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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.



Saint Cosmas Of Aitolos- Teachings

November 7, 2009 Leave a comment

GetImageDetail.asp“Among the religious figures who have appeared among the Greeks during the past two centuries, none has been as universally acclaimed as Cosmas of Aitolos (1714-1779). In addition to being given the tile “Equal to the apostles,’ he is numbered among the “Teachers of the Nation”.

The following are the Apolytikion, Kontakion, and Megalynarion to St. Cosmas, and his feast day is commemorated in the Orthodox Church on August 24th.


APOLYTIKION

By teaching the Divine Faith, thou hast richly adorned the Church and become a zealous emulator of the Apostles; for having been lifted up by the wings of divine love, that hast spread far and wide the message of the Gospel. O glorious Cosmas, entreat God that He grants us His great mercy.


KONTAKION

Having led an irreproachable life on Athos, like Moses thou hast been deemed worthy of God’s manifestation; wherefore truly thou dost gladden the Church exceedingly by thy deeds and thy God-inspired words, O Father Cosmas, having contended for which, thou hast been adorned with a double crown.


MEGALYNARION

Rejoice thou emulator of the Apostles, teacher and luminary of the Church; rejoice thou divine cultivator of piety, associate of Martyrs and peer of Angels.



GOD

It is proper to begin our teaching with God, and when we finish it to thank God – not that I am worthy to mention and utter the name of God, but I am sure that God suffers me to do so through His great and infinite compassion.

God, the all-good and most merciful, my brethren, is one, and whoever says that there are many Gods is a devil.

He is triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; yet one nature, one glory, one kingdom, one God. He is all light, all joy, all compassion, all love. This All-holy Trinity we pious Orthodox Christians glorify and worship.

He is the true God, and all other so-called gods are demons. And it is not we along that believe, glorify, and worship the Holy Trinity, but angels, archangels, and all the heavenly hosts, as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea unceasingly praise in hymns and worship and glorify this All-holy Trinity.

Again, out of their love for the Holy Trinity men and women as numerous as the stars of the heavens and the grains of the sand of the sea spilt their blood, and as many renounced the world and went to the deserts and led a life of spiritual endeavor, and still as many lived in the world with temperance and virginity, fasting, prayer, almsgiving and other practices; and all went to Paradise and rejoice forever.


LOVE

If we want to fare well in this life and to go to Paradise, and to call our God love and father, we must have two loves: the love for God and the love for our neighbor.

It is natural for us to have these two loves, and contrary to nature not have them. Just as a swallow needs two wings in order to fly in the air, so we need these two loves, because without them we cannot be saved. Let us have love for God and for our fellow men. Then God comes and brings us joy and implants the eternal life in our hearts, and we fare well in this life and also go to Paradise, there to rejoice forever.

Fortunate is the man who has these two loves in his heart, that for God and that for his brethren. He surely has God; and whoever has God has every blessing and does not bear to commit sin. Again, wretched is the man who does not have these two loves. Surely he has the devil and evil, and always sins.

God, my brethren, asks us to have these two loves. As He Himself says in His Holy Gospel: “On these two commandments hang all the law and the Prophets.” Through these two loves all the Saints of our Church, men and women, attained sainthood and won Paradise. Whoever has blessed love, firstly for God and secondly for his fellow Christian, becomes worthy of receiving the Holy Trinity in his heart. If you wish to be saved, seek no other thing here in this world as much as love.

Know my brethren that love has two characteristics, two gifts. One of them is to strengthen man in what is good and the other is to weaken him in what is evil. I have a loaf of bread to eat; you do not have. Love tells me: Do not eat it alone, give some to your brethren and you eat the rest. I have clothes; love tells me: Give one garment to your brother and you wear the other one. I open my mouth to accuse you, to tell you lies, to decieve you; but at once I remember love and it deadens my mouth, and does not allow me to tell you lies. I stretch out my hands to take what belongs to you, your money, all your possessions. Love does not allow me to take them.

Do you see, my brethren, what gifts love has? Those of you who earn your bread by means of your toil and sweat should rejoice, because that bread is blessed; and if you give a little of it as alms it is reckoned as much. But those who live by means of injustice and grasping should mourn, for what you thus acquire is cursed; and if you give alms out of these they do not benefit you at all, being fire that consumes you.

The Martyrs won Paradise through their blood; the Ascetics, through their ascetic life. Now you, my brethren, who have children, how will you win Paradise? By means of hospitality, by giving to your brothers who are poor, blind, or lame.


HUMILITY

The Christian needs two wings in order to soar upward and attain Paradise: humility and love. When the first order of angels fell from angelic glory and became demons, the other nine orders humbled themselves and worshipped the All-Holy Trinity, and remained in their place and rejoice forever. We, too, my brethren, must reflect what an evil thing pride is – that it cast down the dcvil from angelic glory and he will always burn in Hades – and that humility kept the angels in Heaven, and they rejoice perpetually in the glory of the Holy Trinity. Let us then, my brethren, aviod pride, because it is the first daughter of the devil, is a path that leads to Hades; and let us have humility, because it is angelic, is a path that leads to Paradise.


CONFESSION

If you want cure your soul, you need four things.

  1. The first is to forgive your enemies.
  2. The second is to confess thoroughly.
  3. The third is to blame yourself.
  4. The fourth is to resolve to sin no more.

If we wish to be saved, we must always blame ourselves and not attribute our wrong acts to others. And God, Who is most compassionate, will forgive us.


FASTING

We who are pious Christians must fast always, but easpecially on Wednesday, because the Lord was sold on that day, and on Friday, because He was crucified on that day. Similarly, it is our duty to fast during the Lent seasons, as the Holy Spirit illumined the holy Fathers of the Church to decree, in order to mortify the passions and humble the body. Moreover, if we limt the food we eat, life becomes easier for us. Fast according to your ability, pray according to your ability, give alms according to your ability, and always hold death before the eyes of your mind.


VIRGINITY

Just as we humans prefer gold to sliver, so the Lord indeed likes marriage, but likes virginity more, in order to show you that if you can preserve your viginity and become a monk, or if you are a woman a nun, you are fortunate and thrice blessed, you are free from worldly things, you are like an angel.

However, if you want to preserve your virginity, you must put as the first foundation the non possesion-of-property (Aktemonsyne) and must discipline your body with fasts, prayers, vigils, and hardships in order to humble the flesh. Also, you must flee from the world… There is no other way for the monk to be saved except by withdrawing far from the world.


WOMAN

God created woman equal with man, not inferior. My Christian, you must love your wife as your companion, not consider her as your slave, for she is a creature of God, just as you are. God was crucified for her as much as for you. You call God Father, she calls Him Father, too. Both of you have the same Faith, the same Baptism, the same Book of the Gospels, the same Holy Communion, the same Paradise to enjoy. God does not regard her as inferior to you.


KEEPING SUNDAY

Do not separate yourselves from Christ and from the Church. Do you hear the priest ringing the bells? Rise at once, wash yourselves, and go to church. Attend the Orthros (Matins) attentively and likewise the Divine Liturgy.

We should not work or do business on Sunday. The profit that you gain on Sunday is curse… Keep Sunday as a day dedicated to God.


THE JESUS PRAYER -ALSO KNOWN AS “THE PRAYER OF THE HEART”

This prayer should never be absent from you: Lord Jesus Christ, Son and Logos of the living God, through the Theotokos and all the Saints, have mercy upon me, Thy sinful and unworthy servant.” (This is the actual Jesus Prayer: “O LORD JESUS CHRIST, SON OF GOD, HAVE MERCY UPON ME, A SINNER.“) Always say this prayer both with your mouth and with your mind, day and night, wherever you may be, whether eating, walking, working, or sitting. Always meditate on it, as it benefits you a great deal., frees you here from every evil, delivers you there from eternal Hell, and renders you worthy of going to Paradise, our heavenly country.


MEDITATION ON DEATH

There is no better teacher than death. Have death before your minds: the time when you will leave this unreal world and will go to the other one, which is eternal.


LIFE AFTER DEATH

We who are pious Christians must henceforth not weep for the dead like the impious and the unbelievers, who do not hope in the resurrection. This world, my brethren, is like a prison. When must man rejoice? When he enters the prison or when he is being liberated from the prison? It seems to me, when enters the prison he must weep and be sad, and when he comes out of the prison he must rejoice. Therefore, my brethren, do not grieve for the dead, but if you love them do what you can for their souls; offer liturgies, memorial services, fasts, prayers, alms.


TEACHING OF THE SCRIPTURES

Heed all the thoughts of the Holy Gospels, because they are all diamonds, treasures, joy, delight, eternal life. The existence of many churches neither preserves nor strengthens our faith to the proper extent and in the proper manner, if those who believe in God are not enlightened by the Old and the New Testament. I have found the words and the commandments of Christ pure, holy, true, splendid, brighter than the sun; and whoever believes in Christ and calls Him God and lives in accordance with His teaching, contained in the Holy Gospels, is fortunate and thrice-blessed. The Holy Spirit illumined firstly the holy Prophets, and they wrote the Divine Scripture; seondly, He illumined the holy Apostles; and thirdly, He has illumined the holy Fathers, and they have explained the books of our Church, in order that we may know how to conduct ourselves. Our Faith has been made secure by wise and learned Saints, who both explained the Holy Scriptures precisely and have enlightened us through their divinely inspired discourses.


Source: Modern Orthodox Saints I, St. Cosmas Aitolos, by (Dr.) Constantine Cavarnos., INSTITUTE FOR BYZANTINE AND MODERN GREEK STUDIES., Belmont, Massachusetts., pp.81-94.

St John the “Apostle of Love”

September 27, 2009 1 comment

The Holy, Glorious All-laudable Apostle and Evangelist, Virgin, and Beloved Friend of Christ, John the Theologian was the son of Zebedee and Salome, a daughter of St Joseph the Betrothed. He was called by our Lord Jesus Christ to be one of His Apostles at the same time as his elder brother James. This took place at Lake Gennesareth (i.e. the Sea of Galilee). Leaving behind their father, both brothers followed the Lord.

The Apostle John was especially loved by the Savior for his sacrificial love and his virginal purity. After his calling, the Apostle John did not part from the Lord, and he was one of the three apostles who were particularly close to Him. St John the Theologian was present when the Lord restored the daughter of Jairus to life, and he was a witness to the Transfiguration of the Lord on Mount Tabor.

During the Last Supper, he reclined next to the Lord, and laid his head upon His breast. He also asked the name of the Savior’s betrayer. The Apostle John followed after the Lord when they led Him bound from the Garden of Gethsemane to the court of the iniquitous High Priests Annas and Caiphas. He was there in the courtyard of the High Priest during the interrogations of his Teacher and he resolutely followed after him on the way to Golgotha, grieving with all his heart. At the foot of the Cross he stood with the Mother of God and heard the words of the Crucified Lord addressed to Her from the Cross: “Woman, behold Thy son.” Then the Lord said to him, “Behold thy Mother” (John 19:26-27). From that moment the Apostle John, like a loving son, concerned himself over the Most Holy Virgin Mary, and he served Her until Her Dormition.

Rastignirea

After the Dormition of the Mother of God the Apostle John went to Ephesus and other cities of Asia Minor to preach the Gospel, taking with him his own disciple Prochorus. They boarded a ship, which floundered during a terrible tempest. All the travellers were cast up upon dry ground, and only the Apostle John remained in the depths of the sea. Prochorus wept bitterly, bereft of his spiritual father and guide, and he went on towards Ephesus alone. On the fourteenth day of his journey he stood at the shore of the sea and saw that the waves had cast a man ashore. Going up to him, he recognized the Apostle John, whom the Lord had preserved alive for fourteen days in the sea.


Teacher and disciple went to Ephesus, where the Apostle John preached incessantly to the pagans about Christ. His preaching was accompanied by such numerous and great miracles, that the number of believers increased with each day. During this time there had begun a persecution of Christians under the emperor Nero (56-68). They took the Apostle John for trial at Rome. St John was sentenced to death for his confession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Lord preserved His chosen one. The apostle drank a cup of deadly poison, but he remained alive. Later, he emerged unharmed from a cauldron of boiling oil into which he had been thrown on orders from the torturer.

After this, they sent the Apostle John off to imprisonment to the island of Patmos, where he spent many years. Proceeding along on his way to the place of exile, St John worked many miracles. On the island of Patmos, his preaching and miracles attracted to him all the inhabitants of the island, and he enlightened them with the light of the Gospel. He cast out many devils from the pagan temples, and he healed a great multitude of the sick. Sorcerers with demonic powers showed great hostility to the preaching of the holy apostle. He especially frightened the chief sorcerer of them all, named Kinops, who boasted that they would destroy the apostle. But the great John, by the grace of God acting through him, destroyed all the demonic artifices to which Kinops resorted, and the haughty sorcerer perished in the depths of the sea. The Apostle John withdrew with his disciple Prochorus to a desolate height, where he imposed upon himself a three-day fast. As St John prayed the earth quaked and thunder rumbled. Prochorus fell to the ground in fright. The Apostle John lifted him up and told him to write down what he was about to say. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord, Who is and Who was and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8), proclaimed the Spirit of God through the Apostle John.

St John - St Prohoros (small) St. John with his disciple Prochorus

Thus in about the year 67 the Book of Revelation was written, known also as the “Apocalypse,” of the holy Apostle John the Theologian. In this Book were predictions of the tribulations of the Church and of the end of the world. After his prolonged exile, the Apostle John received his freedom and returned to Ephesus, where he continued with his activity, instructing Christians to guard against false teachers and their erroneous teachings. In the year 95, the Apostle John wrote his Gospel at Ephesus. He called for all Christians to love the Lord and one another, and by this to fulfill the commands of Christ. The Church calls St John the “Apostle of Love”, since he constantly taught that without love man cannot come near to God. In his three Epistles, St John speaks of the significance of love for God and for neighbor. Already in his old age, he learned of a youth who had strayed from the true path to follow the leader of a band of robbers, so St John went out into the wilderness to seek him. Seeing the holy Elder, the guilty one tried to hide himself, but the Apostle John ran after him and besought him to stop. He promised to take the sins of the youth upon himself, if only he would repent and not bring ruin upon his soul. Shaken by the intense love of the holy Elder, the youth actually did repent and turn his life around. St John when he was more than a hundred years old he far outlived the other eyewitnesses of the Lord, and for a long time he remained the only remaining eyewitness of the earthly life of the Savior.

When it was time for the departure of the Apostle John, he went out beyond the city limits of Ephesus with the families of his disciples. He bade them prepare for him a cross-shaped grave, in which he lay, telling his disciples that they should cover him over with the soil. The disciples tearfully kissed their beloved teacher, but not wanting to be disobedient, they fulfilled his bidding. They covered the face of the saint with a cloth and filled in the grave. Learning of this, other disciples of St John came to the place of his burial. When they opened the grave, they found it empty.

Each year from the grave of the holy Apostle John on May 8 came forth a fine dust, which believers gathered up and were healed of sicknesses by it. Therefore, the Church also celebrates the memory of the holy Apostle John the Theologian on May 8. The Lord bestowed on His beloved disciple John and John’s brother James the name “Sons of Thunder” as an awesome messenger in its cleansing power of the heavenly fire. And precisely by this the Savior pointed out the flaming, fiery, sacrificial character of Christian love, the preacher of which was the Apostle John the Theologian. The eagle, symbol of the lofty heights of his theological thought, is the iconographic symbol of the Evangelist John the Theologian. The appellation “Theologian” is bestown by Holy Church only to St John among the immediate disciples and Apostles of Christ, as being the seer of the mysterious Judgments of God.

The feast of the Metastasis of St John the Theologian in celebrated on September 26th

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Apolytikion (2nd Tone)


Beloved Apostle of Christ our God,
hasten to deliver a people without defense.
He who permitted you to recline upon His bosom,
accepts you on bended knee before Him.
Beseech Him, O Theologian, to dispel the persistent cloud of nations,
asking for us peace and great mercy.

Categories: Lives of Saints