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….




August 22, 2010 Leave a comment


O Thou Who by Thy inscrutable Providence didst prepare the world for eternal beatitude and Who appointest times and seasons and the manner of our end: Forgive, O Lord, those who have died in past ages all their sins, receive them into the realms of light and joy, hasten to open Thy Fatherly arms to them, and hear us who celebrate their memory and sing:

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


O Thou Who savest Adam and the whole human race from eternal perdition, Thou didst send Thy Son into the world, O Good God, and by His Cross and Resurrection Thou hast granted us also eternal life.  Trusting to Thy infinite mercy, we look for the deathless Kingdom of Thy Glory, we implore Thee to grant it to those who have fallen asleep, and we pray:  Gladden, O Lord, souls wearied by the storms of life, that earth’s sorrows and signings may not bury them in oblivion.  Hear them, O Lord, in Thy bosom, as a mother responds to her children, and say to them:  Your sins are forgiven you.  Receive them, O Lord, into Thy calm and blessed haven that they may rejoice in Thy divine glory.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


Enlightened by the illumination of the Most High, Saint Macarius heard a voice from a pagan skull:  “When you pray for those suffering in Hell, there is relief for the heathen.”  O wonderful power of Christian prayer, by which even the infernal regions are illumined!  Both believers and unbelievers receive comfort when we cry for the whole world: ALLELUIA.


Saint Isaac the Syrian once said:  “A merciful heart is one that burns with love for men and animals and for the whole of creation, and at all times offers prayers with tears that they may be purified and kept.”  Likewise we all boldly ask the Lord for help for all the dead from the beginning of time and cry:  Send down to us, O Lord, the gift of fervent prayer for the dead.  Remember, O Lord, all who have charged us, unworthy as we are, to pray for them, and pardon the sins they have forgotten.  Remember, O Lord, all who have been buried without prayer.  Receive, O Lord, into Thy dwellings all who have died of sorrow or joy by a sudden or untimely death.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


We are to blame for the calamities in the world, for the sufferings of dumb creatures, and for the diseases and torments of innocent children, for through the fall of man the beatitude and beauty of all creation has been marred.  O Christ our God, greatest of innocent Sufferers!  Thou alone canst forgive all.  Forgive, then, all and everything, and grant to the world its primordial prosperity, that the living and the dead may rejoice and cry:  ALLELUIA.


O Glad Light, Redeemer of the world, embracing the whole universe with Thy love:  behold, Thy cry from the Cross for Thy enemies is heard:  “Father, forgive them.”  In the name of Thy all-forgiving love we make bold to pray to our Heavenly Father for the eternal repose of Thy enemies and ours.  Forgive, O Lord, those who have shed innocent blood, those who have sown our path of life with sorrows, those who have waded to prosperity through the tears of their neighbors.  Condemn not, O Lord, those who persecute us with slander and malice. Repay with mercy those whom we have wronged or offended through ignorance, and grant that our prayer for them may be holy through the sacrament of reconciliation.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


Save, O Lord, those who have died in grievous sufferings, those who were murdered, those buried alive, those who were drowned or burned, those who were torn by wild beasts, those who died of hunger or cold, from exposure in storms, or by falling from heights, and grant them all eternal joy for the sorrow of their death..  May the time of their suffering be blessed as a day of redemption, for which they sing:  ALLELUIA.


Recompense with the compassion of Thy infinite love, O Lord, all who have died in the full flush of their youth, who received on earth the thorny crown of suffering, who never experienced earthly joy.  Grant recompense to those who died from overwork, through exploitation or sweated labor.  Receive, O Lord, into the bridal halls of Paradise boys and girls, and grant them joy at the marriage supper of Thy Son.  Comfort and console the grief of parents over their dead children.  Give rest, O Lord, to all who have no one to offer prayer for them to Thee, their Creator, that their sins may vanish in the dazzling light of Thy forgiveness.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


Thou hast given us death as a last prodigy to bring us to our senses and to repentance, O Lord.  In its threatening light, earthly vanity is exposed, carnal passions and sufferings become subdued, insubmissive reason is humbled. Eternal justice and righteousness opens to our gaze, and then the godless and those burdened with sins confess on their deathbed Thy real and eternal existence and cry to Thy mercy:  ALLELUIA.


O Father of all consolation and comfort, Thou brightenest with the sun, delightest with fruits, and galddenest with the beauty of the world both Thy friends and enemies.  And we believe that even beyond the grave Thy loving kindness, which is merciful even to all rejected sinners, does not fail.  We grieve for hardened and wicked blasphemers of Thy Holiness.  May Thy saving and gracious will be over them.  Forgive, O Lord, those who have died without repentance.  Save those who have committed suicide in the darkness of their mind, that the flame of their sinfulness may be extinguished in the ocean of Thy grace.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


Terrible is the darkness of a soul separated from God, the torments of conscience, the gnashing of teeth, the unquenchable fire and the undying worm.  I tremble at the thought of such a fate, and I pray for those suffering in Hell as for myself.  May our song descend upon them as refreshing dew as we sing:  ALLELUIA.


Thy light, O Christ our God, has shone upon those sitting in the darkness and shadow of death and those in Hell who cannot cry to Thee.  Descend into the infernal regions of the earth, O Lord, and bring out into the joy of grace Thy children who have been separated from Thee by sin but who have not rejected Thee.  For they suffer cruelly.  Have mercy on them.  For they sinned against Heaven and before Thee, and their sins are infinitely grievous, and Thy mercy is infinite.  Visit the bitter misery of souls separated from Thee.  Have mercy, O Lord, on those who hated the truth out of ignorance.  May Thy love be to them not a consuming fire but the coolness of Paradise:

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


Endeavoring to give help by Thy might power to Thy servants who have fallen asleep, Thou hast appeared to their loved ones, O Lord, in mysterious visions clearly inspiring them to pray, that they may remember the departed, and do good works and labors of faith and love for them, crying:  ALLELUIA.


The universal Church of Christ unceasingly offers prayers every hour for the departed throughout the world, for the sins of the world are washed away by the most pure Blood of Thy divine crown, and the souls of those who have fallen asleep are translated from death to life and from earth to Heaven by the power of the prayers offered for them at God’s altars.  May the intercession of the Church for the dead, O Lord, be a ladder to Heaven. Have mercy on them, O Lord, through the intercession of the most holy Mother of God and all the Saints.  Forgive them their sins for the sake of Thy faithful who cry day and night to Thee.  For the sake of innocent children, O Lord, have mercy on their parents, and by the tears of their mothers, forgive the sins of their children.  For the sake of the prayers of innocent sufferers and the blood of martyrs, spare and have mercy on sinners.  Receive, O Lord, our prayers and alms as a memorial of their virtues.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


The whole world is a sacred and common graveyard, for in every place is the dust of our fathers and brothers.  O Christ our God, Who alone unchangeably lovest us, forgive all who have died from the beginning till now, that they may sing with infinite love:  ALLELUIA.


The day is coming, as a burning furnace, the great and terrible day of the Last Judgment, when the secrets of men will be revealed and the books of conscience will be torn apart.  “Be reconciled with God!”  cries the Apostle Paul.  “Be reconciled before that terrible day.”  Help us, O Lord, to fill up with the tears of the living what was lacking in the dead.  May the sound of the Angel’s trumpet, O Lord, be to them the glad announcement of their salvation and the joyful manumission of their freedom at the hour of Thy judgment.  Crown with glory those who have suffered for Thee, O Lord, and cover the sins of the weak with Thy goodness.  O Lord, Who knowest all by name, remember those who have sought salvation in the monastic life.  Remember the blessed pastors with their spiritual children.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


Bless swiftly passing time.  For every hour, every moment brings eternity nearer.  A new sorrow, a new gray hair are heralds of the coming world, witnesses of earthly corruption, for all is passing (they tell us) and the Eternal kingdom draws near, where there is no sorrow, no sighing, no tears, but joyful singing: ALLELUIA.


Just as a tree loses its leaves after a time, so our days after a certain number of years come to an end.  The festival of youth fades, the lamp of joy goes out, the alienation and dispossession of old age approaches.  Friends and relations die.  Where are you, young merrymakers?  Their tombs are silent, but their souls are in Thy hand.  Let us think how they watch us from the spiritual world.  O Lord, Who art the brightest Sun, illumine and warm the abodes of those who have fallen asleep.  May the time of our bitter separation pass for ever.   Grant us a joyful meeting in Heaven.  Grant that all may be one with Thee, O Lord.  Restore to the departed, O Lord, the purity of childhood and the genial spirit of youth, and may eternal life be to them a Paschal Festival.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


Shedding silent tears at the graves of our relatives, we pray with hope, and cry expectantly:  Tell us, O Lord, that their sins are forgiven.  Give our spirit a secret assurance of it, that we may sing:  ALLELUIA.


Looking back, I see the whole of our past life.  What a vast multitude of people have departed from the first day until now!  And many of them have done me good.  In gratitude for what I owe them, with love I cry to Thee:  Grant heavenly glory, O Lord, to my parents and those near and dear to me who watched over my cradle in childhood, and reared and educated me.  Glorify, O Lord, in the presence of the Holy Angels all who have told me the glad tidings of salvation and have taught me what is right and good, just and true by the holy example of their lives.  Fill with delight, O Lord, those who fed me on hidden manna in the days of my sorrow and affliction.  Recompense and save all benefactors and all who have helped others personally and by prayer.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


O death, where is thy sting?  Where is the gloom and terror that held sway in the past?  From now on thou art the longed for means of inseparable union with God.  Oh, the great peace of the mystical Sabbath!  We long to die and to be with Christ, cries the Apostle.  Therefore, we too look upon death as the gateway to eternal life, and cry:  ALLELUIA.


The dead will rise and those who are in the graves will stand up, and those who are alive on earth will exult when they stand with their spiritual bodies, radiantly glorious and incorrupt.  Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord:  “I will bring upon you a spirit of life, and will lay sinews upon you; and I will bring flesh upon you, and cover you with skin.”  Rise out of the ancient past, you who are redeemed by the Blood of the Son of God, restored to life by His death, for the light of the Resurrection has dawned upon you. Open to them now, O Lord, the whole abyss of Thy perfections.  Thou hast shone upon them with the light of the sun and moon, that they may see the glory of the radiant choirs of Angels, Thou hast delighted them with the magnificence of the heavenly lights of East and West, that they may also see the never-setting light of Thy Divinity.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


Flesh and blood will not inherit the Kingdom of God. While we live in the flesh, we are separated from Christ. And if we die, we live for eternity.  For our corruptible body must put on incorruption, and this mortal nature must shine with immortality, that in the light of the eternal day we may sing: ALLELUIA.


We expect to meet the Lord, we expect the clear dawn of the Resurrection, we expect the rousing from their tombs of our dead relatives and acquaintances and their restoration to the most holy beauty of life.  And we rejoice in the coming transfiguration of all creation, and cry to our Creator: O Lord, Who didst create the world for the triumph of joy and goodness, Who hast restored us to holiness from the depths of sin, grant that the dead may reign in the new creation, and may shine as heavenly lights in the day of their glory.  May the Divine Lamb be their perpetual light.  Grant, O Lord, that we too may celebrate with them a deathless Passover.  Unite the dead and the living in unending joy.

O Lord of unutterable Love, remember Thy servants who have fallen asleep.


O most merciful and eternal Father, Whose will it is that all should be saved, Who didst send Thy Son to the lost and didst pour out Thy Life-giving Spirit: Have mercy on our relatives and those who are near and dear to us who have fallen asleep, and on all who have died throughout the ages; forgive and save them, and by their intercession visit us, that with them we may shout to Thee, our God and Saviour, the song of victory: ALLELUIA. (3 times)

Then the First Ikos and Kontakion.


O God of spirits and all flesh, Who hast trampled down death, overthrown the devil, and given life to Thy world: Give rest, O Lord, to the souls of Thy servants who have fallen asleep, Patriarchs, Metropolitans, Archbishops, Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Monks and Nuns, and all who have served Thee in Thy Church; the founders of all Churches and Monasteries, and all Orthodox forefathers, fathers, brothers and sisters who lie here and everywhere; officers and men of the armies and navies who have laid down their lives for their Faith and country, all the faithful killed in civil wars, all who were drowned, burned, frozen to death, torn by wild beasts, all who died suddenly without repentance and had no time to be reconciled with the Church and with their enemies; all who took their own lives in a moment of mental unbalance; all who have asked us to pray for them, and those who have no one to pray for them, and all who died without a Christian burial, (NAMES), in a place of light, in a place of refreshment, in a place of repose, whence all suffering, sorrow, and sighing have fled away.  Forgive every sin committed by them in thought, word and deed, for Thou art the good God and Lover of men.  For there is no one who lives without sinning.  Thou alone art without sin, and Thy righteousness in eternal righteousness, and Thy Word is Truth.

For Thou art the Resurrection, the Life, and the Repose of Thy servants who have fallen asleep (NAMES), O Christ our God, and to Thee we send up glory, with Thy Eternal Father, and Thy Holy and Good and Lifegiving Spirit, both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Categories: Prayers

Akathist to our Father Among the Saints NICHOLAS Archbishop of Myra and Lycia

August 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Kontakion 1

Chosen Wonderworker and superb servant of Christ, who poured out for all the world the most precious myrrh of mercy and an inexhaustible ocean of miracles, I praise you with love, Saint Nicholas; and as you have boldness towards the Lord, deliver me from all adversities that I may call to you: Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Ikos 1

The Lord of all creation made you an Angel in mannerism though earthly by nature. Foreseeing the fruitful beauty of your soul, blessed Nicholas, he taught all to cry to you:

Rejoice, for you were purified from your mother’s womb;
Rejoice, for you kept holy even to the end;
Rejoice, for you amazed your parents by your birth;
Rejoice, for you showed soon after your birth the vigor of your soul;
Rejoice, garden of the land of promise;
Rejoice, flower of divine planting;
Rejoice, virtuous vine of Christ’s vineyard;
Rejoice, wonderworking tree of the Paradise of Jesus;
Rejoice, lily of heavenly growth;
Rejoice, myrrh of the fragrance of Christ;
Rejoice, for through you lamentation is banished;
Rejoice, for you bring to all joy;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 2
Seeing the flow of the myrrh, O divinely wise Saint, our souls and bodies are enlightened, and we realize that you are a wonderful, living source of unction, O Nicholas. For you refresh with miracles as with waters poured out by the grace of God those who faithfully cry to Him: Alleluia!

Ikos 2

Teaching incomprehensible knowledge about the Holy Trinity you were a champion of the confession of the Orthodox faith with the holy fathers in Nicea. For you confessed the Son equal to the Father, co-eternal and co-enthroned, and you convicted the foolish Arias. Therefore, you have taught the faithful to sing to you:

Rejoice, great pillar of holiness;
Rejoice, city of refuge for the faithful;
Rejoice, firm stronghold of Orthodoxy.
Rejoice, venerable vessel and praise of the Holy Trinity;
Rejoice, preacher of the Son equal in honor with the Father;
Rejoice, expeller the bedeviled Arias from the council of the saints;
Rejoice, glorious beauty of the fathers;
Rejoice, wise goodness of all the divinely wise;
Rejoice, speaker of fiery words;
Rejoice, righteous director of your flock;
Rejoice, for through you faith is strengthened.
Rejoice; for through you heresy is defeated;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 3
By the power given you from on high you dry every tear from the face of those in terrible suffering, O God-bearing father Nicholas. For you are a feeder of the hungry, a superb pilot for those on the high seas, and a healer of the sick, and you have proved to be a helper to all who cry to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 3
Truly a song ought to be sung to you from heaven, and not from earth, Father Nicholas; for how can a mere man proclaim the greatness of your holiness? But, conquered by your love, we cry to you:

Rejoice, model of lambs and shepherds;
Rejoice, holy purification of morals;
Rejoice, container of great virtues;
Rejoice, pure and honorable abode of holiness;
Rejoice, bright lamp beloved by all;
Rejoice, pure and golden-rayed light;
Rejoice, worthy collocutor of Angels;
Rejoice, good director of men;
Rejoice, rule of pious faith;
Rejoice, model of spiritual meekness;
Rejoice, for through you we are delivered from bodily passions;
Rejoice, for through you we are filled with spiritual delights;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 4
A storm of bewilderment confuses my mind. How can we worthily sing of your miracles, O blessed Nicholas? For no one could count them, even if he had many tongues and the best will in the world. But we boldly too sing to God who is wonderfully glorified in you: Alleluia!

Ikos 4
People near and far heard of the greatness of your miracles, O divinely wise Nicholas, that in the air with the delicate wings of grace you are accustomed to help all in adversity, and quickly deliver all who cry to you:

Rejoice, deliverance from sorrow;
Rejoice, channel of grace;
Rejoice, dispeller of unexpected evils;
Rejoice, planter of good desires;
Rejoice, quick comforter of those in adversity;
Rejoice, dread punisher of wrongdoers;
Rejoice, abyss of miracles poured out by God;
Rejoice, tablets of the law of Christ written by God;
Rejoice, strong uplift of the falling;
Rejoice; support of those who stand aright;
Rejoice, exposer of all deception;
Rejoice, for through you all truth is realized;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 5
You appeared as a God-ward racing star, guiding those in distress at sea, who were once threatened with imminent death if you had not come to the help of those who called upon you, O wonderworker Saint Nicholas, for you forbid the flying devils who shamelessly wanted to sink the ship, and you drove them away, and taught the faithful to cry to God Who saves through you: Alleluia!

Ikos 5
The girls prepared for a dishonorable marriage on account of their poverty, saw your great mercy for the poor, Holy Father Nicholas, when you secretly gave their old parent at night the three little bundles of gold, thereby saving him and his daughter from falling into sin. Therefore you hear from all:

Rejoice, treasure of greatest mercy;
Rejoice, friend of providing for people;
Rejoice, food and refreshment of those who have recourse to you;
Rejoice, inexhaustible bread of the hungry;
Rejoice, God-giving wealth of those living in poverty on earth;
Rejoice; quick uplifting of the poor;
Rejoice; speedy hearing of beggars;
Rejoice, acceptable care of the sorrowful;
Rejoice, pure provider for the three maidens;
Rejoice, zealous guardian of purity;
Rejoice, hope of the hopeless;
Rejoice, delight of the whole world;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 6
The whole world proclaims you, blessed Nicholas, as a quick intercessor in adversities; for frequently you precede those traveling by land and those sailing on the sea, and help them in a single hour, keeping from evils all who cry to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 6
You shone as a living light, bringing deliverance to the war leaders who had been sentenced to an unjust death, and who called to you, good shepherd Nicholas, when you quickly appeared in a dream to the emperor, and terrified him and ordered him to release them unharmed. Therefore together with them we gratefully cry to you:

Rejoice, helper of those who invoke you fervently;
Rejoice, deliverer from unjust death;
Rejoice, preserver from lying insult;
Rejoice, foiler of unjust plans;
Rejoice, for you tear lies to shreds like cobwebs;
Rejoice, for you gloriously exalt the truth;
Rejoice, deliverer of the innocent from their chains;
Rejoice, revival of the dead;
Rejoice, preacher of righteousness;
Rejoice, exposer of unrighteousness;
Rejoice, for through you the innocent were saved from the sword;
Rejoice, for through you they enjoyed the light;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 7
Wishing to dispel the blasphemous stench of heresy you appeared as a truly fragrant, mystical myrrh, O Nicholas. By shepherding the people of Myra, you filled the whole world with your gracious myrrh. And dispelled from us the stench of sin hateful to the Divine mind, that we may acceptably cry to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 7
We understand you to be a new Noah, a guide of the ark of salvation, Holy Father Nicholas, who dispels the storm of all evils by your spiritual direction, and bring divine calm to those who cry to you:

Rejoice, quiet heaven of those bestormed;
Rejoice, sure protection of those who are drowning;
Rejoice, good pilot of those sailing amid whirlpools;
Rejoice, for your prayers calm the raging of the sea;
Rejoice, guide of those in whirlwinds;
Rejoice, warmth of those in frosts;
Rejoice, radiance which dispels the gloom of sorrow;
Rejoice, light which illumines all the ends of the earth;
Rejoice, for you deliver people from the abyss of sin;
Rejoice, for you cast Satan into the abyss of hell;
Rejoice, for through you we boldly invoke the abyss of God’s mercy;
Rejoice, for through you we are saved from the flood of wrath, and find peace with God;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 8
Your holy church proves a strange wonder to those who flock to you, blessed Nicholas; for by offering in it even a small prayer, we receive healing from great illnesses, if only, after God, we put our hope in you and faithfully cry: Alleluia!

Ikos 8
You are truly a helper to all, O God-bearing Nicholas, and you have gathered together all who have recourse to you, for you are a deliverer, feeder and quick healer to all on earth, and you move all to praise you:

Rejoice, source of all kinds of healing;
Rejoice, helper of those in terrible suffering;
Rejoice, dawn shining for those wandering in the night of sin;
Rejoice, heaven-sent dew for those in the heat of labors;
Rejoice, giver of prosperity to those who require it;
Rejoice, for you prepare an abundance for those who ask;
Rejoice, for you often forestall prayer;
Rejoice, for you restore strength to the old and gray-headed;
Rejoice, convictor of many who have wandered from the true way;
Rejoice, faithful steward of the mysteries of God;
Rejoice, for through you we conquer jealousy;
Rejoice, for through you we lead a good life;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 9
Allay all our pains, O our great intercessor Nicholas, and grant gracious healings to delight our souls and rejoice the hearts of all who run fervently to you for help and cry to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 9
The sophisticated spokesmen of the impious, we see, were put to shame by you, O divinely wise Father Nicholas; for you confuted Arias the blasphemer who divided the God-head and Sabellius who confounded the Holy Trinity, but you have strengthened us in Orthodoxy. Therefore we cry to you:

Rejoice, shield that defends piety;
Rejoice, sword that cuts down impiety;
Rejoice, teacher of the divine commandments;
Rejoice, destroyer of anti-God doctrines;
Rejoice, ladder set up by God by which we mount to heaven;
Rejoice, God-given protection, by which many are sheltered;
Rejoice, for by your words the unwise are made wise;
Rejoice, for you stir the slothful by your example;
Rejoice, inextinguishable light of God’s commandments;
Rejoice, bright ray of the Lord’s precepts;
Rejoice, for through your teaching the heads of heretics are crushed;
Rejoice, for through you the faithful are granted glory;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 10
Wishing to save your soul, you truly subjected your body to the spirit, O our Father Nicholas. For by silence first and by wrestling with thoughts, you added contemplation to activity; and by contemplation you didst acquired perfect knowledge with which you boldly conversed with God and the Angels, always crying: Alleluia!

Ikos 10
You are a wall; O blessed Nicholas, to those who praise your miracles and to all who seek your protection. Therefore, free us who are poor in virtue from poverty, adversity, sickness and want of various kinds, as we cry to you with love:

Rejoice, rescuer from eternal misery;
Rejoice, granter of incorruptible riches;
Rejoice, imperishable food for those who hunger for righteousness;
Rejoice, inexhaustible drink for those who thirst for life;
Rejoice, for you preserve us from revolution and war;
Rejoice, for you free us from chains and imprisonment;
Rejoice, glorious intercessor in misfortunes;
Rejoice, great defender in temptations;
Rejoice, for you have snatched many from perdition;
Rejoice, for you have kept countless numbers unharmed;
Rejoice, for through you sinners escape a frightful death;
Rejoice, for through you those who repent obtain eternal life;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 11
Your life was a song to the Most Holy Trinity, surpassing others in thought, word and deed, O Most blessed Nicholas. For with much research you explained the precepts of the true faith, teaching us to sing with faith, hope and love to the one god in Trinity: Alleluia!

Ikos 11
We see you as a bright storm lantern for those in the darkness of this life, O God-chosen Father Nicholas. For you conversed with the immaterial angelic lights concerning the uncreated light of the Trinity, and you enlighten the souls of the faithful who cry to you:

Rejoice, radiance of the triune Light;
Rejoice, daystar of the never-setting Sun;
Rejoice, lamp lit by the divine Flame;
Rejoice, for you have extinguished the devilish flame of impiety;
Rejoice, bright preaching of true faith;
Rejoice, luminous radiance of the light of the Gospel;
Rejoice, lightning that consumes heresy;
Rejoice, thunder which terrifies sinners;
Rejoice, teacher of true knowledge;
Rejoice, revealer of the secret mind;
Rejoice, for through you the worship of creatures has been abolished;
Rejoice, for through you we have learned to worship the Creator in the Trinity;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 12
Knowing the grace that has been given to you by God, we joyfully celebrate your memory, most glorious Father Nicholas, and with all our soul we crave your wonderful intercession. Unable to count your glorious deeds which are like the sand of the sea and the profusion of stars, in utter bewilderment we cry to God: Alleluia!

Ikos 12
While we sing of your wonders, we praise you, O all-praised Nicholas. For in you God who is glorified in the Trinity has been wonderfully glorified. But even if we were to offer you with all our soul a multitude of psalms and songs, O holy wonder worker, we should do nothing to equal the gift of your miracles, and amazed by them we cry to you:

Rejoice, servant of the King of kings and Lord of lords;
Rejoice, co-dweller with His heavenly servants;
Rejoice, support of faithful kings;
Rejoice, exaltation of Christendom;
Rejoice, namesake of victory;
Rejoice, eminent victor;
Rejoice, mirror of all the virtues;
Rejoice health of our bodies and salvation of our souls;
Rejoice, strong buttress of all who have recourse to you;
Rejoice, after God and the Mother of God, all our hope;
Rejoice, for through you we are delivered from eternal death;
Rejoice, for through you we are granted eternal life;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 13 (read three times)
O Most holy and wonderful Father Nicholas, comfort of all in sorrow, accept our present offering, and pray to the Lord that we may be delivered from Gehenna through your gracious intercession, that with you we may sing: Alleluia!

Ikos 1
The Lord of all creation made you an Angel in mannerism though earthly by nature. Foreseeing the fruitful beauty of your soul, blessed Nicholas, he taught all to cry to you:

Rejoice, for you were purified from your mother’s womb;
Rejoice, for you kept holy even to the end;
Rejoice, for you amazed your parents by your birth;
Rejoice, for you showed soon after your birth the vigor of your soul;
Rejoice, garden of the land of promise;
Rejoice, flower of divine planting;
Rejoice, virtuous vine of Christ’s vineyard;
Rejoice, wonderworking tree of the Paradise of Jesus;
Rejoice, lily of heavenly growth;
Rejoice, myrrh of the fragrance of Christ;
Rejoice, for through you lamentation is banished;
Rejoice, for you bring to all joy;
Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Kontakion 1
Chosen Wonderworker and superb servant of Christ, who poured out for all the world the most precious myrrh of mercy and an inexhaustible ocean of miracles, I praise you with love, Saint Nicholas; and as you have boldness towards the Lord, deliver me from all adversities that I may call to you: Rejoice, Great Wonderworker Nicholas!

Prayer to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker

Let us pray to our Holy Hierarch Father Nicholas, Archbishop of Myra in Lycia, let us all say:

O Holy Hierarch Father Nicholas pray unto God for us.

O all-praised and all-honored Hierarch, great Wonderworker and Saint of Christ, Father Nicholas, man of God and faithful slave, man of desires, chosen vessel, strong pillar of the Church, most brilliant light, star which illumines and enlightens the whole universe: you are a righteous man flourishing like a palm-tree planted in the courts of your Lord. Living in Myra you diffused the fragrance of myrrh, and you poured out the ever-flowing myrrh of the grace of God. By your presence, most holy Father, the sea was blessed, when your most wonderful relics were carried to the town of Bari from east to west to praise the name of the Lord. O most gracious and marvelous wonderworker, speedy helper, fervent intercessor, good shepherd who saves his spiritual flock from all kinds of harm, we glorify and magnify you as the hope of all Christians, a source of miracles, protector of the faithful, most wise teacher, feeder of the hungry, joy of the sorrowful, clothier of the naked, healer of the sick, guide of those who sail on the sea, liberator of prisoners, feeder and defender of widows and orphans, guardian of chastity, gentle tutor of children, support of the aged, director of fasters, rest of those who turn to you for protection, intercede on our behalf with the Most High, and obtain through your powerful prayers all that is useful for the salvation of our souls and bodies. Protect this holy community, every town and village, and every Christian country and the people there resident.

Especially protect those who are serving in the Armed Forces, those who provide support to them, those who oversee their efforts and who make their plans, the officers, the military leaders, our Congress, Senate and President. Remember those who supply their physical needs, and those who minister to them spiritually and physically. Grant that these may serve in holiness and honor, guarding this God-protected land from invasion of enemies, from acts of terror, and from every enemy who sets themselves against us. Remember, O Lord, your servants and handmaids:

[names of the living who are serving in the Armed Forces]

Remember also, O Lord, those who have served in this capacity, those who have sacrificed to provide for our security and to secure our freedom in previous times, especially the servants and handmaids:

[names of the living who have completed their service]

Remember also, O Lord, those who have fallen asleep in defending us. For although we have accomplished no good on earth, these have sacrificed, that perhaps for a good man or woman they may have dared to die. And so we come to you now and beseech Your mercy, remember in Your heavenly Kingdom the servants and handmaids:

[names of the departed who have died in the service of our country],

granting to them a place of brightness, a place of rest, a place of refreshment, where there is no sickness, sorrow, or sighing, but where the sight of Your Face brings joy to Your saints from all the ages. Grant them Your Kingdom, and a portion of Your eternal blessings, and the enjoyment of Your unending Life.

Deliver all of us from all evil through your help, blessed Father Nicholas; for we know that the prayer of a righteous man is a great and potent force for good. Next to the Most Blessed Theotokos, we have you as a righteous intercessor with the All-Merciful God, and to your fervent intercession and protection, most gracious Father, we humbly have recourse. Keep us, as a watchful and good shepherd, from all enemies, from pestilence, earthquake, hail, famine, flood, fire, the sword, invasion of enemies and civil war, and in all our adversities and afflictions give us a helping hand and open the doors of God’s mercy; for we are unworthy to behold high heaven on account of the multitude of our sins; we are bound by the bonds of sin and have not done the will of our Creator nor kept His commandments. Therefore, in repentance and humility, we bow the knees of our hearts to our Maker, and entreat your fatherly intercession with Him. Help us, Saint of God, lest we perish with our sins; deliver us from evil and from every hostile power, direct our minds and strengthen our hearts in true faith which, through your intercession, neither wounds, nor threats, nor epidemics, nor the wrath of our Creator shall lessen; but grant that we may live a peaceful life here and that we may see the good things in the land of the living, glorifying the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God worshipped and glorified in Trinity, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Wisdom, Most Holy Theotokos save us.

More honorable than the Cherubim, and more glorious beyond compare than the Seraphim. Without defilement you gave birth to God the Word. True Theotokos, we magnify you.

Glory to you O Christ, our God and our hope, glory to You.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Lord, have mercy. (3X)

Father, bless!

Categories: Prayers

The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Mother of God and Ever-Virgin Mary

August 14, 2010 Leave a comment

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Categories: Orthodox Feasts

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

The veneration of the Theotokos according to the Bible

August 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Why we honour the Mother of the Lord?

By Elder Cleopa

We, Orthodox Christians honour the Theotokos Mary more than all the saints and angels of heaven for she was found worthy to give birth to Christ, the Saviour of the world by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. The honour we render to the Mother of the Lord is exceptional, most honourable and most revered, for she is not only “a friend of His” same as the other Saints but she is Most Holy (Panagia) above all the saints and all the angels.

For this the angels as much as the people venerate and honour her with prayers, hymns, church services and eulogies. Similarly the Archangel Gabriel greeted her at the annunciation (Luke 1:28-29) as well as Saint Elizabeth, the mother of Saint John the Baptist (Luke 1:40-43).

The Most Holy Virgin herself prophesied through the Holy Spirit “for behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; for He that is mighty has done to me great things ….. (Luke 1:48-49). From these words we understand the exceptional honour accorded to the Mother of the Lord is intentional and appointed by God Himself. This exceptional honour that is accorded by the Orthodox Church to the Ever Virgin Mary forms the veneration of the Mother of the Lord.

In the framework of the veneration of the Most Holy Theotokos, we firstly mention the great feasts of the Mother of God, which are: The birth of the Most Holy Theotokos, the Entry, the Annunciation, and the Dormition of the Theotokos. Then the services done in the Churches and the monasteries in her honour, the salutations, the canons of supplications, the hagiographic icons decorated so beautifully, especially the miraculous ones, and many other prayers through which we ask the help of the Mother of the Lord every day of our lives.

We honour the Mother of God because she is the mother who gave birth to the Son of God and the first one who intercedes for the world in the presence of the Most Holy Trinity. She helps us much more in the conquest of salvation by her holy prayers.

However in the long history, there appear some whom we call heretics or followers of other confessions (neoprotestants) who blasphemed her as much as they do the Saviour and His Bible.

The holy Apostle Paul in his epistles indicates that in the latter days will appear people who cannot tolerate the teaching of the true faith, but will place teachers agreeable to their works, the come close to fairy tales. Namely, while they see the true faith, they will deny her power, always preaching and not being able to reach the true faith; “Now, as Jannes and Jambes opposed Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds and reprobate of faith. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2Tim 3:8, 13).

We, since the creation of this nation that is how we are known, Romians and Orthodox Christians. That is how we were born and we are duty bound to maintain pure and complete whatever we inherited from our ancestors as from God Himself. For the Apostle Paul says: “therefore brethren stand fast and keep the traditions which you have been taught whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess 2:15).

The Protestants and with them the heretic  neoprotestants – followers of other contemporary confessions- of our day, the so called “the repented ones” among their many mind confusions and their false preaching, blaspheme far more the Most Holy Theotokos and the Ever Virgin Mary. These blasphemers of the Mother of the Lord say that we should not accord her great honour because her Son, Jesus Christ Himself did not render her any honour. Apparently from the words of the Saviour who said: “The one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, who is my mother? And who is my brethren? And He stretched forth his hand toward the disciples and said, Behold My mother and My brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of the Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother” (Matt 12:47-50).The fact then that the Virgin Mary was His mother had no significance to Him, His blood relationship or physical relation had no value or preference against His spiritual relationships with those who do the will of the Father, whosoever they may be.

Furthermore, they add that this is obvious from the way the Lord addressed her and during some other occasions He called her woman, which means she was married, namely not a virgin, for in this way the word of the Bible is verified “When Jesus therefore saw His mother and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son” (John 19:26). Moreover He contemptuously calls her at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? …. (John 2:4). Thus therefore in such a case we cannot consider her above all (Most Holy) and we cannot accord her a special veneration.

However, it is not like this as all those deceived of the truth believe, which they interpret according to their sick mind, full of egoism, for in the first instance it concerns something else and specifically, apart from the physical relationship, there is another relationship with Christ, much greater and important, which is the spiritual relationship, which involves doing of the will of God. This relationship however, does not cancel or diminish the physical one. The difference consists on the fact that the spiritual relationship anyone can acquire by doing the will of God. Relationship means not only the physical relationship but also a relationship of love and spiritual union. The one that does the will of God becomes a spiritual relative of God. Similarly through the above, the Saviour not only did not set aside His physical relationship with His Mother, nor did He diminish the honour that is due to a mother from her son but He only tried to stress the other relationship with Him. The spiritual, although of great value, can even be achieved by any faithful.

Consequently it was an instigating and encouraging saying towards the crowd and not contemptuous towards His Mother. Our Saviour Jesus Christ as long as He was with His Mother on earth, He always listened to her, loved her and submitted to her (Luke 2:51) and when she would ask for something He never disobeyed her. Thus at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, on the request of His Mother, He did the first miracle, turning the water into wine (John 2:3-10). Then He cared greatly for His Mother and even while He hang upon the Cross, he acted with care and gave her to His most beloved among His disciples – Saint John the Evangelist- to be taken care of, according to the scriptures: “When Jesus therefore saw His Mother and the disciple standing by, whom He loved, he saith unto His Mother, Woman behold thy son! Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” (John 19:26-27). Do you see here how the Saviour even during the time of His great ordeal on the Cross, He did not neglect to show care towards the person of His Mother, who gave birth to Him and brought Him up. And how could it be possible to neglect His Mother, when God Himself commanded us to honour our parents as it is written: “Honour your father and your mother…. (Deut 5:16)

Secondly there is no cause for scorn but instead, it appears that He looked after her by trusting her in the care of the Apostle John- knowing that He would no longer be on earth to care for her to the end of her life, as we showed above. This fact is not dishonesty but truly, a great honour and respect towards the person of His Mother, whom even during His torments upon the Cross, He did not forget to care for her, showing the great love He had on the person of His Mother. If He however calls her “woman”, under no circumstance does it have the meaning of a married woman or for the purpose of scorning her, but only with the meaning of her sex. For in the same way the two angels at the tomb also addressed Mary Magdalene, “Woman, why do you weep?” (John 20: 12-13). While the two men who were present during the Ascension of the Lord to Heaven, said to the Apostles: “Men of Galilee why do you stand looking at the heavens?” (Acts 1:11). Neither the angels nor the two men used the words “woman” or “men” contemptuously but in the contrary in a flattering manner.

They even ask us, where in the Holy Bible it says that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was Virgin and Ever Virgin, as we call her. That she gave birth being virgin, our Holy Bible shows it this way: When the Archangel Gabriel was sent to Nazareth and announced to her that she will bear the Son of God (Luke 1:35) coming to her he called her “full of grace” and “blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:28). It appears that the Archangel venerated (honoured) the Virgin Mary, calling her “full of grace” and “blessed are you among women” and that she received great grace from God, that the power of the Almighty had overshadowed her, and that she conceived through the Holy Spirit and gave birth to the Son of God. Even though she was a Virgin, not having known a man, the angel of the Lord did not tell her “blessed are you among the virgins” but blessed are you among “women” and through this he does not show contempt towards the Most Holy Theotokos who is “full of grace” but reveals an old mystery: “the crashing of the head of the snake by the woman” (Gen 3:15) and that she will be the mystical and spiritual Eve who will bear the new Adam, Christ, who will bring life to the world.

The Godbearing Fathers of the church tell us that Christ was called the seed of a woman (Gen 3:15) as he was not born of the seed of a man but of the Holy Spirit and the undefiled blood of the Most Holy Virgin and received Body.

On the day of the great judgment (2nd coming) this Queen and Virgin Mary, will be sitting to the right of the throne of her Son, in great and indescribable glory, as the psalm indicates by saying: “…….Upon Thy right hand did stand the queen in gold of Ophir” (Ps 45:9). Because the Archangel Gabriel also called her woman, when he said: “blessed are you among women” does it mean that the Virgin Mary was a married woman?

Why then did she respond to the greeting of the angel “I know not a man” (namely I am a Virgin)?

Or when God created Eve from the side of Adam (Gen 2:21-22) and he brought her toward him and he called he called her “woman” was it perhaps that Eve was a married woman, since Adam called her woman? Is it possible that Eve was not created virgin from the side of the pure Adam who had not known a woman?

Consequently if Eve was created by God and while God Himself with Adam, called this virgin “woman” and would they later call her woman with the meaning of a married woman? – How falsely do all these neoprotestants and heretics understand? For as Eve was a virgin, then when he called her woman, likewise, the mystical and spiritual Eve, the immaculate Virgin Mary who gave birth to the New Adam, Christ , is Virgin for ever and ever, even though the Holy Bible calls her woman, while referring only to her sex, the feminine sex.

Then Adam through the energy of God bore from his virgin body, without a woman (namely, without having knowledge of a woman), while during the fulfillment of time, the feminine nature by the energies of the Holy Spirit, gave birth to a man without a man, in virginity she gave birth and remained virgin as in the beginning Adam gave birth while a virgin. So God was pleased, as through the Virgin Mary to lend the nature of the Old Adam through the New Adam who was born of the Virgin and who came to the world and wore our nature through His infinite mercy and kindness, to save the Old Adam with all his descendents from the sentence of death. For as through Adam we all died, through Christ all are resurrected (Rom 6:5; John 3:16; 5:24 etc)

Therefore consider, deceived man -you and your likes- that the Holy Bible does not call the Mother of God “woman” meaning married as you understand but through the word “woman” the Holy Bible refers only to the feminine sex of the Holy Virgin Mary and at the same time it shows in a shadowy and mystical way that it is the woman whose descendent (Christ) will crash the head of the snake and through Him will come salvation to the people.

To the above we should add:

–  Being the Mother of the Saviour, the Virgin Mary was accorded the highest honour that any creature can have.

–  By Conceiving the Saviour through the Holy Spirit, she was cleansed completely from sin more than any other human, no matter how holy he/she may have been.

–  Because her exceptional honour was pre-accorded – like no other honour on a person- the Most Holy Virgin Mary must be considered the first among the saints, just like Saint John the Baptist is considered the greatest among the prophets (Malachi 3, Isaiah 40:3).

For all these the Most Holy Virgin Mary is worthy of an honour greater than the other Saints (exceptional honour) because she is the queen and the crown of all the Saints. For how after the birth she remained virgin, read and observe the prophesied sayings of the prophet Ezekiel (44:1-3).

The deceived ones moreover add that we should not give too much honour to the Virgin Mary and not even call her “Ever Virgin”, for she had more children, which were named in the Holy Bible “brothers and sisters” of Jesus while Jesus is called “first born” (Matt 1:35) which then follows that she later had other children.

It is true that the Holy Bible talks about some brothers of the Lord as well as sisters of His, and from the words of the Jews, who amazed by the miraculous person of the Lord said: “Is He not the son of the carpenter? Is His mother not called Mariam and His brothers James and Joses and Simon and Judas? And His sisters….” (Matt 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). However in this instance by the phrase “first born” does not mean that we have to presume the existence of other born later (second, third….etc). This was a way of speech in the Old Testament “first born” is called the one who opens the womb first, independent if he has other brothers or not (Exodus13:2) and where many times the absolute numbering (1,2,3,….) is substituted or used mixed together with the tactical way (first, second ..etc).

This Judaism entered use in the language of the New Testament. At present “first born” means “single born” with the meaning the “only one born”. Any other meaning is declined because if it were true that Jesus had other blood brothers (children of Mary) he would not have left His Mother in the care of some Apostle but in the care of one of her sons.

To the second point an argument is made about the “brothers” of the Lord. The brothers are mentioned even by name and are four, while the sisters must have been at least two. They however under no circumstances could be natural brothers/sisters of Jesus Christ and children of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, because:

-According to an old and accepted tradition, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, remained virgin after the birth according the way she appeared in the vision of Prophet Ezekiel (44:1-3).

-The mother of those so called brothers/sisters of the Lord is another person from that of the Virgin Mary, because in the Holy Bible she is called “Mary” or “the other Mary” or “the sister of His mother, Mary of Klopa” being mentioned even at the side of the Mother of the Lord and near her (Matt27:55-56; 28:1; Mark 15:40-47; John 19:25).

– The “brothers of the Lord not even they are called brothers but “slaves” (James 1:1) and “slaves-servants” (Jud 1:1) of the Lord, the authors of the two universal epistles or there they are called “slaves” (James 1:1; Jude1:1) of the Lord and not brothers.

-If they were His brothers, Christ would have made them apostles. Even though some suggest that these two of the “brothers of the Lord”, called James and Judas, are the same to the apostles who bear the name (James indeed is the same with the younger “brother of the Lord”

– in all the listings of the Apostles – while Judas “the brother of the Lord” is perhaps Judas Taddeus). All the same, this is a simple case, an adequately founded one, especially that they do not call themselves apostles as they also do not call themselves “brothers of the Lord”. About James

– “the brother of God” we know only that he was the first bishop of Jerusalem and enjoyed the greatest honour of the faithful as well as the apostles (Acts 12:17; 15:13) since James Zebedeous  was murdered (Acts 12:2).

– Christ would have trusted the Virgin Mary in his care, and not of the apostle John, who would certainly have been more distant than a son or a daughter of hers.

– Taking into consideration the fact that in all the East, and especially in Judea the meaning “brother” is used in a broader sense, for a cousin or other relatives both close and distant ones as for example in Genesis (13:8) where Abraham calls Lot brother even though he was his nephew, son of his brother (Gen 11:27) we must accept that “brothers of the Lord” were cousins of Jesus. But not first cousins, for even if their mother is called sister of the Mother of the Lord (John 19:25) she could not have been sister from the same father because she had the same name Mary but the word sister, here must have the meaning of sister-in-law for the Virgin Mary was a single child. It could have meant sister-in-law by Joseph, who is not excluded from having some sister who was married. In this case her boys, called the brothers of the Lord, could have been at most second cousins of Jesus Christ.

As if they had nothing to add (to say) on the virginity of the Mother of God and after the birth, they add even this passage of the Holy Bible: “And knew her not until she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus” (Matt 1:25) explaining it that after the birth Virgin Mary could have other children.

Let us take into consideration and understand that in the Holy Bible the phrase “until then” means eternity. Because the Lord said “……And lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the century” (Matt 28:20). Is it possible this means that He will depart from us after the end of that century?” Doesn’t the divine Apostle Paul say “…. And so (after the common resurrection) shall we ever be with the Lord” (1Thess 4:17). At another passage of the Holy Bible it is written “The Lord said to my Lord sit thou on my right hand till I make thine enemies thy footstool (Ps 110:1). Does this perhaps mean that after this our Saviour Jesus Christ will not sit at the right of His Father to govern with Him through the ages, even though we know very well that “…… and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33).

Again in another passage of the Holy Bible it is said that Noah sent the crow and the crow did not return until the earth dried from the water (Gen 8:7), does this mean that it returned to the ship sometime later?

Again it is written in the Holy Bible that Melhol, the daughter of Saul, the wife of David did not bear a child “until the day she die” (2Sam: 6:23). Does this perhaps mean that she bore children after she died, since it says “until the…”?

Therefore, let them open the eyes of their souls all these blasphemers of truth, against these testimonies that most were taken from the Holy Bible and understand the phrase “until the” in the Holy Bible means eternity as the Saviour will exist eternally with the apostles and with all these that fulfill His commandments, as He will also eternally be seated at the right of the Father reigning in His Kingdom which has no end, like the crow never returned to Noah’s ark, and as Melhol, the daughter of Saul eternally never bore children after the day of her death and in the same way the righteous and God- fearing Joseph, eternally did not come to know her, who was virgin before the birth, the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, Theotokos and Mother of Light, the queen of the angels and of the people remained virgin during birth and for ever after birth.

After all this the hostile leaning persons against the Mother of God say that we should not direct our prayers to her with the supplications: “not having other protection- we have no other helper but you” and “Most holy Theotokos save us”, being a great mistake because we place the Mother of God at par with the Saviour, as mediatrix to our salvation, since one is our mediator, Jesus Christ.

Regarding our supplication to the Mother of God in the following way: “not having other protection” through this we do not deny the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the mediator of our objective salvation, but neither do we neglect the benefit of every help for our subjective salvation. The significance of this supplication is the following: “You can give us the greatest help to our subjective salvation, for any other greater help we cannot find in any saint or we do not have anyone else who can help us as much as you can help us, being the Mother of our Saviour”. While the words of our supplication that we direct at her, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us” mean “Intercede to your Son to save us” or “redeem us”. In the Greek language in which almost all the books of the New Testament were written, such as the books of the Orthodox worship, the verb “to save” also means “to redeem” (deliver, absolve etc) from the evil, from temptation, from sins, from worry, from financial difficulties. So: “Most Holy Theotokos save us” means “help us with your supplications to be redeemed from evil, upset, from the activities of the devil, from our passions”.

At the same time through the “save us” we do not mean “forgive our sins” but “intercede to your Son for our salvation”. It is impossible to sadden her Son because through the devotion (meaning rendering honour) of the Mother of God, for in this way the worship owing to Him is not diminished in any way but to the contrary, all the great devotion “particularly” to the Mother of God passes over to her Son, who chose her and sanctified her to become His Mother.

Concerning what was said, we showed through testimonies from the Holy Bible, the honour, the glory and the gifts that God gave to His Most Holy Mother, because:

God, one more time since the fall of Adam and Eve, foretold about the Mother of God that she will be that woman – virgin who shall through her Son crash the head of the snake (Gen 3:15). Later, it was prophesied about her that will be the Virgin who will be the intercessor for the entry to the world of the Saviour Jesus Christ (Jeremiah 31:2-23), to her the Archangel Gabriel came to honour and called her “full of grace” and “blessed among women” and “Mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:40-45), blessed her womb and breasts for they held and fed the Saviour of the world, Christ (Luke 11:27-28). The Saviour as her Son, obeyed her and submitted to her (Luke 2:51), the first miracle the Saviour made was at the wedding at Cana of Galilee through her supplication (John 2:3-10), the Saviour took care of her even then when He suffered excruciating pains on the Cross, trusting to His most beloved of all His Apostles the care of His Mother, and herself through the Holy Spirit prophesied that all the generations will call her blessed and will sing in glory that God made her worthy due to her humility (Luke 1:48-49), while the same name of the Mother of God in the Hebrew language is translated as “Lady Virgin”.

This Lady and Virgin Queen will sit to the right of the throne of her Son on the day of the Second Appearance (Ps 45:9). She conceived and gave birth by the Holy Spirit to the Son of God (Luke 1:35) having been overshadowed by the power of the Almighty and remained virgin even after the birth (Ezekiel 44:13) she is most honourable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim, having no other children but only Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. The mother of the so called “brothers” of the Lord is not the Theotokos but Mary Klopa (Matt 27:55-56; Mark 15:40-47; John 19:25) while the “brothers” of the Lord are just relatives of Him and not His natural brothers, for in the early years to the Hebrews, the close relatives were called “brothers” (Gen 13:8). The mother of the brothers of the Lord, Mary Klopa, is called sister of the Mother of the Lord, according to the meaning of being close relatives (John 19:25 etc).

Having seen testimonies of the Holy Bible for these truths that refer to the mother of the Lord, if you had a clear mind from the darkness of heresies and sins, you would have been able to understand very clearly (enlightened) why we Orthodox Christians of the Church of Christ accord the Super-devotion (exceptional honour) to the Most Holy Theotokos Mary. By asking her, we set her as intercessor to her Son and our God, to help us through her intercessory mediations which she always presents to God for the whole human race and especially for the devout Christians.

Why don’t you honour the Mother of the Lord when the Holy Bible itself reveals to you that the Archangel Gabriel honoured her with the greeting (Luke 1:29).

What is the reason you do not honour the Mother of the Lord, who according to the testimony of the Holy Bible and of the evangelist Archangel Gabriel, she is “full of grace”? (Luke 1:28-30). Why are you so hard hearted and blind that you do not comprehend  you do not honour the Mother of the Lord even though by the grace of the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth confessed that she was the Mother of the Lord and blessed among women? (Luke 1:40-43).

If you say that you believe in the writing of the Holy Bible, why then don’t you honour and respect the Mother of the Lord, when the Bible reveals to you she will be blessed by all generations, for the honour that God granted her?

What is the reason you reached such great ignorance, where instead of you honouring and respecting the Mother of the Lord, you blaspheme her and in your disorder (foolishness) you consider her as a common woman? The Holy Spirit has presented her in the psalms as queen of the angels and of all creation, sitting to the right of her Son, clothed in gold and adorned (Ps 45:13) and you name her as a common woman like all the rest?

The Holy Spirit reveals in the Holy Bible that she will be commemorated from generation to generation and all the nations will hymn her incessantly through the ages (Ps 45:17) while you do not want to glorify and honour the Mother of the Lord. The Holy Spirit reveals the “King’s daughter is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold (Ps 45:13). By the inner glory it shows that it is a temple of the Holy Spirit, immaculate, while you blaspheme the Mother of the Lord and do not honour her.

The Mother of the Lord is that Virgin who gave birth to Emmanuel God (Isaiah 7:14) and you say she is any woman as all the other women. The Holy Spirit through the mouth of the Prophet Ezekiel depicts the Mother of the Lord as “a closed gate” through which no one will enter but only the God of Israel and after the passage, she will remain closed (Ezekiel 44:13), namely she will be virgin before the birth, during the birth and ever virgin she will remain after the birth, and you say that the Mother of the Lord had other children apart from the Son of God, whom she bore.

It would be better to hang a rock round your neck and jump in the sea (Matt 18:6-7; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:1-2) than scandalize the souls of innocent Christians with your lies and your satanic and cursed blasphemies. How could the just and God fearing Joseph (Matt 1:19) dare to touch the Most Holy Virgin after the birth, especially after he received the revelation – by the angel “for in her will be born by the Holy Spirit, is Holy (Matt 1:20) and the conceived by the grace of the Holy Spirit will be the Saviour of the world, Christ (Matt 1:21).

Would perhaps the righteous and God fearing Joseph -to whom God revealed that the Virgin Mary, his betrothed, conceived by the Holy Spirit and understood that through her God would work the salvation of the human race, by crashing the head of the snake (Gen 3:15) and that she is the Virgin, prophesied by the Holy Spirit through the Prophet Isaiah, who will give birth to Emmanuel, God and Saviour of the world (Isaiah 7:14)- be capable of entertaining human thoughts on her? Exactly because of this the righteous and God fearing Joseph proved to be such a zealot and obedient and served with such toil the divine Child, from birth to escape to Egypt and then return (Luke 2:4-5; Matt 2:13; 20:21-23) as well as the rest of the time of his life, until the age of the Saviour of 30 years, for he could understand completely the calling to serve the Most Holy Virgin through whom God came to the world, to redeem the human race.

Therefore, let the mouths of all the heretics and neoprotestants remain silent, from blaspheming against the Queen of the angels and Mother of God and of the righteous and God fearing Joseph concerning the evil and foolish thoughts that the Most Holy and Immaculate Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, the “full of grace” could have other children.

Denying all the dumb blasphemies of the heretics, we, the children of the Church of Christ, let us always have the Mother of God our continuous supplicator and intercessor for our salvation in front of God. Let us incessantly honour her name as Mother of the Son of God. Let the virgins glorify her as an Ever Virgin mother. The priest and the monastics as the mother of the Great Arch-Priest Jesus Christ, while we, the pious Christians, together with the angels and the saints let us sing daily the Akathist and the canon of the Paraclete to the Mother of God, repeating all together the holy hymn (obedience): “Rejoice, Bride, Unwedded”.

Source : here

Categories: Biblical Studies

What happiness is

July 10, 2010 Leave a comment

By Archbishop Nathanial (Lvov) 1906-1985,

translated by Charles Bausman

People wish each other happiness on various occasions, for example, on the New Year, but what is happiness? How can one define it?

Modern man’s concept of happiness has not changed much since primitive times, ie. happiness is when I acquire more material things from others, and unhappiness is when others take my property from me.

Even if we leave aside the morality of this concept, it is still flawed in its essence because no matter how much property, power, public recognition, and pleasures we amass, it will not bring us happiness. Material objects cannot bring true happiness, only taedium vitae, after which a person is overcome by depression even more than before.

It is interesting to note that the word “happiness,” — “tikhi,” in ancient Greek, appears very rarely in the Holy Scriptures, and not once in the New Testament. The term is too broad and is inexact. On its own it has no meaning. Instead, the Scriptures use another more clear and specific term, “joy,” (“khara” in ancient Greek) which is one of the components of happiness.

Christ says the following about joy: “… that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” He also indicates where this joy comes from: “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15: 10 – 11). Here we have the answer to the age-old question. True happiness, true joy, is God’s love, and being with Him. This is completely confirmed by St. Paul when he says: “For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17). John adds this: “…and your joy no man taketh from you” (John 16:22). This means, nothing and no one — neither suffering, nor deprivation, nor persecution, not even death itself.

This is well understood by those who have solved for themselves the centuries-old problem of humanity, and who have found happiness: the Christian saints and those who please God, past and present. Yet their behavior is puzzling to others. The ancient Romans couldn’t understand why Christians were so joyous. Contemporary heathens, most of whom nominally think of themselves as Christians, ask the same question.

There exists a wide-spread, sentimental, romantic, Western European notion, which is often offered as an answer to this question, which goes something like this: that because in the ancient world people had little understanding of what happens after death, people feared death, and Christians espoused the soothing idea that people will live after death, that Christ has saved everyone, forgiven everyone, and promised everyone eternal life and heavenly bliss, and that this is the reason why Christians are so joyous. This notion, in one form or another is very common, but it is completely inaccurate.

In fact, Christ did not at all promise heavenly bliss. Frequently Christ gives frightening warnings: “…there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth…,” (Matthew 24:51), “…Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment…” (Matthew 25:46). Furthermore, St. Peter, speaking of the terrible danger of eternal suffering hanging over us, reminds us that even the righteous barely save themselves, and that the impious and sinful almost never do (1 Peter 4:18).

Another notion, originating in Protestantism, which is quite common amongst liberally inclined Christians is that the gloomy concept of the after-life and the difficulty of salvation is a product of a later era, of “gloomy, joyless, ascetics/monks,” and that in the ancient, initial Christianity there predominated a “bright mood, and an understanding that one’s salvation derived alone from one’s belief in Christ.” Those who believe this are inventing their own version of Christianity, with no basis or confirmation either in the Gospels, or the Epistles, or in ancient Christian history.

For example, read the early Christian book by “Pastor” Erma, a writer of the 1st century, and you will see how demanding early Christians were regarding salvation and how clearly they understood that the slightest hint of immorality puts a person at risk of eternal death. This book is written with the pathos of the frightening words of the church song – “the suffering of the sinful is limitless.” This was even more true regarding pureness of faith and loyalty to the Church.

Therefore, a Christian viewpoint might seem much less cheerful than a pagan one. Pagans have a “kingdom of shadows” after life, not very clearly defined, and of which one can form the most varied of conceptions. At one extreme one has the “Elysian Fields,” a kingdom of bliss, which are quite easy to enter. At the gloomy end of the spectrum one has the concept of nothingness, of complete destruction after death. To quote Socrates, “Since I didn’t suffer before appearing on this earth, it follows that I won’t suffer when I leave it.”

If you compare this with the awful picture of eternal suffering and hell and you see that the liberal view on the reasons for the joyousness of the first Christians is essentially flawed. And nonetheless, that Christian joy was and still is. It shines brightly in each line of the lives of the martyrs and ascetics (podvizhniki), and glows still in the lives of monks and in Christian families. In fact, it alone deserves this term. And the more spiritual a person is, the more clear and perfect his joy is. This joy, this bright world-view never left the early Christians, even during suffering, and at death’s door.

What then is the source of this joy? The answer, of course, it is faith. But not in the way Protestants understand it. It is not a formal, lifeless, faith, absent of heroic spiritual effort (podvig) (after all, even “demons believe and tremble”) rather it is an animating, active faith which lives in a pure heart and is warmed by God’s grace, a faith burning with love for God, and strengthening hope in Him. As one modern Christian writer put it so well, “It is not enough to believe in God, one must believe Him too.” The lines from the litany: “Let us entrust ourselves, and each other, and all our life to Christ our God” properly describe true Christian faith. It is a full, trusting, filial entrustment of oneself into God’s hands. This is, and has always been, what opens the doors to true joy, to true happiness.

If a Christian trusts God, then he is prepared to accept anything from him: heaven or hell, suffering or bliss, for he knows that God is infinitely good. When he punishes us, it is for our sake. He loves us so much that he will move heaven and earth to save us. He won’t betray us, not even for the best reasons, and will certainly save us, if at all possible. As St. Augustine put it, “The only refuge from God’s anger is God’s favour.”

With this kind of understanding, joy and light firmly inhabit the heart of a Christian, and there is no room for gloom. The world, the boundless universe belongs to my God. No event, from the smallest to the greatest can occur without His will, and He loves me infinitely. Even here on earth he allows me to enter His kingdom, His holy Church. He will never drive me from His kingdom, as long as I am faithful to Him. What is more, if I fall, he will pick me up as soon as I realize my sin and offer tears of repentence. That is why I trust my salvation and the salvation of not only my loved ones, but of all people, to God’s hands.

Death is not frightening, it has been defeated by Christ. Hell and eternal suffering await those who consciously and by their own free will turn from God, who prefer the gloom of sin to the light of His love. Joy and eternal blessedness await the faithful. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

Let ever-merciful God help us achieve full trust in Him. Lord rejuvenate us who pray to Thee!

Categories: Homilies