ALASKA OF MY HEART
Spruce Island, Alaska, USA
A pilgrimage to the Athos of America…
წმინდა ნინოს და საქართველოს ჩემს გულში
SAINT NINA & GEORGIA OF MY HEART
Georgian articles – ქართული
ATHENS OF MY HEART
Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos
of Athens, Greece, +1989
From the Counsels
Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos
True love is like the flame of a candle. However many candles you light from the flame, the initial flame remains unaffected. It doesn’t lessen at all. And every freshly lit candle has as much flame as the others do.
I want whoever is near me to feel that he has room to breathe, not that he is suffocated. I don’t call anyone to me. I don’t hold onto anyone. I don’t chase anyone away. Whoever wants comes, whoever wants stays, whoever wants leaves. I don’t consider anyone a supporter or a follower.
I am not afraid of death. Not, of course, because of my works, but because I believe in God’s mercy.
Speak more to God about your children than to your children about God…. The soul of the teenager is in a state of an explosion of freedom. For this reason he has a hard time accepting various counsels. So, rather than counseling him continuously and reproaching him now and again, leave the situation to Christ, to the Panaghia (Greek word meaning “All-Holy”. It is perhaps the most beloved term of endearment for the Mother of God in the Greek language) and to the Saints, asking them to bring him to reason.
Don’t be neglectful of prayer! At table, in the morning, afternoon and evening. In particular don’t miss Small Compline for any reason, tired though you may be. It’s a question of self-sacrifice and, in particular, of love. When a beloved person calls you very late at night, how are you able to speak sometimes for a few hours, despite your fatigue, without being put out, but being, rather, pleased?
Deal with your children as with colts, sometimes tightening and other times loosening the bit. When the colt kicks, without abandoning the bit, we loosen it, otherwise it will break. When, however, it is peaceful, then we tighten the bit and take the colt where we like.
Parents should love their children as their children and not as their idols. That is to say, they should love their children as they are and not how they would like them to be-to be like them.
Whoever fears God doesn’t fear anything else.
I am in pain and agonize over the path of the Greek people who are constantly being de-Hellenized, de-Christianized, de-colorized and cut off from their roots, and are losing their identity.
In marriage, abstention solely out of love for God is perfect, “the greatest.”(Elder Epiphanios uses terminology from the grading system at school to make his point. “The greatest” is an “A,” “very good,” is a “B,” etc). When the couple comes together, not obstructing the procreation of children, it is at the level of “very good.” And when they abstain solely to avoid the procreation of children, they are on the level of “good.” In any case all of these categories are above average and are only legitimate with the presupposition that they have been agreed upon by both spouses and not just one. Otherwise it is a sin.
God appointed the salvation of the world to His Son and not to us…. We must first look at our soul and if we can, let’s help five or six people around us.
When someone is free, he has rights and responsibilities. When he marries, he has few rights and very many responsibilities. When, however, he has children, he doesn’t have any rights at all, but only responsibilities.
Why do they put rubber tires with inner tubes on cars? So that they give in, to collapse a little with every little stone or pothole on the road, and in this way they pass obstacles. If the wheels were firm and unyielding, the car wouldn’t be able to move forward. It would fall apart after a short distance because of the vibration from the small inconsistencies of terrain. The same thing happens with yielding to others in the family. In this way many problems are surpassed and continuous spiritual progress is assured.
When people treat us unjustly, God justifies us.
[God allows virtuous people to suffer] so that they might be purified from even the slightest traces of their passions and so that they might receive an even greater crown in Heaven. Furthermore, as He allowed His beloved Son to suffer and to die on the Cross, what can we say for those people who, as holy as they may be, have filth and stains from sin?
Sadness purifies us. Man is truly man in sadness. In joy he is changed, he becomes someone else. In sadness he becomes that which he truly is. And this is the way, par excellence, that he approaches God. He senses his weakness. Many times, when he is in glory and joy, he feels that he is the “eye of the earth” or, if you prefer, the center of the universe: “I am, and nobody else!”
In pain and sadness he feels like an insignificant ant in the universe, that he is completely dependent, and he seeks the help and companionship of God. Those of us who have passed through pains, either psychical or physical, know that we never prayed as hard and with such quality and length, as we did when we were in the bed of pain or when some heavy psychical sadness tested us. While, when we have everything, we forget prayer and fasting, and many things. It is for this reason that God allows pain.
Don’t sit, glued to the television…. Guard yourselves from the means of mass blinding.
We didn’t come here [to the monastery] mainly for handiwork, or for the gardens or for the buildings. For even without these things we can save our soul. We came here primarily for the soul. And in order to save the soul, we must pass the day without sin, with meekness, canon (In this case, the daily rule of prayer, reading, prostrations, and so on, that a monk keeps in his room) and prayer.
I sacrificed everything even before I had anything. I sacrificed a place at the university as a professor. I sacrificed the position of first secretary of the Holy Synod. I sacrificed the position of director of a missionary brotherhood. I sacrificed the position of first priest of a large church. I sacrificed Episcopal (That is, the position of bishop) thrones…. All I have is a little epilrahili (In Greek, literally, “upon the neck.” It is the stole that the priest or bishop wears around his neck when hearing confession (hereafter, “stole”) so as to confess ten souls. Nothing else!
There is no greater satisfaction for me than to remain for hours in the seat of the confessional and to reconcile man to God.
Married and unmarried priests, let us not forget that we are representatives of the gentle and humble-hearted Jesus. We were called to progress in humility and not to quarrel in the holy altar for priority of honor.
Clerics and, in particular, celibate clerics must be chosen from those of a mature age, with excellent education, extreme piety, shining ethos, sterling character and complete spiritual formation: all those things that are acquired with labors and struggles, prayer and study, fasting and vigils, with voluntary poverty and hardships, and through various deprivations. For asceticism is not the privilege or responsibility of monastics alone, but of all the faithful and particularly of clerics, and especially of unmarried clerics. The Orthodox Church is deeply ascetic and those who don’t love asceticism and who are friends of luxury and comfort don’t have a place within Her.
The priest is the incarnation of the absolute, the expression of the constant, stable and unshakeable, the trumpet of Heaven, the image of incorruption, the mile-marker of eternity. May he remain forever unchanged, even in his external appearance, as a reminder and symbol of the ages and of the unchanging truths that he represents.
The priesthood is a very great gift of God toward mankind. It is the conduit of the grace of God.
It seems a blasphemy to me [an archimandrite’s sadness at not having been elected bishop]. If you consider that your shell of a body can take bread and wine and, with the Holy Spirit’s consecration, transform it into the Body and Blood of Christ; that you have been given the power to make the children of Adam partakers of the Cross and resurrection of Christ through baptism, and how you have been given the power to place your hands and your stole over the head of the greatest sinner and to bring him out of confession with a pure and whitened soul, how can you then consider yourself unsuccessful? Because you haven’t put on a mitre? ( ). May God have mercy on us!
I have made an agreement with God: I will empty my pockets in almsgiving and He will fill them. He has never violated our agreement. Will I violate it? May it never happen!
Ah! My fathers, know how much I have ground down my will! I have loved two things in my life: reading and writing, both of which I have been deprived of, and the deprivation of which is as great for me as for him who loses the greatest joy in this world. When I study the Holy Scripture and patristic books, I leave the earth and go to Heaven. As for my own writing, forgive me for what I’m about to say … I get drunk. I see how others desire to write some text, and they erase, write, erase again, write again….
I don’t manage to write my thoughts in time, for I am flooded as with flakes of snow. I feel as though my pen has wings. However, in spite of my writing ability and my desire for study, I deprive myself and sit and pick up the telephone, which rings cons tandy, so as to find a solution to some problem or other. Or else I see people for confession for hours without end, and not only scholars, but also simple and unlettered people. In saying this I don’t undervalue the Mystery of confession as opposed to the work of writing. But the will of God was that I confess people and not that I study and write, though they much enchant me.
How crafty the devil is! To young people who managed to unite in Christian marriage he whispers, “How much better you would be if you went to the monastery and lived the heavenly spiritual pleasures, far from the cares of family life which sever you and keep you down!” While to those who went to the monastery, as they desired the life of virginity in Christ, he whispers, “How much better you would be, if you got married and made your home a temple of God, living the joys of marital life, far from ascetic mortification and the loneliness which depresses you!” And if the married one became a monk and the monk married, he would tell them the opposite. All this to throw the person into despair and to pull him from the path of salvation. For the path of salvation is both blessed marriage and virginity in Christ
The mathematics of God is completely different from the mathematics of humans. For us two and two equal four. For God two and two can make five or fifteen or anyd1ing else.
My heart only has entrances. It doesn’t have exits. Whoever enters remains there. Whatever he may do, I love him the same as I loved him when he first entered into my heart. I pray for him and seek his salvation.
My worst hell is to realize that I have saddened a beloved person.
(Taken from Elder Epiphanios in “Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit”, Protecting Veil Press)
ROMAN CATHOLICS MET ORTHODOXY
Why do Orthodox Christians “cross themselves”
different than Roman Catholics?
ORTHODOXY IS LOVE
They touch their right shoulder first, then their left, whereas the Roman Catholics first touch their left shoulder. Is this difference important? Does it make any difference?
Orthodox cross themselves from right to left. first we will describe the mechanics of making the cross, then explain why it is indeed important that we make the sign of the cross correctly.
“Placing the cross on oneself”
-We place our thumb and first two fingers together in a point, and our last we fingers flat against our palm. The three fingers together represent the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the two fingers in the palm represent the two natures of Christ.
-We touch our forehead, then our belly, tracing the vertical part of the cross.
-From our belly, we bring our hand up to our right shoulder, touching it.
-We finish placing the cross on ourself by touching our left shoulder.
The act of “Placing the cross on oneself” is a request for a blessing from God. We make if from right to left to mirror the actions of the priest when he blesses us. The priest, looking at the parishioners, blesses from left to right. Therefore, the parishioners, putting on the sign of the cross on themselves, do it from right to left.
Because the Lord separated the sheep from the goats, putting the faithful sheep on His right side, and the goats on the left, the Church always treats the right side as the preferred side. We only cross ourselves with our RIGHT hand. The priest, when blessing a person, first touches or points to their RIGHT side, then their left. Also the censing of the Holy Table in the Altar is always done from the RIGHT side first; censing of the Ikonostasis, the Congregation and of the Church itself always begins with the right side. The priest always gives communion with his RIGHT hand, even if he is left handed. There are other examples of this right side preference.
When a parent makes the sign of the cross over a child, they will cross them from left to right, just as the priest blesses. When they make the sign of the cross over themselves, they would do it, logically, the other way.
The Catholic Encyclopedia states that in the Roman Catholic Church, the faithful crossed themselves from right to left, just as the Orthodox do, until the 15th or 16th century. They must explain why they have changed an ancient and apostolic tradition. We cannot answer as to their motivations.
Is it important to cross ourselves a particular way? In a word, YES. We do not have the authority to choose willy-nilly what parts of the Christian Tradition we want to follow. Our fathers, and countless saints crossed themselves from right to left. Ancient icons show Christ or bishops beginning a blessing from right to left. the right side is referred to in a preferential way many times in scripture and our sacred hymns What should we want to change?
FR. ALEXANDER LABEDEV
TAIWAN & HONG KONG OF MY HEART
HONG KONG & TAIWAN SMILE
香港 – Hong Kong…