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“Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.”

June 27, 2010 Leave a comment

At that time, as Jesus arrived at the country of the Gadarenes, there met him a man from the city who had demons; for a long time he had worn no clothes and he lived not in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him, and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beseech you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him; he was kept under guard, and bound with chains and fetters, but he broke the bonds and was driven by the demon into the desert.) Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion”; for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of swine was feeding there on the hillside; and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them leave. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned. When the herdsmen saw what happened, they fled, and told it in the city and in the country. Then people went out to see what had happened, and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. And those who had seen it told them how he who had been possessed with demons was healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gadarenes asked him to depart from them; for they were seized with great fear; so he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but he sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. (Luke 8:26-39)


One of the topics from today’s Gospel is about demonocracy, undgadareneoubtedly, colossal and maybe truly unique topic of our time. The demonism, from the very beginning is worn in clothing of the angel of light. Its medium are credulous. In this moment, my dears, comes to my mind the great French poet Baudelaire.

In his book Flowers of evil, led by the poetic intuition, he signifies the morbid truth: the greatest triumphs of Satan to convince people that not God, but it – the devil – does not exist. The uncovered evil and violence always hide behind the mask of goodness and freedom. My beloved, the biggest witness is the age we live in.  The evil is the ingenious virtuoso of the fashion and fashion designer.

In the Egyptian pathericon is said how abba Makarios the Great had seen Satan in the desert, carrying innumerable pumpkins hanged around its neck. Abba Makarios asked it: “What are you carrying?” It replied: “Various food, for every man according to his desire and taste”. Therefore, our people rightfully say: “better to be alone than in bad company“.

Beloved brothers and sisters, Christ is always with us. Christ is always with us as a parent, better said as a mother, who is always beside her child. Equally mother watches over the life of her child, growing him from her womb till the majority, her eye and all her senses follow every sigh, every step of her child, as Christ the God stands beside us, following us, following watchfully, guarding over our hearts.

Sometime probably in the childhood, all of us were lonely and frightened of solitude provoked by the absence of our mother. Thus lonely, it happened to fall, to injure our self and disconsolately to devote our selves to weeping. Yet, always when we felt presence of our mother and her wonderful, warm, maternal words: do not be afraid, my son, I am with you, – the weep disappeared, and the fears were expelled. Exactly, Christ the God, present always in our life, stands by consoling us: “Do not be afraid, I am with you”.
Amen.


Father Stefan Sandjakoski, SERMONS FROM KALISTA

Categories: Biblical Studies, Homilies

Fasting Without Force

March 14, 2010 Leave a comment


Taken from the Book: Wounded by Love: the Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios

You don’t become holy by fighting evil. Let evil be. Look towards Christ and that will save you. What makes a person saintly is love – the adoration of Christ which cannot be expressed, which is beyond expression, which is beyond … And such a person attempts to undertake ascetic exercises and to do things to cause himself to suffer for the love of God. [ note: in a similar way, one who is in love likes to suffer for his/her Lover]

No monk [Christian] became holy without ascetic exercises. No one can ascend to spirituality without exercising himself. These things must be done. Ascetic exercises are such things as prostrations, vigils and so on, but done without force. All are done with joy. What is important is not the prostrations we will make or the prayers, but the act of self-giving, the passionate love for Christ and for spiritual things. There are many people who do these things, not for God, but for the sake of exercise, in order to reap physical benefit. But spiritual people do them in order to reap spiritual benefit; they do them for God. At the same time, however, the body is greatly benefited and doesn’t fall ill. Many good things flow from them.

Among the various ascetic exercises, prostrations, vigils and other deprivations, is fasting. ‘A fat belly does not make for a refined mind’, as I know the Fathers like to say! All the books of the Fathers speak of fasting. [See, for example, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostomos] They emphasize that we should not eat foods that are difficult to digest, or that are rich and fatty, because they are bad for the body and for the soul. They say that a lamb eats only grass and that is why it is so placid. That’s why we say someone is like a lamb’. The dog or cat and all the carnivorous animals are all fierce animals. Meat is bad for people. Fruit and vegetables are good. That’s why the Fathers speak about fasting and condemn overeating and the pleasure one feels when one eats rich foods. Let our food be more simple, and don’t let’s occupy ourselves so much with it.

It is not food or good conditions of life which secure good health. It is a saintly life, the life of Christ. I know hermits who fasted with the greatest austerity and were never ill. You’re not in danger of coming to any harm by fasting. No one has become ill by fasting. People who eat meat and eggs and milk-products are much more likely to become ill than those who adopt a meagre diet. This is an established fact and endorsed by medical science. Indeed, this is what doctors recommend. Not only do those who fast not come to any harm, but they are cured of illnesses.

To do this, however, you need to have faith. Otherwise you will feel empty and nauseous and have a craving for food. Fasting is also a matter of faith. It does you no harm when you digest your food properly. The hermits transform air into albumen and fasting doesn’t affect them. When you have love for things divine, you can fast with pleasure and everything is easy; otherwise everything would seem impossibly difficult. All those who have given their heart to Christ and pray with fervent love have managed to overcome and control their craving for food and lack of continence,

There are many people today who were unable to fast for a single day and now live as vegetarians, not for religious reasons, but simply because they believed it would be good for their health. But you have to believe that you won’t come to any harm by not eating meat.



The Third Sunday Of Great Lent – Sunday of the Precious Cross

March 7, 2010 Leave a comment

The Lord said, ―”If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel‘s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” And Jesus said to them, ―”Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Kingdom of God come with power.”

( Mark 8:34—9:1)

Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross (Tropar, Tone 1)

O Lord, save your people, and bless your inheritance. Grant victories to the Orthodox Christians over their adversaries; and by virtue of Your Cross, preserve your habitation.


Veneration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross (Tropar, Tone 1)

Now the flaming sword no longer guards the gates of Eden; it has been mysteriously quenched by the wood of the Cross! The sting of death and the victory of hell have been vanquished; for You, O my Savior, have come and cried to those in hell: “Enter again into paradise.”
Homily on the Sunday of the Veneration of the Cross
Fr. Anthony Perkins

Do you see the irony?

This is the feast celebrating the Precious Cross. We wear crosses. We put them in our houses. We adorn our temples with them (inside and out; on our doors and the very top of our cupolas). We trace its image over our bodies throughout the day. Have you ever realized how that looks?

An instrument of torture and humiliation, perfected by pagans, has become the sign of our faith. A degrading and wicked instrument of death is, according to the Hymns of Church, the “unconquerable trophy of the true faith, door to paradise, succor of the faithful, and rampart set about the Church” (Vespers stichera).

This is something that should wake us from our slumber. This is something so jolting – but so fundamentally true – that it should force us to see things not through the eyes of the fallen world, but through the eyes of “true seeing”. Christ brought sight to the blind during his earthly ministry. Through contemplation of the Cross, He will bring spiritual sight, true sight, to all of us (and in seeing, we will follow Him through the Cross, to Paradise).

The Cross is anathema to the world – it does not understand the Passion. It does not understand sacrifice. It only understands and seeks the comfort and pleasure of today and the foreseeable (and finite) future. The world sees through the fallen eyes of Adam. Adam hoped to find pleasure in the beautiful fruit of the Tree, but found only bitterness (a beautiful tree brought Him only bitterness). The true-seeing man seeks true pleasure today and forever, and finds it in the Cross (a horrific Cross brings him everlasting joy). The promises of worldly pleasure are empty, but the promise of the Cross is already being fulfilled.

Yes, there is great irony in the Cross, but it is only because the Truth is so out of synch with the millennia of lies that we have told in our falleness. It is the one piece of Order and Truth in a world of chaos.

  • In the chaos of infantry battles, the king would plant his banner so that his scattered troops would rally around him. It was a single point of stability in the chaos of battle. Rallying to it and around it was the only hope of survival for the individual soldier and for the force at large. The Cross is planted in this world so that we might rally to it. We are not meant to struggle alone, but together (working 

    together, not individual bravery or skill, is the key to military success). And not just around any cause, but around the True King’s banner: the Cross.

  • The taste of Fruit of the Tree was sweet, brought illness; the taste of the Cross is bitter, but brings healing to all. While this is jarring, it accords with our experience. Medicine is bitter (or it used to be); shots hurt. Treatment can be long and excruciating. More so because it does not always work.

But know this: the medical treatment of the Cross can be difficult, but it’s success is sure. The Cross brings healing to all. Through the Cross, Christ took on the sins of the world – through His Cross, we are healed of all our diseases and infirmities and made worthy to grow in unity with Him and one another. He is the Great Physician, and the love of the Cross is the medicine of salvation.

“Come, Adam and Eve, our first father and mother, who fell from the choir on high… when of old with bitter pleasure ye tasted from the tree in Paradise. See, the Tree of the Cross, revered by all, draws near! 

Run with haste and embrace it joyfully, and cry to it with faith: O precious Cross, though art our succor; partaking of thy fruit, we have gained incorruption; we are restored once more to Eden, and we have received great mercy.” (Vespers stichera).

Do not be ashamed of Our Lord. Do not be ashamed of His Cross. Deny yourself. Pick up your cross and follow Him. Follow Him to eternal health and everlasting joy. This is the way of Christ. This is the way to victory.

Faith In Christ Our Lord Brings Victory

November 28, 2009 Leave a comment

“Christ our Lord conquers the world, and the victory, is ours also. The Holy Apostles conquered the world, and that victory is ours also. Both the saints and the holy martyrs of our church have conquered the world, and the victory is again ours. There is nothing greater power in the world, then the Christian faith, the Holy Orthodox Faith we all love. The swords that cut off this faith are blunted and broken, but the Faith has remained. We know well from the history of our Church that many have tempted themselves to suffocate our Faith in Christ and His Church, however this Faith has again remained the victory is ours!

When the world rushes upon us, with illusions; especially with the temptations of its exterior beauty, the illusion of riches, of pleasure, and of transitory glory, with what shall we resist and by what shall we be victors but by this Faith? Truly, by nothing but this invincible Faith, which knows nothing better than any of the good things of this world?

We should be never spiritually interested in the face that the world offers us, but only to spiritually behold the face of our Lord God, and to behold Him, and in all His Glory, honor, and worship. Truly, nothing is so important for all Christians then to apply our Faith, which only teaches us endurance, and unchanging values in the Kingdom of God. What a great spiritual victory, as again this victory is ours!

We all can be victorious by faith in our Lord God! Do not ever be shameful about having faith, and being God loving Christians! We must spiritually resist that which is unholy, and see that which is truly holy, as we all know that our Gracious Lord Jesus Christ is the “Conqueror” of the world, who helps us also to conquer the world by faith in Him. Our purpose on this earth as Christians is to seek the Kingdom of our Lord God, therefore let us humbly, as well as piously seek it in faith and with faith. Our Lord God shall reward us, as we truly become victorious, as we have found the true Faith! The victory is ours!

Never for one moment believe that God does not hear you when you pray to Him. Pray with all your mind, heart, and soul, in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening, as well as when our loving Church calls us to pray. Go to Church to pray and in faith be victorious! Think about attending Church with your family and be victorious!

Our Church is waiting for you and loves you when you gather in prayer! Our faith in Christ our Lord brings victory; let our faith in Him begin

Peace to your soul!

Humbly in Christ our Lord,

+Very Rev. Archimandrite Nektarios Serfes
Who prays for you and with you!”

Categories: Spirituality

The good samaritan

November 15, 2009 Leave a comment

The Good Samaritan


Christ told this parable in answer to a Judaic lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” The lawyer knew the Old Testament commandment that instructed one to love one’s neighbor, but he did not act according to this commandment. Wanting to clear himself from fault, he said he did not know who his neighbor was. In response, the Lord gives this parable with the example of the good Samaritan, to explain that one should not care about distinguishing friends from foes, but must make oneself a neighbor to anyone in need.

“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him. And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Lk. 10:30-37).

Fearing to help an outsider, a Judean priest and a Levite passed by their brother who was in trouble. But the Samaritan, who did not speculate whether the poor wretched man lying before him was a friend or foe, helped him and saved his life. The Lord’s parable of the Samaritan’s shows that after his initial aid he also took pains to help the sufferer’s future, bearing expenses and taking the trouble to ensure his recovery.

The Lord’s example of the good Samaritan teaches us to love our neighbors actively, not to confine ourselves to good wishes and the empty expressions of compassion. It is not he who sits in the quiet of his home and dreams of extensive benefaction, but he who helps people in deed, sparing neither time, nor effort nor funds, who loves his neighbor. To help your neighbors, you need not make a program of humanitarian activity: great plans do not always come true. Every day our life offers us chances to manifest our love for people: by giving comfort to someone sorrowing, visiting someone sick, helping him to visit a doctor or prepare business documents, giving to the poor, taking part in church actions or charity, giving good advice, preventing a quarrel, and so forth. Many of these things seem insignificant, but over one’s life one may accumulate them for a real spiritual treasure. Good works are like small amounts of money put into a savings account. As the Lord says, in heaven they will make up a treasure, which moths will not corrupt and thieves cannot steal.

In His wisdom, the Lord permits people to live in various material conditions: some in great prosperity, others in need and some even in dearth. Often a man acquires his material welfare by back-breaking labor, persistence, and skills. However, we shall not deny that the economic and social status of a man is often to a great extent determined by favorable, external conditions, beyond his control. Even the most capable and industrious man may be doomed for poverty in an unfavorable environment, while another, a stupid idler, will enjoy the comforts of life because fortune smiles upon him. Such disposition may seem unjust, but only if our life is considered to be merely natural. The conclusion is totally different if we view these things from the perspective of the future life.

In two parables, that of the unjust steward, and that of the rich man and Lazarus, the Lord Jesus Christ reveals the mystery of God’s tolerance for material “injustice.” These two parables demonstrate that God wisely transforms apparent, earthly inequality into a means for gaining salvation: tolerance for the poor and suffering, works of charity for the rich. In the light of these two notable parables we can also see how negligible our worldly agonies and riches are when compared to perpetual bliss or perdition.


I thank you, God of goodness

November 14, 2009 Leave a comment

Christ Pantocrator

I fall in adoration at your feet, Lord!

I thank you, God of goodness;

God of holiness, I invoke you,

on my knees, in your sight.

For me, an unworthy sinner,

you have willed to undergo the death of the cross,

setting me free from the bonds of evil.

What shall I offer in return for your generosity?

Glory to you, friend of men!

Glory to you, most merciful!

Glory to you, most patient!

Glory to you who forgive sin!

Glory to you who have come to save us!

Glory to you who have been made man in the womb of a Virgin!

Glory to you who have been bound!

Glory to you who have been scourged!

Glory to you who have been derided!

Glory to you who have been nailed to the cross!

Glory to you, laid in a sepulcher, but risen again!

Glory to you who have preached the Gospel to men and have been

believed!

Glory to you who have ascended to heaven!

Glory to you, seated at the right hand of the Father

and who will return with him, in majesty, among the angels,

to judge those who have disregarded your passion!

The powers of heaven will be shaken;

all the angels and archangels, the cherubim and seraphim

will appear in fear and trembling before Your glory;

the foundations of the earth will quake

and all that has life will cry out before Your majesty.

In that hour let your hand draw me beneath Your wings,

and save me from the terrible fire, from the gnashing of teeth,

from the outer darkness and from despair without end.

That I may sing to Your glory:

Glory to Him who through His merciful goodness

has designed to redeem this sinner.

attributed to St. Ephrem the Syrian

Categories: Orthodox poetry

The Vine And Its Branches

November 6, 2009 Leave a comment

Iisus_-_pomul_vietii

from The Spiritual Writings of St. Tikhon of Zadonsk


What the vine and branches are to each other, so are Christ and Christians to one another. The vine and branches are united with each other. So likewise are Christ and Christians spiritually united. The same branches receive their sap from the vine and bear fruit: the same is it with Christians.

They receive life from Christ, Who helps them to lead good lives and do good deeds. While fruit is seen on the branches, yet it is in the vine that finds the cause of the fruit; and like wise when Christians do good deeds, this is credited to Christ, the Son of God. Branches alone without the vine cannot bear fruit; and Christians without Christ can do nothing.

The branches are trimmed (cleansed) in order that they might bring forth better fruit; so likewise Christians are punished at times by the heavenly Father that they might bring better fruit in the form of good deeds. Branches are not especially pleasing to the eye, but inwardly they have good, sweet and pleasant sap, and bear fruit; so is it with Christians; outwardly they are not pleasing to the eye, and scorned, but inwardly are good, and live good lives.

The more the branches are laden with fruit, the more are these branches inclined to the earth. So likewise is it with the Christian. The more good deeds performs, the more humble he becomes. The branches bear fruit for the husband man, and the Christians perform good works for the glory of God, from Whom all good comes. The branch that does not bring forth fruit is cut off from the vine dries up, so likewise is it with a Christian who is cut off from Christ; he loses all his vitality and dies spiritually. The branch that has dried up is not useful and more except to be burned; and so it with a Christian cut off from Christ; he is dried up and left for eternal fire (St. John 15:4).

From this you see, O Christian:


1. What a close union and communion there is between true Christians and their Lord Jesus Christ. He is the vine, and they are the branches.

2. What a great and high dignity there is in this. What is there greater than to have communion with Christ, the Heavenly King?

3. How blessed they must be. If Christ is with Christians, then who can prevail against them? The whole world and hades cannot do anything to a Christian, for Christ is his refuge and strength.

4. Without Christ it is impossible to be benevolent and to do good deeds since branches cannot be fruitful without the vine

5. From here follows that it is necessary first to to be in Christ and so do good works; it is necessary first to become good and then do good deeds. A corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit (St. Matthew 7:18).

6. What a sad condition those Christians are in, who by an evil life have fallen away from Christ. For they are like withered branches.

7. Whoever wishes to be saved must turn to the Lord with a pure heart, and must cleanse oneself with repentance and tears, and in such a manner unite with Christ, the True Vine. For without Christ there is no salvation. Christ is Life and Light. He who has departed from Life and Light must then be in death and darkness. Consider this, O Christian, and with tears and repentance wash away your sins, that you may once again be united with Christ – your very life.”


Source: Orthodox Life., Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y., Issue 5 Number 53, 1958., pp. 15-16