where in the holy place? In the church?” The Venerable one answered, “Not in the church, but in every house. In the corner, where the holy icons now stand and hang, there will stand captivating devices which will delude the people. Many will say, ‘We need to watch and listen to the news.’ And behold, in the news the Antichrist will appear. He will mark his people with the seal, and he will hate Christians. The last persecutions of the Christian soul who will refuse to receive the mark of Satan will begin. A Christian will not be able to neither buy nor sell anything. But despair not, the Lord will not abandon His children. There is no need to fear.

From the Spiritual Counsels of the Blessed Elder Anthony of Russia

Satan has gotten man to arrange his entire lifestyle so that there is completely no quiet time, time for contemplating the past day, week, or month. Everything is occupied with entertainment. And in this system of entertainment, television is given the privileged place of honor. The lion’s share of free time is ‘eaten up’ by it, that idol of contemporary civilization. I would call it a cruel despot and tyrant, to whom the greater part of mankind is subject, in a servitude never before witnessed in the world. For slaves feel their lower position because they have been brought to it by force. But here the servitude is voluntary, even pleasant at first glance. Just the bitter fruits of worldliness, cruelty, and depravity demonstrate that, as in any kind of slavery, only the master benefits. And the horns of the master even poke out of the screen. Therefore, in this system of preparing people for the coming of antichrist, the television has been given the not just the role of consuming free time, its destructive role is far greater. A person watches the news, even the Orthodox news, and it seems to him to be something necessary and useful, at any rate, not harmful. But the actual news occupies only a small portion of the time. The rest is an analysis of what happened, that is, a view of what happened which must be formed by those watching. And the view of the customers is that which is given by those who control the given information…From this, from the hypnotic effect of the television program, a person loses his ability of thinking for himself, of thoughtfully perceiving the events that are happening, and finally, of forming his own world-view.

We began speaking about the decline in relationships between people today. The root of this decline lies namely in the absence of individual thought and consideration of what has happened, corresponding to a personal world-view. And this, by no means, is a justification for the search of today’s “individual,” no.

I said this, because there was always someone in the kitchen with my mother. In the evening, after supper, a large samovar was prepared, and everyone, whoever might be spending the night, settled down to drink tea. A conversation started. It was so interesting! These stories of the simple people were so edifying. My father laughed at our love of spending the evening in the kitchen, considering that there was nothing for an educated person to gain from semi-illiterate people. But, having spent a couple of evenings with us, he changed his opinion. The people who gathered were all Orthodox and they knew the world, but not by watching television. They spoke about events from life, of which they were witnesses, or what they had heard from witnesses. In everything they looked for something edifying, the results of what had occurred, and how Divine Providence had taken part in it, as well as the free will of the person. In these discussions there appeared a great variety of thoughts and distinct world-views. People then were able to not just hear, but to listen, and in general, they much preferred to listen than to speak. Although, I repeat, each of those present had something to say.

I digress, but it’s interesting that these simple people, at a time of seeming prosperity and contentment in the empire, already saw the approaching catastrophe. And this was not so much as a result of their associating with the Elders of Optina or Kiev, or from the sermons of the righteous John of Kronstadt, as it was a result of their ability to observe what was happening and draw conclusions, based not on an abundance of material available, but on the preservation of spirituality by society. It was namely the lack of faith, not simply faith in the existence of God, but faith as the fulfillment of Christ’s commandments, which led these people to think that the coming disaster was inevitable. I will return again to this ‘kitchen’ gathering, but now, concerning our life.

Yes, contemporary gatherings on that level are simply not possible. The thing is, that even when people have gathered together at one table, their relation to the Faith is varied. As the wise David said, ‘The foolish has said in his heart, there is no God!’ Just the rejection of the existence of God is both insanity and a sure path to insanity. And this is not the madness of those pagans that were enlightened by the Apostles and Holy Fathers of the first centuries of Christianity. Concerning the pagans of today, the Apostle said: ‘For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths.’ What kind of normal gathering is possible under these conditions?! People love to talk, but not listen, to teach, but not to learn. What unites all of these people around one table? Intoxicants—spirits, and plenty of food, that is, what is on the table, not who is at the table. Nothing soul-profiting can come out of such an environment, for as the saints taught, you do not speak about God with a full stomach—and even more so, with a drunken head!

There is one more terrible evil from the television, but unfortunately, it’s far from the last. This evil is the undermining of the authority of the Church. It is planned and diabolically cunning. It is in everything—in mocking the clergy, the Orthodox rituals, in placing the occult, paganism, in opposition to Christianity, in everything. Everything is saturated with hatred for the Truth. Not much time will pass before they will openly mock Christianity and holy things on television. Broadcasts concerning the Theotokos will be especially permeated with hatred; from everything will flow the poison of diabolic evil. Only it will be under the veil of humor, comedy. ‘Laughing hell’ will take the work of ridiculing everything Divine, and spiritual, all the way to the end. And the end will be in the one who appears and tries to take the place of God. And he will enter immediately into every home. How can a person enter every home at the same time?! We say that that is one of the qualities of God—being everywhere present—even the angels move about and exist in time. But the Church teaches that antichrist will enter immediately into every home; this seems to be a contradiction.

But no, the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is the vessel of truth, of Divine truth. In imitation of being everywhere present, antichrist will enter into every home simultaneously with the help of the television. Everyone will receive him into his house, and he’ll receive him voluntarily! And he’ll receive him, he’ll receive him, for he will want to be prepared for this, prepared properly, because he didn’t heed the instructions of the Good Pastor to flee to the desert, it doesn’t appeal to him—it’s boring and dry in the desert!”

“Fr. Anthony, and where is it now, this desert?!”—I couldn’t restrain myself.

“Most esteemed father, you are not slow-witted, but the plastering of your church is taking more of your time than it should, otherwise you wouldn’t have asked that question. But forgive an old man! You are impressed by the externals, but what is inside doesn’t sadden you. One temple not made by hands in the human soul is worth ten stone temples! Unfortunately, Catholicism was imported during the time of the accursed Peter, and especially during the Unia, so that now we judge everything by the externals, such as crosses and miters. Take and read the writings of the Hieromartyr Archbishop Hilarion Troitsky, he was a wise hierarch. I have saved excerpts from his speeches.

The main thing in the desert is the monotony, there’s nothing to catch your eye, everything’s the same. The devil creates a mirage, as if there is vegetation, water, gold finally; but you must turn to Christ, as the holy desert-dwellers wrote, pray, cross yourself—and everything disappears. And so today you must strive for such a state of soul, so that your eye is not caught by anything. So that everything around you is the desertbut if you see something that is tempting—pray, cross yourself, confess. Condemn yourself that you saw a temptation in the desert, which means you wanted to see it, more precisely, you were disposed to seeing it.

What, you’re surprised? Here, I’ll give this example. A person goes to the forest to collect mushrooms. There are many poisonous mushrooms there but he doesn’t even notice them, no. There is only one good type worth looking for—he sees it from afar, he notices it right away. He’s a good mushroom collector and his basket will be full. But the bad mushroom collector—he sees only poisonous mushrooms, even when he actually notices a huge good one! And in his basket there’s nothing to look at. The good mushroom collector saw the poisonous ones—he saw, but he paid them no attention, they did not catch his eye. And then he will talk about and remember the good ones, his soul—will glow. [Good thoughts, images, ideas are the good mushrooms; the evil one’s suggestions, the evil all around, are not collected, are not seen, are not caught by the eye.]

So it is with sin. A person sees only sin and sinners around him, his attention is directed at this. One way or another he will allow what he sees to pass into his mind, and he becomes a participant in the sin. But pay no attention to all this lawlessness, burn your own faults into ashes, do battle with them and be displeased with them—and there is no defilement. There is your desert. But, the first time you notice—you’re displeased, the second time—you already show an interest in what those people are doing. But the third time—you already want to try it! That’s the way it is, and that’s why it says to flee to the desert. But on the other hand, you should understand this literally also, since antichrist will not be allowed to gain full and absolute control over us, and I saw in the West those hidden from his horned servants—the Lord will not permit it. Of course, whoever wants salvation, and for its sake abandons the comfort and convenience of the city and goes off to a deserted place, will be very safe.But people will comfort themselves with the possibility of salvation everywhere until the Second Coming. Soon they will assign everyone a number, in order to give antichrist an account, and then they will introduce special card-passports—and here it is serious—it will be possible to determine the position of every person. Can one avoid all of this? Yes, only you can’t trade, or buy, or obtain housing, etc. And people will go to get these numbers and passports, even those who consider themselves to be Orthodox, and they will stand in line for them. And what, do Holy Scripture and Tradition speak of anything else?! There is your desert. The people trusted in God, and they received food from angels, or they were satisfied with so little that today many people consider it to be a fairy tale—contrary to reason!

Saint John of Kronstadt

The theatre lulls the Christian life to sleep, destroys it, communicating to the life of Christians the character of the life of heathens. “They all slumbered and slept (St. Matthew 25:5); this disastrous sleep is produced, amongst other things, also by the theatre. And what besides? The sciences, taught in the spirit of heathenism, worldly cares carried to excess, love of gain, ambition and sensuality. The theatre is the school of this world, and of the Prince of this worldthat is, the Devil, but sometimes he is transformed into an angel of light in order to more easily tempt people who are not far-seeing, he sometimes introduces an apparently moral play on to the stage, but this is done in order that everybody should proclaim and repeat that the theatre is a most moral institution, and that it is not less worth frequenting than the church, and even, perhaps more so, because in church everything is the same, whilst in the theatre there is a variety of plays, scenery, costumes and actors.

Most men not only bear Satan’s burden willingly in their hearts, but they become so accustomed to it that they often do not feel it, and even imperceptibly increase it. Sometimes, however, the evil enemy increases his burden tenfold, and then they become terribly despondent and fainthearted, they murmur and blaspheme God’s name.The usual means that men of our time take to drive away their anguish are—entertainments, cards, dancing, and theatres. But such means afterwards increase still more the anguish and weariness of their hearts. If, happily, they turn to God, then the burden is removed from their heart, and they clearly see that previously the heaviest burden was lying on theit heart, though frequently they did not feel it. O, how many men there are who have “forsaken [God] the Fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no [living] water”! Men have very many such broken cisterns—nearly everybody has his own. The broken cisterns are our hearts, our passions….


The Soul’s Journey after Death

August 8, 2010 Leave a comment

by Elder Cleopa

Brothers, never forget that our soul is immortal. Let me tell you one thing: we are mere strangers and passers-by here on earth. Listen to what the Psalm book says:Unworthy is man on earth and a stranger, just like all his ancestors. Nobody stays in this world. We are not here to stay. Down here is a ceaseless passing-by; we come by birth and leave by death.

Divine Jove says: From my mother’s womb I have fallen into the pit. Did you hear? That is all that life on earth seemed to him after 400 years. As after having put him through all that trying time, God gave him another 140 years of life – after having tested him with so much torment and so many illnesses – and that’s all that life seemed to him: that from his mother’s womb he had jumped into a pit. Life seemed like a mere jump to him.

Don’t you know what the Holy Spirit compares us to? Man is like grass; his days are like the flowers of the field; that is how he will bloom. And again: His days pass like shadows. And again: My days have gone down like shadows and I have withered away like grass.

And again: My days have gone like smoke and my bones have dried up like dryness. And again: The days of our years are like the spider-web. The days of our lives are likened to a spider-web. That is, our life on earth is just as fragile as the spider-web; we are shadow, dream, and flower, on earth!

God tells Isaiah: Listen, prophet, call out to the people and tell them: All man’s body is grass and all man’s glory is like the flower of the grass. The grass has wilted and the flower has fallen, yet God’s word remains for ever. So let us not rely on this life, brothers, because it’s nothing but shadow and dream.

But do you know what remains for eternity? Our soul. It is clear that our bodies turn to dust. As we bury and unbury our dead one can see how little time it takes for them to turn into dust. Especially after a while, not even the bones remain; it all turns into nothingness.

This is also the first of God’s commandments, that one is dust and into dust one shall return. Yet the soul never dies. The soul remains unto the ages of ages, because it is spirit and cannot die. That is how God has made it.

But in order for you to know what happens to our soul when man dies, I will tell you about the journey that the soul takes right after death, according to the tradition of the Orthodox Church.

From the moment of our death until 40 days later – when the individual judgement of the soul takes place and God decides where we will go, to the good or the bad places, until the Last Judgement – there is a transition time, for both the righteous and the sinners.

When a person dies and his/her soul is about to depart, there are as many devils that show up before him as the number of sins s/he has had; in the same way, a number of saints appear, according to the number of good deeds he did in his life. This is what St. Ephraim the Syrian indicates.

And there is a big “battle” at that moment. Because the holy powers are fighting with the devils over the soul, as the latter say it’s theirs, that is has more sins, while the angels say it has more good deeds. And there is a big battle over it and hence the soul is afraid to come out of its body. His/her tongue gets all tied up when s/he sees all these things. S/he sees a lot of things then, but cannot describe them. Otherwise s/he would say: “Look how many demons have come here!”

A week before he reposed in the Lord, Father Euthyme at the Agapia Veche Monastery saw how the angels were fighting the demons over his soul and exclaimed: “Look how they’re fighting! God’s angels wear golden wreaths on their head and they’re hitting the demons. Watch how they’re running away!”

This Father knew the time of his death a week before he reposed, as he was a man chosen by God, as nuns were saying. But not everyone gets to see such mysteries and is able to tell others about it; most people see them but cannot speak about them.

At the hour of death, the angel we have from our christening has much boldness. When he shows up, everyone steps aside. The angel that we have from the Holy Christening has much authority. Which is why, when you pray in your homes, after you have done your rule, do a few prayers to your angel, too, and say this: “Holy Angel, guardian of my life, pray to Lord Jesus Christ for me, the sinner!”

Because this angel not only guards us now, but also us at the time of our death. He travels with us through the aerial toll-houses, until 40 days pass; and we have him from our divine Christening as a great protector. If it weren’t for him, the devil would do with us whatever he would want.

Listen to the Psalm book: The one who guards you should never sleep. And again:God’s angel will go upon the ones who are afraid of Him and will deliver them. So it is clear that the angel is the one who guards us in this life and after we die, for 40 days.

So the angel comes and says: “Clear away, you demons. I know the life of this soul, ever since s/he was born.” And he starts speaking to the soul thus: “Don’t be afraid, my soul brother!” St. Gregory of Nyssa explains why he calls it brother. Because the angel and the soul are rational, autonomous, speaking, beings and are also spirits, as the Holy Scripture says: And they will all be like God’s angels.

[And the angel continues:] “Behold your body! There, my soul brother – that is your body, that is the house in which you have lived until now. It’s been within that shell that you were begotten by your mother’s womb; it was within it that you have lived for 20, 60, 80” – whatever number of years God has given us on earth (since all life strings are with God, not with us). “Remember, my soul brother, when  the Last Judgement trumpet calls, within the blink of an eye this body will come back to life, just as you see it now, and you will re-enter it and go to the Judgement, as Apostle Paul says: They will all stand before the Judgement Throne of Jesus Christ, to be rewarded according to their deeds, whether good or bad.

The guardian angel reminds him again: “Look, my soul brother, when you were a little child, your mother has sent you to bring a bucketful of water or vegetables from the garden or bring the geese back from the meadow or do this or that little household chore. Look, this is what your thoughts were then; this is what you understood then”. And he starts reminding the soul things from his/her early childhood, good deeds that s/he did in his/her body, as well as bad things. “Look, this is what you did when you were in your first grade, in the second grade, in the third grade; this is what you would do. Once you grew up to be a young girl or lad and went out into the world, and then got married, this is what you did”. And he reminds the soul everything s/he did from early childhood until the moment of his/her death, on every day and in every minute of his/her life. Because once it is out of the body, the soul has a very sharp memory. It is as clear as sunlight. The earth no longer pulls it down and neither does its body, to interfere with its memory. It sees everything as clearly as in a mirror.

So that is what happens on the first day after death.

On the second day, a more fearsome thing happens. The guardian angel takes him to all the places where man has been during his life. It is at this point that what is described in the Psalm book happens: What do I fear on the bad day? That the lawlessness of my heel will surround me.

The whole picture of man’s life is revealed to him on his second day after death. But you will ask me: “Father, how can man’s soul travel in one day to all the places he’s been to during his entire life?”

The soul will go around the whole globe in a blink of an eye. Both our soul and our guardian angel travel faster than lightning bolt, as the Bible says: They will run, oh, God, faster than lightning; the souls of the just will return to You, as we read in Ezekiel and in many other places.

The soul is a thinking being. No sooner than uttering a word and thinking it, I have already done the tour of the earth; like I would say now: Peking, New York, Moscow, Bucharest, Sihăstria [- and I’m already there].

The soul travels so quickly after we leave our bodies. And there is no problem for it whatsoever to travel with its guardian angel and visit all the places he has been to throughout his life. He will only think about the place and he’ll already be there, because it travels with the speed of thought.

So where does the angel take him on the second day? He takes him everywhere the man has been throughout his whole – life and shows him where he has done good things and where he has done bad things. He does nothing but show him the truth.

“Look, over here – you danced, you got drunk, you indulged in debauchery with so many women or men; you swore, you smoked, here you aborted that many children, here you insulted, here you stole, here you sang, here you were lazy, here you took revenge on someone. You have mocked, cursed, beaten. You have not confessed, you have not fasted, and you have taken the Eucharist while being unworthy of it.”

And he also shows him the good deeds: “Look, soul, here you went to Church; here you listened to the word of God, here you gave alms to the poor; here you taught the children about the fear of God; here you read the holy books, here you bore your troubles with joy; here you shared a useful piece of advice with another person; here you dressed the naked, here you gave water to the thirsty, here you received the strangers”.

He shows him everything, everything, and the poor soul cannot say anything, because he is only shown the truth, as the angel cannot lie. He shows him both the good and the bad things.

And the soul wonders at all that and asks the angel: – Holy Angel, how do you know about all these things? – How could I not know, if I have been with you all the time! You have eaten – but I cannot eat; you have slept – but I have not slept; you have drunk – but I cannot drink; you have sat idle – but I cannot do that. I am not a spirit that can eat, drink, or sleep. I have always been awake – as it is said in the Psalm book: Neither does the one who guards you, sleep. Because if I had not been next to you, the devils would have caused much misfortune, along with your seen and unseen enemies. I have defended you and I have always been near you and kept writing down your thoughts. Because I know both your thoughts and what you speak and do – be they good or bad.”

So that is what happens on the second day: the guardian angel takes the soul to all the places s/he has been to during his/her whole life.

But on the third day after death, the soul sees us [the people who have remained on earth]. S/he sees that his/her mother, sister, or husband, or wife weep after him/her and feels sorry for that. Yet s/he no longer cares for us [that much], as what s/he is thinking now is only his/her own welfare and says: “They stay on earth and will repent, because they still have time to do good deeds. But where am I going? Who will help me there?”

And so after having been to all the places that s/he has visited in his life, yet a more fearsome thing happens on the third day. Our soul is given yet more accompanying angels – they are six light-bearing angels, who, together with our guardian angel make seven in all – and their job is to help the soul through the terrifying toll-houses that are in the air.

You have heard of the 24 aerial toll-houses. Services are done for those who want mercy from God and help them escape from the spirits of darkness in the air.

The most important services that are done for the dying persons are the general Confession and the Holy Eucharist, as well as making peace with everyone. And right after death, the Holy Liturgy is served for 40 days, as well as food-sharing commemoration events that are held, along with forgiveness services and almsgiving, which help the soul best when it passes through the toll-houses – because the Church, our spiritual mother, prays at such a time for the poor soul, who is her son since the chrismation, to help it pass through the aerial toll-houses unhampered.

So what happens until the soul passes through the toll-houses? That is a time when man sees how useful it would have been for him to be confessed clear of his sins. If God had not left the mystery of the Holy Confession between Him and us, no man could be saved. As Apostle Jacob says: We all make many mistakes and no one is without sin.

But the mystery of Confession was left to us, between us and God; as this is the second chrismation, as the priest says – as you heard him say during confession: “Since through the second chrismation you were christened, through the Christian Mysteries”.

It is at this point that the soul realises how useful it would have been for him to have already been confessed, when he goes through the toll-houses.

Which is why I ask you to remember one thing: when you see that your mother, your sister, your brother, your wife, your grandchild, your father, daughter etc has fallen ill – don’t call in the doctor first, but the priest, and have them confess clear of all their sins.

A person must confess four times a year all his life: during the four Lents throughout his/her life, but especially when you see that s/he’s fallen seriously ill. When you see such a thing, have the priest come with no delay, to confess the person. Notwhen s/he is not able to speak any more or has become unconscious, but early, when their mind is clear and their memory is still working. And tell them: father, mother, my son, tell the priest everything you have done!

Ask them to write it all down, if they know they have done something, and to try to remember everything – because if you’ve managed to cause a successful confession, you will have “won” that person’s soul for redemption. Because listen to what the Holy Fathers say: Even if one has mortal sins, if s/he dies confessed, the Church will take him/her out [of the ensuing punishments]. The soul will then sit in hell only until it will clean off its sin(s), because the Holy Scripture says: Nothing unclean will ever enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Heard what a holy man says?

He saw there a sea of fire and pigeons as white as snow coming out of it and soaring to the sky. That sea was hell and you could hear moaning and crying coming out of it. “How come, oh God, that pigeons would fly out of the fire?” he wondered. What was happening was that the pigeons were the souls of the righteous people who had been purified through their canons while sitting in hell and had paid up everything they had to pay.

Because the Church intervenes on earth the most through the Holy Liturgy, as the sacrifice and our redemption are achieved through the blood of Jesus Christ, just as the Apostle says: His blood cleans all of our sins.

If s/he dies unconfessed and if – God forbid – s/he has heavy sins and has not done his/her canon, the Christian will do that in the beyond, in hell. But it is only the Church that will take him/her out of there, through the Holy Liturgy, through forgiveness services and almsgiving and as a result of that, s/he will go to heaven.

And if someone dies unconfessed from his youth and has had heavy, mortal sins, it is almost like dying without having ever been christened at all. All the services that are done here on earth for such a soul will help it very little, because nothing unclean shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

So that is how the devils have set up the toll-houses – so that, if possible, no Christian will go to heaven. Do you know why they have such hatred and envy against people? Because the souls of the righteous are completing their numbers – the numbers of the fallen angels. This is as long as God will keep this world – as St. Symeon the New Theologian shows – until the numbers of the fallen angels shall be completed by the souls of the righteous. Don’t you guys read the Psalm book?

Until the numbers of the fallen angels are completed – because there were very many of them, one third of all the angels, as the Revelation says: I have seen a large, red, devil that took down with its tail the third part of the heaven’s stars and threw them to the ground.

A third of the angels fell from all the Hosts, including from among the Cherubim and the Seraphim – all the angels who entertained Satan’s thought to become like God. And that is why the devils have such hatred against us, because they know that if it goes to Heaven, each soul will accomplish what the Scripture says: they will all be like God’s angels; they will replace them and take over their functions.

Which is why they sit in the air and say: “There, God threw us down from the sky, but these souls down here want to pass through to God and take our places!” So then God allows the devils to stand in the souls’ way and rightfully so, because God is not only merciful, but also just and has made these stations – or toll-houses – between heaven and earth in order to cast the souls of those who died unconfessed and who carry heavy sins, into hell.

This is how the toll-houses are ranged: the first toll-house is for evil-speaking; the second one, for gossiping/chattering; the third one, for anger; then follows the one for gluttony, and so on – from the smallest to the biggest sins.

And who has never badmouthed anyone? Who has never got angry in his life? Who has never been lazy? Who has never drunk a glassful too much? Who has never indulged in one’s thoughts, imagination or even through one’s deeds – in debauchery, drunkenness, in doubting one’s faith and in other bodily or spiritual sins, as we read in St. Theodora’s life?

Did you see St. Theodora’s comment, when she got to the drunkenness toll-house? “I was very surprised that the devils reminded me of all the glasses of wine and brandy that I had had in my life. And they would show me when I had done that, at what moment and who else had been there with me at the time and how many times I had gone drunk and how many times I had drunk. And I kept asking the holy angels:

– How do the devils know all these things?

– They were angels once!”

You should know, however, that ever since our chrismation, besides our good angel, who stands to our right, we also have a servant of the hell masters, a devil that sits on our left shoulder. That devil will write down every bad thing you have done and said and all the sins that you have done all throughout your life. All that time, the good angel will write down both the good and the bad deeds, as the Holy Book says. That is what Christ’s Church holds.

Now let’s see what happens to the soul of a confessed person, when the devil comes along with his “paper-roll” where he has written all the man’s sins. He will not find them there any more! At that point the devils yell, shout, and become furious that the soul, who had big sins, like abortions, debauchery, theft, cursing, drunkenness, and other things, does no longer have anything written in his record. When the Christian is forgiven through the priest on earth, the Holy Spirit erases all his sins in that record-book. Christ’s word that says:Everything that the priest forgives on earth will be forgiven in heaven, too – haven’t you heard that? And whatever he does not forgive on earth will not be forgiven in heaven, either.

Therefore, the mystery that confession is – is so great, that it has the power to cleanse man of any sin and give forgiveness for all his sins. Yet only if man was wise during his life on earth and confessed correctly will s/he cross the terrifying aerial toll-houses easily on the third day.

And his/her good deeds are weighed against the bad deeds. The good deeds are like gems, while the bad deeds are like ordinary stones or other heavy things.

The soul is very wise. He realises by himself where he will go. If at the toll-houses he sees that his sins weigh more than his good deeds, he starts crying heavily and gets sad, especially since he sees that there are thousands of devils that cannot wait snatching him at every toll station. And his guardian angel tells him:

– Don’t be afraid, brother soul, as one never knows God’s judgements. Don’t be afraid!

The soul will tuck under the angels’ wings when he sees so many devils. One devil alone is so ugly, that if he were to come here where we are now and show his face just as it is in hell, none of us will survive the horror. We would all die of such ugliness and terror at the sight of a fallen angel. So the soul, when he sees so many thousands of devils, gets under the angel’s wings and says:

– Please, my good angels, sirs, don’t leave me! I am so afraid of these!

And the angels tell him:

– Don’t be afraid, brother soul, as you are with us! We are God’s guards and our job is to accompany you! May God forbid you from falling into their hands after 40 days! But don’t worry for now, as we are here to guard you!

So on the third day, the soul goes through the toll-houses and it is precisely at that moment, three days after he left his body, that he is presented for the first time before the Throne of the Most Holy and Life-giving Trinity.

And what does he see there? The Holy Scripture says: Nobody has ever seen God. But what does the soul see, then? Since everybody saw Lord Jesus Christ – and wasn’t He God? Abraham saw Him, Moses saw Him; but they saw Him by allowance, as an imagined figure, as He wanted to show Himself. Otherwise, nobody has ever seen God’s Being, neither the Cherubim, nor the Seraphim. God’s Being is inaccessible to any rational mind in heaven and on earth.

So what does our soul see on the third day when he arrives before God’s Throne for the first time? This is what he sees, according to the Holy Fathers’ testimony: an indescribable shining light, which is billions of times stronger than the sun, and feels the scent of the Holy Spirit. He hears the Cherubim and the Seraphim chanting, as some sky-blue and golden clouds appear, drifting eastwards and the angels kneel on them together with the soul.

And the clouds come to a halt, facing eastwards. Because that is why – remember this – that is why we make the sign of the cross facing east when we do our prayers; because God’s throne is in the east. Have you seen what the Holy Scripture says? And they planted the heaven in Eden, eastwards. Haven’t you heard what Isaiah says? East is His name. Haven’t you read what the Psalm book says, that you have in your houses? God climbed above the heavens of heavens, towards east. So the Throne of the Holy Trinity is in the east.

So the clouds halt, with the angels and the soul kneeled on them. And on this third day, they hear this voice, in Abraham’s language: “Take this soul to Heaven for six days.” – as it is for six days that our soul will travel through Heaven, with the speed of thought. So then the angels take the soul away and with lightning speed, they take him to the Gardens of Heaven.

When the soul gets there with the angels, nobody can describe the beauty he sees. It is at such a time that he notices that a flower in Heaven – as St. Andrew says – is more precious than all the peoples of the world and than all the ornaments and riches of our time, because that flower has life and never withers or dies out.

There, the soul sees, as I’ve said, “the Heaven of pleasure”, “the Palace of the New Zion”, “the Heavenly Jerusalem” and all the other things that the Holy Scripture describes. Moreover, an unspeakable joy to the soul is when he hears the chanting of the millions of angels, Cherubim, and righteous souls who sing there. Then he sees the tents of the righteous, about which they say at the Panakide, as St. Cosmas says, who visited Heaven when he was still on earth. There is such beauty that one could admire only in that place alone!

He then arrives at some orchards that cover endless areas. Golden-leaved trees appear, with golden flowers and underneath each tree there is a tent and inside the tent is a golden table, and in those trees birds with wings of indescribable beauty sit, that never die.

And the soul wonders that one soul’s tent is made of silver; another soul’s tent is made of pearls; another one, of jacinth; another one, of onyx; another one yet, of sardonyx; others yet – of amethyst, ruby, sapphire, and all the other precious stones that the Revelation tells about.

He sees that the tables aren’t similar, either. And the trees bear 70 types of fruit on every branch. Even the leaves of the trees sing, as well as their flowers, and birds; and milk and honey streams flow through those orchards that are as clear as mirrors.

There is also a prevailing scent of the Holy Spirit that man cannot describe. But the biggest joy of all, upon the soul’s passage through Heaven is this: the moment he meets with his relatives.

Brothers, let me tell you that in all of our families, we have some members that are in Heaven and others that are in hell, as God is just. Those who have done wrong have gone to hell and those who have done good deeds have gone to Heaven. And when you get to Heaven, you don’t only recognise your grandfather or great-grandfather; but far many more souls than that.

If I asked you now: “Do you know your great-grandfather who lived 300 years ago?” – where would you know that from?! You’re barely familiar with the ones who lived 50 or 60 years ago. But up there in Heaven people recognise one another. St. John Chrysostom says: “Are you asking me if the souls know each other in Heaven? Consider the Scripture about the rich man and poor Lazarus. When did the rich man die and when did Abraham die? At a distance of thousands of years yet they knew each other and talked to each other”.

Up in Heaven, all your relatives who are in a good place – and dwell in golden palaces and precious stones and orchards – come to greet you and say: “You, grandson! You’re X’s son, or Y’s daughter, from that country and that village. We are your relatives. We died 100 or 300 years before you. You are X’s son; you don’t know us, but we know you. We know where you’re going. You’re on your way to your particular/individual judgement. After 40 days a decision will be made on where you will go – to Heaven or hell.

If you find mercy with God and He will send you to the good places, come to our abodes, as look what beauties we have here; what palaces and unimaginably wondrous things.”

And that is how his relatives and angels speak while they accompany him during the six days that they walk through Heaven.

During such moments, the soul completely forgets that s/he ever lived on this planet, that s/he had had a mother, a sister, a brother, etc… Because what s/he sees there are different kinds of joys, which completely surpass our transitory world. And when the guardian angel sees him rejoice so much – as no one can be sad in the joy that reigns everywhere in Heaven – comes to him and says (if he knows the soul is righteous): “My soul brother, look, after 40 days you will come and take a place here!”

And if he knows that he’s sinful, he tells him: “My brother soul, don’t rejoice, as I have not brought you here to stay. I have brought you to see what you have lost during the short time you had on earth, if you did not fear God and did not confess and fast and go to Church and do good things.”

When the soul hears that he will not stay in Heaven – as he initially thought, that he’ll stay there forever – for all the great joy that surrounds him in Heaven, he will become sad and start crying heartily.

– So I will not stay here? he asks his guardian angel.

– No, the angel replies. Your passage here is only to show you briefly what God-fearing people have earned and what the unfaithful ones, who have not honoured God, have lost.

So this is how the soul spends his six days in Heaven – and with the third days until he got to the Throne of the Holy Trinity, that makes nine. And after the nine days, again, the angels will come like lightning on clouds and will take him before the Most Holy Trinity, in the distant, thinking, Light. [Again,] he does not see God, as neither the Cherubim themselves do; there is only light – indescribable light [all around].

And the clouds halt and at that moment, after nine days, the soul hears these words, if he is righteous: “This soul is to receive the boundless joy and happiness of the nine angelic leagues.” And if he is sinful, he will hear: “This soul is not to receive the happiness and glory of the nine angelic leagues.”

At which point the angels take the soul and lead him south-west, to the places of hell, that have no limits. And that is when the soul sees what the Holy Scripture describes as “the lowest Hell”, “the Fountain of the deep”, and “the Lake of Fire” in the Revelation. That is where he sees the sleepless worm, about which our Lord Jesus Christ spoke; he will see the unquenched fire, the hell pit, the black fire that is billions of times hotter than earthly fire and whose depth has no limits.

That is where he sees the inner and outer darkness and hears the gnashing of teeth and sees the Tartar and all the other things you hear mentioned during the Holy Liturgy and read about in the Scripture.

And upon seeing so many kinds of punishments and devils, he also sees relatives of his there, being punished and tormented, just as he saw the others in the good places, earlier, in Heaven. And his relatives know where he is going and they will come out before him and call out to him:

“Our brother, nephew, cousin, uncle – you’re on your way to your particular/individual judgement. Please, remember us and pray to God for us, if He sends you to the good places. Because – look, we have been tormented here for so many years – for 200, 300, 500 years, each!”

Just as the soul was rejoicing earlier upon seeing his relatives in Heaven, so s/he grows sad now, upon seeing these relatives who have been sent to punishments for their sins.

And the 30 days in hell pass and with the 9 since he returned from Heaven, they add up to 39. And on the 40th day, the angels take him to the Throne of the Most Holy and Life-giving Trinity, for the third time, in the distant, thinking light, for worshipping.

And it is then, after the 40 days, that the soul hears the voice speaking to him in Abraham’s Aramaic language, if s/he is righteous: “Take this soul to Gan Eden.”, that is, to the place of boundless happiness and joy; and if, God forbid, s/he is sinful, s/he hears: “Take this soul to Sheol or Hades” – that is, to hell and torment.

For all their kindness and merciful nature, upon hearing God’s command to take the soul to hell, God’s angels will take it there.

If someone were to see at that point how the soul entreats the angels when he sees they will take him to the punishment places, the foundations of the earth will shake with so much crying. He gets under the angels’ wings and says:

– God’s most-holy and most-kind angels, please don’t leave me! Where are you taking me? In whose hands will you give me? Who will get me out of there now? Who will take mercy upon me now? Who on the face of the earth knows to what torments I am going now?

But the angels cry and tell him: – Brother soul, we are God’s servants, we follow His commands. We cannot do anything above what the Creator commanded: to take you to the good or to the bad places.

So if – God forbid – the soul has led a bad, sinful life, without having repented, they take him to the bad places, and if he is good and has observed God’s commands, they take him to Heaven. So it is all up to his good or bad deeds.

That is what happens 40 days after his death. Which is why the Church, our spiritual mother, takes great care in commemorating every reposed person after 3, 9, and 40 days, because that is when the decision is made where our soul will go – to the good or the bad place.

Once the 40 days have passed, there is only one little “exit gate” remaining for the soul. If the soul has lived in the true Orthodox faith and has been a true son of the Church of Christ and if he has not fallen pray to some sect or any other heresies or heavy sins and if he confessed and took the Eucharist, the Church can take him out of its hell punishment through its holy services and almsgiving.

The Church is our spiritual mother, from which we are born through the divine chrismation, through water and Spirit. The Church is the pillar and strengthening of the truth; the Church is the body of Christ; the Church is the Lamb’s Bride, as the Revelation says.

This is why the Church has much boldness before its Head in heaven, Lord Jesus Christ. You have heard what Christ says in the Scripture: I am the stock, the vine – that is, the trunk of the tree – and you are the branches; all the vines that stay within Me will bear much fruit, and those that do not stay within Me, will be cast into fire.

So, mind this! Whoever does not stay within the Church, does not stay within the Body of Christ. Whoever has broken away from the Church – like all these sectarians who have left it and spread throughout the world, since only in Europe alone there are 800 sects – they are all weeds in the wheat; they are Satan’s seeds. God, says the Scripture, haven’t you planted good seed in Your land? Where do the weeds come from? A wrathful man, — that is, the devil, has done that.

Sectarians are weeds that have grown in the shadow of the Church, people of distorted minds and faith, by which Satan wishes to lose others, too. Don’t listen to them! Whoever has broken off with the Church, has severed himself from the body of Christ.

To give you this example: if that tree over there were covered in bloom or fruit – a well-bearing tree – and a small twig fell off under the weight of its fruit, is that twig still going to bear fruit? What will happen to it? It will dry out and it will be thrown into the fire.

The same thing happens to the soul that has broken off with the Church – it has broken away from the body of Christ. Because the Church is – as Apostle Paul says – the body of Christ.

And that little twig, that soul that has broken off with the Church will never ever bear fruit, neither will it gain salvation. Because the Holy Spirit and the sap of the Holy Spirit comes only through the placing of hands, having been handed down all the way from the Apostles to the Bishops, from the Bishops to the Priests, and from the Priests it works down among the faithful, through the Mysteries that God decided that the Priest will prepare, as “economer” of His Mysteries. The Holy Spirit does not come into the Church in any other way.

Beware! Run away as fast as you can – like from the devils, from all of those who teach you not to worship the Holy Cross or to the Holy Mother of God, or not go to church or not listen to the priest. These people come with Satan in their hearts and in their mind, to break you away from the Church, from our dogmatic truth, from our Orthodox faith, which has remained unchanged for 2000 years, since Christ.

Sects mushroom nowadays. Most of them come from the West and originate from individuals that are sick in the mind. I have a sectology paper that was printed in Bucharest and I have shown there their history, where they come from, and their purpose. They come with the purpose of breaking our faith and our nation, and lose our souls!

Do not leave the ship of salvation. Do not leave the Church of Christ. The Church is our spiritual mother. She has born us through water and Spirit, upon chrismation. So, honour the Church and its Priests and Archierarchs, and the Holy Synod.

Stay near the Church that has been always ours. Be good Christians and citizens and fulfil Apostle Paul’s command: Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour and let no debt remain outstanding.

It is said in the Epistle to the Romans: Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. And again: Whoever therefore resists the power, resists the ordinance of God.

There is this cursed sect that has appeared, which is very dangerous to the country and the Church, called “Jehovah’s Witnesses”. These are the staunchest opponents of government and Church. Run away from them like from the devils, like from Satan! Not only that these folks aren’t Christian, but they are worse than all pagans – because they neither recognise the Church, nor the government, and they do not believe in Christ.

Watch out for every sect, remain sons of the Church of Christ, just as your parents and your grandparents and your ancestors have been from times immemorial.

Stay within the Church, stay next to our mother, who is the Church. Because – God forbid – even if a man goes to hell for his sins, the Church can still take him out through the holy Liturgy, commemorations, almsgiving, and sacrifice.

There is no salvation outside the Church. Whoever has left the Church no longer has Christ, because the Church is the body of Christ. Whoever has left the Church is no longer a son of God through the Gift of chrismation, but a son of Satan, for having broken off with his spiritual mother and followed his own mind and got lost.

God help you all. With that, I will end and I pray for all of you to have fear of God and never forget to pray – and also please pray for us sinners. Amen.

Source: here