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What Is the Mark of the True Christian?

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

by St. Anastasius the Sinaite


St. Anastasius was a priest and abbot of Mt. Sinai. His zeal for true faith led him to travel through Egypt, Arabia, and Syria to combat the errors of the Acephalites and Eutychians. His writings show not only a thorough command of Holy Scripture and a wide knowledge of the writing of the Church Fathers and other Christian writers, but also classical erudition and a solid grounding in Aristotelian philosophy. Of his prolific output the most important works are Guide Against the Acephalites and Answers to Questions. It is from the latter that the present passage is translated. St. Anastasius died in great old age in 686. [1]


QUESTION: What is the mark of the true Christian?

ANSWER: Some say correct faith and pious works. Jesus, however does not define the true Christian in these terms. It is possible for one to have faith and good works, and to be conceited over these and not to be a perfect Christian. A Christian is a veritable dwelling place of Christ, held together by good works and pious beliefs. True faith, without works is dead, as are works without faith. We must, therefore, use every effort to keep ourselves clean from foul deeds so that it may not be said of us They profess that they know God, but in works they deny Him (Titus 1:16), wherefore the Lord says If a man loves Me, he will keep My words, and My Father will love Him, and We will come unto him and make Our home with him (John 14:23).

Do we not learn from this that the house of the soul is built through correct belief and good works, and thus God dwells within us. I will dwell in them, He says, and walk in them (II Cor. 6:16). The Apostle also points this out when he says Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates(II Cor. 13:5)? Will not the devil then know whether or not the Master of the house, Christ, is inside your mind? When he sees you angry, or shouting, or using oaths, or foul language, or blaming someone, or abusing him, or finding fault, or reproaching someone, or condemning, or hating, or treating someone unjustly, or being conceited, or boasting, or laughing a lot, or being elated, or not praying habitually and remembering death, then he knows that God, your protector and provider is not inside your soul. And so, the evil one enters like a thief, not finding the divine light in your heart, and he loots the house of your soul, and your last state becomes worse than your first.

From Deuteronomy: And now, Israel, what does the Lord thy God require of thee, but to fear the Lord thy God, to walk in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord thy God (Deut. 10:12).

From David: Ye that love the Lord, see to it that ye hate evil (Ps. 96:10); The Lord preserveth all that love Him, but all the sinners shall He utterly destroy (Ps. 144:20). And: for not a God that willest iniquity art Thou. He that worketh evil shall not dwell near Thee, nor shall transgressors abide before Thine eyes (Ps.5:2, 3).

From Isaiah: And the Lord has said, This people draw nigh to Me with their mouth, and they honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me: but in vain do they worship Me (Is. 29:12). They seek Me day by day, and desire to know My ways, as a people that had done righteousness, and had not forsaken the judgment of their God (Is. 58:2), says the Lord, and: When ye stretch forth your hands, I will turn away Mine eyes from you, for your hands are full of blood. Wash you, be clean; remove your iniquities from your souls before Mine eyes; cease from your iniquities; learn to do well; diligently seek judgment, deliver him that is suffering wrong, plead for the orphan, and obtain justice for the widow(Is. 1:15-18).

From Solomon: The ways of an ungodly man are an abomination to the Lord; but He loves those that follow after righteousness (Prov. 15:9). And: By alms and by faithful dealings sins are purged away; but by the fear of the Lord every one departs from evil (Prov. 15:27).

From Sirach: Say not, I have sinned, and what harm hath happened unto me? for the Lord is longsuffering, He will in no wise let thee go… and say not, His mercy is great; He will be pacified for the multitude of my sins: for mercy and wrath come from Him, and his indignation resteth upon sinners (Sir. 5:46). As His mercy is great, so is His correction also: He judgeth a man according to His works… for every man shall find according to his works (Sir. 16:12-14).

From the Apostolic Constitutions: “Therefore let him who is to be baptized be a stranger to wickedness, abstaining from sin, a friend of God, an enemy of the devil, an heir of God, a co-heir of Christ, renouncing Satan and his demons and his works, chaste, pure, holy, a lover of God, a son of God, praying as a son to the Father and saying thus as is the custom of the faithful: Our Father, Who art in heaven,… [2] So that he may not call God Father unworthily, and be reproached by Him, as Israel, the first born son who once heard that A son honors his father, and a servant his master: if then I am a father, where is mine honor (Mal. 1:6)? For the glory of fathers is the holiness of their children, and the honor of a master is the fear of his servants. [3]

From St. Gregory of Nyssa: On the Lord’s Prayer: “He Who is good does not have the nature to become the father of an evil will, nor the Holy One of one polluted in his life; nor He Who is changeless of one constantly changing; nor He Who is Life of one dead through sin; nor He Who is pure and untainted of one disfigured by disgraceful passions; nor the bountiful one of a miser; nor He Who is found in every good, in any way of those who are involved in evil. If anyone looking at himself sees that he still needs cleansing and he recognizes his conscience as being full of defilement and evil crimes, and, before cleansing himself of these and similar evils, he insinuates himself into God’s family by calling Him Father, being unrighteous, he calls on the Righteous One, being impure he calls the Pure One Father, his words would be insult and mockery, as if he were naming God as the Father of his own vileness. For the word father indicates the cause of the one who comes to exist through him.

Therefore a man who with a bad conscience calls God his father does nothing other than blame God as the author and cause of his own wickedness. But light has not fellowship with darkness, says the Apostle. Light rather associates itself with light, the just with the just, the incorrupt with the incorrupt. Their opposites, however, relate to their own kind. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit (Matt. 7:18).

“If then someone who is slow of heart and seeks after lying, as Scripture says, dares to use the words of the prayer, let him know that the father he calls is not the heavenly one, but rather, the infernal one, for he is a liar and become the father of lies, within whomever they be. He is sin and the father of sin. For this reason those who are subject to passions are called children of wrath, and the apostate from Life is called the son of perdition.

“Would you like to know the properties of the evil character? They are envy, hate, slander, conceit, avarice, passionate lust, and the sickness of megalomania. These and suchlike characterize the form of the adversary. If someone whose soul is infected with such stains were to call on the Father, what sort of father would hear him? Clearly the one who has kinship with the one who calls on him, and this is not the heavenly one, but the infernal one. The one whose family features he bears will recognize the family relationship. Thus the prayer of an evil man, as long as he persists in his wickedness, becomes an invocation of the devil. When he has abandoned his wickedness and lives innocently, his voice will call on the good Father.”

The same Gregory, to the monk Lybbius: “If someone puts on the name of Christ, but does not show a life corresponding to that name, he makes a lie of the name. For neither is it possible for the Lord not to be justice, purity and truth, and estrangement for every evil, nor is it possible for a Christian not to show that he partakes of those qualities.”

St. Cyril of Jerusalem: Catechism: “It is of no benefit to us to be called Christians if we do not correspond in our deeds. For it is written: If ye were Abraham’s children ye would do the works of Abraham (John 8:39).”

St. John Chrysostom: On St. Matthew: “Whoever calls God Father, with this small word, confessed the remission of sins, the redemption from punishment, justification, sanctification, liberation, adoption as son, kinship with the Only-Begotten, and the bestowal of the Spirit. Nor is it possible for someone to call God Father, if he is not a partaker of all those good things, and has not become a son of God. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God (Rom. 8:14). Thus whoever calls God Father should demonstrate appropriate behavior so as not to appear unworthy of the kinship. No man can serve two masters… God and mammon(Matt. 6:24).”

“Do not philosophize too much, for God has declared it once and for all and said that it is impossible for service of one to be compatible with service of the other. So do not say it is possible. For, when one tells you to seize (others’ property) and the other tells you to free yourself of what you have; one says to be chaste, the other to fornicate; one says to eat and drink, the other to fast and exercise self-control; the one to despise things of this world, the other to cleave to them; the one to marvel at marble walls and buildings, the other not to value these things but rather to pursue philosophy, how is it possible for these to be compatible with each other?

“He here calls mammon a master, not because of its own nature, but because of the wretchedness of those who bow and submit to it. Thus the Apostle calls the belly a god, not because of any worthiness of such a mistress, but from the wretchedness of those who serve her.”

St. Basil the Great: from The Ascetics: “If we believe the Lord when He says, Whoseover committeth sin is the servant of sin (John 8:34), and again, Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do (John 8:44), we see that he (the sinner) is not only in fellowship, but a slave (of the devil), and his father and his master he calls the one whose work he does. The Apostle also bears witness to this, saying, Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness (Rom. 6:16)? Nor should faith be dead, as the body without the spirit is dead. And again: Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble (James 2:19). The Lord asks, why do you call Me Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say? We, who are ruled by the Lord, must confess Him also by our actions, not having sin reigning or ruling within us, so that it may not be said of us that they loved Him with their mouth… their heart was not right with Him (Ps. 77:39).

“Let us listen to the Apostle saying, Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate,… nor drunkards, nor extortioners shall inherit the kingdom of God (I Cor. 6:9,10). And again, no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words; for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be ye not partakers with them (Eph. 5:5-7). If we were to be among these, we who claim to believe, who await the kingdom, we would not be partners of the King, but associates of the King’s enemies.

“If we have come to know Christ, we have come to know the Truth. If we know the Truth, we will live in truth, in our deeds. Otherwise, when He comes again, He will put our lot with the unbelievers, saying: Verily I say unto you, I know you not (Matt. 25:12). It will not help us to cry, Lord, Lord. Even the demons believe with an empty faith.

Chrysostom: On Fasting: “Let my prayer be set forth as incense before Thee, the lifting up of my hands… (Ps. 140:2). Look at your hands and examine them. And if they hold nothing stolen or defiling, say this with boldness: Let my prayer be set forth as incense. If you have stolen something or committed something forbidden, do not call, do not lift your hands until you cease your wickedness. Even if, by God’s permission, you are able to lift your hands, your prayer, being defiled, can in no way ascend to heaven, but you will hear When ye stretch forth your hands, I will turn away mine eyes from you: and though ye make many supplications, I will not hearken to you (Is. 1:15).”

Chrysostom: On St. Matthew: “Let us now learn what things defile a man. Let us learn, and shun them. Even in the Church we see among many that they try to keep such a custom, to make an effort to come in clean clothing, and to wash their hands and feet, but not even giving a thought to presenting God with a clean soul. Saying this, I do not forbid anyone to wash his hands and his mouth, but I would that he wash them as is proper. Not only with water, but, instead of water, with virtues. Defilement of the hands is theft, evil actions, attacks on one’s neighbor. (Defilement) of the mouth is blasphemy, abuse, foul language, ribaldry, mockery, insult.

“If, then, you are conscious of committing or uttering none of these things, nor being defiled by any of these defilements, come with confidence. Or have you received these defilements a myriad times? Do you rinse your hands and tongue, but carry in them deadly and noxious filth? Tell me, if you had dung and mire in your hands, would you dare to pray? Not at all. There is, however, no harm in these, in the other there is death and destruction. How is it that you show piety in the irrelevant but indifference to what is forbidden? What then, says one, should one not pray? One should, but not in a defiled state and in such filth. What then, he says, if I have been taken by it? Cleanse yourself. How and by what means? Weep, groan, give alms, confess, apologize to those offended by you, be reconciled. With these wipe clean your tongue, so as not to anger God more greatly.

“If someone were to embrace your feet with hands full of dung, you would not only not hear him, but even repel him with your foot. How do you then thus dare to approach God? The tongue of one who prays is the hand with which we embrace God’s knees. Do not therefore defile it, so that He may not say to you: Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear you. Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21). By your words you will be either justified or condemned. You do not dare to pray fresh after the company of your wife, but after abusive and insulting speech and other wickedness you stretch forth your hands before being properly cleansed. How do you not tremble, tell me, calling on that terrible and awesome name? Have you not heard St. Paul say: I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hand without wrath and doubting (I Tim. 2:8).

Chrysostom: On St. John: “The Lord tells us that faith is of no benefit to us if our life remains corrupt: Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; Many will say unto Me on that day Lord, Lord have we not prophesied in Thy name?… And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you (Matt. 7:21-23). What use is faith when the Lord does not acknowledge us? When we do not do God’s will, we are in the snare of the devil. And, just as the sparrow, even if it is not completely entangled, but caught only by one foot, is in the trapper’s power, so it is also with us. Even if we are not completely entangled, but only in respect to either our faith or our life, we are in the devil’s power, for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage (II Peter 2:19).”

St. John of the Ladder: “He who claims to have true faith, but commits sins, is like a face with no eyes. Conversely, he who does not have faith, but is good in his actions is like one drawing water and pouring it into a vessel with holes.”

Mark the Monk: “Some, without doing the commandments, think they have right faith. Others, doing (the commandments), expect the kingdom as their just desert. Both miss out on the kingdom.”

Maximus the Monk, from The Ascetic Chapters: “A Christian pursues wisdom in the following three things: the commandments, dogma, and faith. The commandments free the mind from the passions, dogma leads to a knowledge of the truth, and faith to contemplation of the Holy Trinity, to Whom be all glory, honor, and worship, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages.”

Endnotes

  1. Archbishop Filaret of Chernigov: Historical Study of the Church Fathers (in Russian), vol. 3, p. 178.
  2. Apostolic Constitutions, 3:18.
  3. Apostolic Constitutions, 7:24.

From Orthodox Life, Vol. 41, No. 5 (Sept-Oct, 1991), pp. 14-20. Translated for the first time into English from Migne PG 89 329-44 by Hieroschemamonk Janis Berzin.

Sunday of Orthodoxy. St. John of Kronstadt- On the Joy of Being Orthodox

February 21, 2010 1 comment

“As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ has awarded: thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach Christ our true God, and honor His Saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy Icons; on the one hand worshiping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand honoring as true servants of the same Lord of all, and accordingly offering them veneration.
(Loudly) This is the Faith of the Apostles; this is the Faith of the Fathers; this is the Faith of the Orthodox; this is the Faith which has established the universe!”  (Synodicon: The Affirmation of the Orthodoxy Faith)

“Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (Jn.1: 47)

Our Lord Jesus Christ said this of a certain Nathanael, an Israelite who dwelt in the Galilean town of Cana, when the latter, on the advice of his friend Philip, went to meet Jesus Christ to be assured whether He was the Messiah promised to Israel. Philip said to Nathanael, “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!” But Nathanael said to him, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip then said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, He said, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathanael said to Him, “Whence knowest Thou me?” Jesus answered him, saying, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee,” i.e., I knew all your thoughts, your faith, your hope for the Messiah, your future ministry. The Lord Who knows the hearts of men apparently touched the very heartstrings of Nathanael, his inmost thoughts, desires, aspirations, showing His divine omniscience plainly to him. Thus was Nathanael brought to faith in Christ, and he cried out, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel!,” and became His disciple.

Why is it that during the Great Fast, on the day called the “Sunday of Orthodoxy,” it is this particular Gospel which is prescribed to be read? Because the Lord’s words to Nathanael reveal the character of the true, or Orthodox, Christian and, in general, the character of the true Church of Christ. “Behold, an Israelite indeed,” the Lord said of Nathanael, “in whom is no guile,” i.e., behold a man who rightly, directly, firmly thinks, reasons, believes, hopes, speaks and acts, since Nathanael directly, immediately believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and never wavered in his faith and hope, never changed his mind concerning His divine Person. Should not the true Christian be like him; should not the divinely instituted society of Orthodox Christians also be such; should not the Orthodox Church be such, and is it not such?

What high praise did He Who searches the hearts and reins render unto Nathanael in the words: “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” What high praise there is for that Christian of whom the Lord says, “Behold a Christian indeed, in whom is no guile!,” and for that Church of which the Lord will say, “Behold a Church indeed, in which is no guile, or vain human inventions, i.e., which is wholly true in all its doctrines, mysteries, divine services, directives, and its entire organization.

And just such men were our holy favorites of God; such has the whole Orthodox Church been from the beginning up to now, as is borne witness by an impartial history of the Church and by God Himself through the divers signs and wonders wrought in the Church. It is, as the Apostle says, “the pillar and ground of Truth,” it is “a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing.”

To preserve the Orthodox Faith rivers of the blood of the apostles, the prophets and the martyrs were poured forth; and many tortures were borne by the venerable fathers and other champions of the Faith. But what about us, the children of the Orthodox Church? Are we preserving this precious inheritance, the Orthodox Faith; are we following its teachings, commandments, canons, rules, counsel? Do we love to offer service to God? Are we renewed thereby, are we hallowed each and every day, are we setting ourselves aright, are we attaining the perfection which the saints have reached? Are we becoming perfect in love for God and our neighbors; do we cherish our Faith; do we regard the mercy of God as the greatest thing, and that we have the good fortune to belong to the Orthodox Church is the first and greatest happiness in our life? What answer would we give to these questions if we were to respond according to our conscience?

To our shame, we must admit that in many Orthodox Christians the Orthodox Faith is not only absent in their heart, but it is also not on their tongue; among them it has vanished entirely, or has been turned into total indifference with regard to any religion whatever–Catholic, Lutheran, Jewish, Mohammendan, or pagan. We hear that one may please God in every religion, i.e., that every religion is supposedly pleasing to God, and that falsehood and truth, righteousness and unrighteousness are matters about which God does not care.

This is what ignorance of their own Faith, ignorance of the spirit and history of their Church, estrangement from its life and divine services, has brought many to–an eclipse of any understanding of Orthodoxy, heterodoxy and other religions! The annals of modern events relate that somewhere in Russia a certain headmaster, during the examination of his students, referred to the story of the sacrifice of Isaac as stupid. This is darkness, chaos, pernicious ignorance! The Christian, as a member of the Church, must know his own Faith and strive to live according to that Faith, to achieve salvation by means of that Faith, because the enemies of our salvation never sleep; they seek our destruction every hour and every day. The Orthodox Christian must not dismiss his Faith as a concern merely of certain people, or as a disposable toy appropriate only for children, or something fit only, as it were, for the uneducated common folk.

It would not be out of place to remind those who think thus of the venerable antiquity of our Faith, which is contemporary with the beginning of the human race, and of its direct origin with God and that men of high birth, vocation, position and gender lived and attained salvation in this Faith–glorious kings and wise philosophers, law-givers and the greatest orators, nobles and simple folk, rich and poor, men and women, the beauty and glory of the human race. To the glory of the Orthodox Faith one ought also to say that no other religion than the Orthodox Faith is capable of bringing man to moral perfection or holiness and the pleasing of God, as is shown by the history of the Church and the incorrupt, wonder-working remains of the holy favorites of God and the miraculous feats of the saints of the Orthodox Church, whereby they became perfectly pleasing unto God, becoming clairvoyant and working wonders even during their lifetime. Thus must it be for the sane mind: only a perfect Faith with all its divine powers, with the full spiritual armor of God, is able to bring one to perfection, against the passion-fraught flesh, the world and the devil.

And if now many even Orthodox Christians live badly, their manner of life, even if truly ungodly, cannot in the least, of course, be held against the Orthodox Faith, which is unshakable in its principles of Truth and holiness, in accordance with the promise of the Savior Himself and the testimony of history. Such people, although they have departed from us, were not ours in essence, but only in name…

Yea, my brethren, only the Orthodox Faith purifies and sanctifies human nature which has been defiled by sin…Do you wish to be assured of this? Read the history of the lives of the saints, the history of the Church, and you will see this for yourselves. You will see wolves transformed into lambs, fornicators into angelic righteous men and women, misers into paragons of charity, lovers of pleasure into ascetics; you will see people of power and earthly grandeur and luxury in humble monastic garb…These were true Christians indeed; these were angels in the flesh, citizens of heaven while still on earth… This is what our Orthodox Faith can do with those who sincerely hold to it and follow its direction!

But why does it not produce such a salvific change within us? Because of disbelief and lack of faith, flippancy, depravity and unrepentance of heart, because of the passions which have intensified and gained dominion over us, because we have withdrawn from the Church, and because many are not in the least imbued with the spirit and life of the Church, and many are only weakly, only formally, insincerely, attached to it. Because all the modern lusts have been engendered within us

...For us to be genuine Orthodox Christians, we must first of all have living, constant fellowship with the Orthodox Church, i.e., participation in its prayers, teachings, mysteries, we must earnestly study our Faith and become imbued with it, live in its spirit, be guided by its rules, commandments, precepts; and most important, we must restore within us by true and profound repentance the image of the true Orthodox Christian, according to the image of the saints, ancient and recent, according to the model of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, Who says: “I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (Jn. 13: 15), that the Lord may also say to us, as He once said of Nathanael, “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!”

Amen.

Categories: Homilies, Orthodox Feasts

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

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

Elder Arsenie – On Suffering

October 18, 2009 Leave a comment

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Saint Sergius of Radonezh

September 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Repose of the Venerable Sergius, Abbot and Wonderworker of Radonezh is  commemorated on September 25.


Troparion – Tone 4


A zealot of good deeds
and a true warrior of Christ warrior of Christ our God,
you struggled greatly against the passions in this passing life;
in songs and vigils and fasting you were an image and example to your disciples,
thus the most Holy Spirit lived within you,
and you were made beautiful by His working.
Since you have great boldness before the Holy Trinity,
remember the flock which you have wisely gathered,
and do not forget to visit your children as you promised, venerable Sergius our father!


Kontakion – Tone 8


Bound by the love of Christ, O venerable one, and following Him with unwavering desire,
you despised all carnal pleasures and you shone like the sun in your land.
Therefore, Christ has enriched you with the gift of miracles.
Remember us who venerate your most holy memory,
and who call out to you:  “Rejoice, Sergius, made wise by God!”



HYMN OF PRAISE

An example of prayerful meekness
From his youth, holy Sergius
Loved God and God’s beauty,
And instilled serenity and goodness in himself.
He filled the wilderness with ceaseless prayer,
And transformed the forest into a holy place of God.
He cared not for worldly vanity,
Nor was he ever angered.
He was utterly quiet and meek with everyone,
Yet not meek toward the wicked adversary.
With the foe of God, the father of all lies,
Who seeks to devour the souls of men,
Sergius bravely waged a bitter struggle,
Tireless and powerful unto the final victory.
Thus the elder reposed, but the saint remained
As a fiery pillar for the Russian people,
Beseeching God for every blessing
And bringing blessings down from heaven to his people.
Holy Sergius, do not cease to shine,
Do not cease to pray to the Most-high God
For the good of the Church, for the good of Russia,
In the glory of Christ, O Saint Sergius!

Categories: Lives of Saints

The Virgin Mary’s parents

September 13, 2009 Leave a comment

Apolytikion in the Second Tone

As we celebrate the memory of Thy righteous ancestors, O Lord, through them we beseech Thee to save our souls.

St. Anna, the mother of the Theotokos, was the wife of St. Joachim and the daughter of Mattham, a Levi priest. Anna and Joachim were married and childless for about 50 years. This saddened them, and they vowed that should the Lord bless them with a child they would dedicate it to Him. Hoping their prayers would be answered, they brought gifts to the Lord’s temple in Jerusalem on the yearly Feast of the Dedication (Hanukkah) and Feast of Lights (c.f. Macc 4:52-59; 2 Macc 10:5).

The priests, however, did not wish to accept them, since they were from a childless man, and Joachim was scorned (c.f. St. Romanos the Melodist, c.490-556). Publicly humiliated he soon remembered that Abraham whom God gave a son in his old age. He then retired to the wilderness to pray, were the Archangel Gabriel told him that his prayers have been heard, and that Anna will give birth to a daughter who shall be called Mary.

The Archangel also reminded Joachim that, “according to your vow, she (Mary) shall be devoted to the Lord from her infancy, and she shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from her mother’s womb. Mary shall not eat or drink anything unclean, nor shall her conversation or life be among the crowds of the people, but in the temple of the Lord, that it may not be possible to say, or so much as to suspect, any evil concerning her”.

Again, St. Romanos chants, “Joachim on the mountain prayed to receive fruit from the womb of Anna; and the prayer of the holy man was received”.

Anna, meanwhile, went home to her garden weeping bitterly. She sat under a laurel tree and prayed,O God of our fathers, bless me and hear my prayer, as You opened the womb of Sarah and gave her a son Isaac”. She wept asking, “Alas, who begot me? And what womb did bear me, that I should be thus accursed before the children of Israel, and that they should reproach and deride me in the temple of my God? Woe is me, to what can I be compared? I am not like the fowls of the heaven, because even the fowls of the heaven are productive before You, O Lord. Alas! to what can I be compared? I am not like the beasts of the earth, because even the beasts of the earth are fruitful before You, O Lord Woe is me, to what can I be compared? I am not comparable to the waves of the sea; for these, whether they are calm, or in motion, with the fishes which are in them, praise You, O Lord. Alas! to what have I been likened? I am not like this earth because even the earth brings forth its fruit in season and blessed You, O Lord”.

The same Archangel appeared to Anna and told her, “I am the angel who has presented your prayers and alms before God; and now I have been sent to you to announce that you shall bring forth a daughter, who shall be called Mary, and who shall be blessed above all women. She shall be full of the favour of the Lord, even from her birth. She shall remain in her father’s house until she is weaned and, thereafter, she shall be delivered to the service of the Lord. She shall serve God, day and night, in fasting and prayers. She shall abstain from every unclean thing and shall not depart from the temple until she shall reach the years of discretion. She shall never know man, but alone and without precedent, as an immaculate and undefiled virgin, without intercourse with man, she shall bring forth a Son. She, His handmaiden, shall bring forth the Lord, both in grace, and in name, and in work, the Saviour of the world”.

Gabriel then said, “arise, therefore, and go up to Jerusalem; and when you arrive at the gate that, because it is plated with gold, is called ‘Golden’, there, for a sign, you shall meet your husband, for whose safety you have been anxious. When, therefore, you find these things accomplished, believe that all the rest which I have told you shall also undoubtedly be accomplished”.

On this occasion St. Romanos chants, “the prayer and groaning of Joachim and Anna at their barrenness and childlessness have proved acceptable, and have come unto the ears of the Lord; and they have put forth fruit that brings life to the world. The one offered his prayer in the mountain, the other bore her reproach in the garden. But with joy the barren bears the Theotokos who sustains our life”.

On the following day, Joachim brought his offerings into the temple, worshipped the Lord, and then returned home. There was great joy and celebration when it was heard that Anna conceived.

When Mary was three years old, her parents, after offering up their sacrifice, left her to be brought up with the other maidens in the apartments of the temple. For the next seven years, Anna and Joachim visited Mary often until they reposed, leaving her an orphan.

The Orthodox Church commemorates the Virgin Mary’s parents  on the 9th of September.

Elder Paisios on Sts. Joachim and Anna

“-Elder, tell us about St. Joachim and St. Anna, the Ancestors of God. At one point you started to tell us something.

-From a young age I had great reverence towards the Ancestors of God. Indeed, I had said to someone that, when they make me a monk, I would want them to give me the name Joachim. How much I am indebted to them! Sts. Joachim and Anna are the most dispassionate (in other words without corrupting passions) couple which ever existed. They did not have any carnal attitude.

This is how God made man and this is how he wanted men to be born, dispassionately. But after the fall passion entered the relationship between man and woman. As soon as a dispassionate couple was found, as God created man and as he wished men to be born, the Panagia was born, this pure creation, and then Christ became incarnate. My thoughts tell me that Christ would have descended earlier to earth, if there were a pure pair, such as were Sts. Joachim and Anna.

The Roman Catholics fall into error and believe, supposedly from piety, that Panagia was born without original sin. While Panagia was not free from original sin, she gave birth however as God wished to be born to men after creation. She was all-pure(1), because Her conception occurred without pleasure. The Holy Ancestors of God, after fervent prayer to God to grant them a child, conceived not by sexual lust, but by obedience to God. This fact I had experienced on Sinai. (2)

(1) The Theotokos was born according to a natural manner and not virginally. “She was all-pure”, because as St. John of Damascus writes in his homily “On the Birth of our Most-Holy Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary”, she was conceived “chastely” but increased with her struggle the holiness given to her from her parents, warding off all unnecessary and soul-endangering thoughts before experiencing them.”

(2) The Elder lived in asceticism on Sinai, at Sts. Episteme and Galaction, from 1962 to 1964. This occurance he did not reveal to us.”

(Source: Elder Paisios the Athonite, Book IV: Family Life, Holy Hesychasterion of “St. John the Evangelist the Theologian”, Souroti, Thessaloniki 2007;)


Categories: Lives of Saints