He lent to the Lord

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Photos of the personal belongings of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle and a few stories about his proverbial poverty and non-attachment to material things

His Holiness Patriarch Pavle was born as Gojko Stojcevic in a small village in present day Croatia. He lost both of his parents at a young age and was raised by his aunt. He studied in Belgrade and was majoring in Theology and Medicine. He graduated from University of Belgrade in 1942. He worked as a construction worker after WWII and then took his monastic vows in Ovcar. That is when he received the monastic name Pavle. He later took post-graduate studies in Athens, Greece when he returned in 1957 he was elected as Bishop of Ras and Prizren. He held that position for 33 years before becoming Patriarch in 1990. He held that position until his death on November 15th, 2009.

The Patriarch of Serbian Pavel had only one robe, which he himself made (he always answered with a smile: “I have more than one robe and I don’t need – I cannot wear two at once.”) He dressed himself with a vestment – he cleaned and ironed himself.
The patriarch repaired shoes and even sewed shoes for himself (moreover, if he saw that someone had torn his clothes or shoes, he offered his services in repair). The patriarch until the end used old printing and sewing machines, heated the water on a tiny old stove, wrote with a pen. He had neither personal assistants, nor a personal secretary, nor a personal car. 

The photos below show some of the personal belongings of the Patriarch of Serbian Pavel

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His Holiness was known for his humility. When he was asked why he always walked or took public transport,  he replied “I will not purchase one until every Albanian and Serbian household in Kosovo and Metohija has an automobile.”

Here are a few great stories that show how humble of a man he was ……….

******The Mercedes Story******

Patriarch Pavle, as he was known, continued to live a simple life even after he moved to the new residence – the Patriarchal Palace – in Belgrade. People form Belgrade often encountered him on the streets, riding the train or the bus … Once, while walking alone the hilly street of King Peter the I, towards the Patriarchate,a Mercedes – last model barely passed him, the driver – a priest from one of the well-known parish in Belgrade, stopped the car and said:
– Your Holiness, permit me to invite  you in! Just tell me where you heading …The Patriarch entered the car, and as  soon as it  started moving, asked:
– Tell me, Father, whose  car is this?
– It’s mine, your Holiness!
– Stop it! – the Patriarch replied, he then got off, made the sign of the Cross and said to the priest:
-May the Lord, watch over you!

*****The Black Automobile Story*****

The great session of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church had just ended. As it was the customary, his Holiness was heading to the vespers service at the Cathedral. When he exited the Patriarchal Palace, he saw many black limousines parked near and asked:
– So many luxury cars, who do you think they belong to?
– To our bishops, Your Holiness! They came with them to the Synod meeting-replied the priest who accompanied him. 
– Oh, God watch over them, what would they’ve traveled with, if they weren’t taken the monastic vows of  poverty?!

******The Travel Story******

In the Patriarchate building, it is often heard the story of the Patriarch dialogue with the deacon accompanying him everywhere; as they were ready to go to the church in Banovo Brdo, the deacon asked:
– So, how are we traveling? By car?
– By bus! – the Patriarch replied with determination.
– It’s crowded, it’s stuffy in the bus, and the church is not close …
– We’re going (by bus)! – His Holiness replied shortly.
– But … – the Deacon, following him, advance a new argument, — Your Holiness, it is summer, many people go to Ada Ciganlija [a famous pool] and buses are full of barely naked people. It is not appropriate…
– You know, Father – the Patriarch replied back – one can  see what he desires to see!

*****Raising Salaries*****

Patriarch Pavle refused, in fact, to get paid.He only received a small pension he was entitled to as a formal bishop of Raska and Prizren. All his needs were modest, given that he sewed his mantle and repaired his shoes … Yet, he still had some money left of that pension. What was left of it, he divided among poor or donated it to other purposes of civic good.

When a request from bishops was made to increase their salaries in 1962, his reaction as a bishop became proverbial :

– “But why, since we are not able to spend what we already have?”.

He did, likewise with what he received as gifts. If he received mantle material, he keep it until he met a monk or a priest not been able to afford it. Then he would calculate how much they would need to sew a cassock (mantle) and give them exactly that, so he may share the rest with others.

May our Lord grant us the same spiritual poverty and humility. Patriarch Pavle’s acts condemn me.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.”— Proverbs 19:17

By Susanna Schneider

 

 

 

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When Sickness Heals Sickness

 

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The Podvig of Illness Healing the Illness of Egocentricity

Podvig is a Russian term that is used to describe struggle, ascesis, and quite literally, hard work that become spiritual offerings by virtue of the orientation of the soul from self to God.  … Elder Sophrony noted that harmful self-love can be overcome only through much struggle and effort.  According to Saint Theophan the Recluse, “all the saints accept the only true path to virtue to be pain and hard work… lightness and ease are a sign of a false path. Anyone who is not struggling, not in podvig, is in prelest” [spiritual delusion] (The Path to Salvation, p. 209). One can add that anyone not struggling for virtue is under the deluding influence of egocentricity that prevents the sufferer from seeing God and neighbor and philautia that prevents the wretched soul from genuinely loving them as well.

The terrible struggles involved in physical illnesses and ailments can also be understood in terms of podvigs as long as those experiencing such illnesses and ailments perceive them as being allowed by God’s loving providence for their own purification and illumination. And this perception can only come through a conscious and heroic act of will to move beyond the orbit of self.

Fr. John Krestiankin, in his letters to laypeople, writes, “While our illnesses, yours and mine, should not upset us, for we have already gone out into the final frontier; our podvig of labors is already over; it is left for us only to bear the podvig of illness. I think that this is the most valuable and promising spiritual labor, for nothing humbles a person like sickness.  Now we truly stand before the Lord like babes, with the awareness that we and all of ours are in God’s hands. We stretch out our hands to Him, our hearts cry out only to Him, and no ambition or pridefulness about this podvig can stick to us. How good and saving this is!” 

When we are physically ill or incapacitated, we are forced to confront our own weakness and helplessness. In such instances, we are no longer capable of doing ordinary things for ourselves. We are dependent on others who have their own lives to lead and we feel as though we are on the periphery, not in the center. This is painfully crushing for the ego, which finds itself at a crossroads: should it rebel with even more vehement egocentric demands or humbly accept life on its own difficult terms. Often, people try both approaches. Blessed are those who willingly allow their ego to be humbled, for then the nous awakens and turns to the only One it can: it turns to God in prayer, in hope, and in love.

The notion of illness as podvig could be most beneficial for us if we look at our spiritual state in this way, for indeed, we are spiritually ill and without care from those physicians and nurses in the Hospital of the Church we would be lost, exposed, and in danger of spiritual death. If we were able to keep this notion of our illness and our dependency in the recesses of our heart, we would be more inclined to call upon the most Holy Name of Christ in humility and repentance.  The recollection of our own spiritual illness would assist us in the continual remembrance of God throughout the day. 

This notion is found in the teachings of Elder Sophrony and explained by Archimandrite Zacharias, “Two abysses lie before us:  the depth of the mercy and love of God shown by His Cross to which we join ourselves by voluntarily mourning  over our transgressions, and the depth of the fallen state in which we find ourselves.  Both lead us to intensify our cry to God, in the way of all righteous souls, and grace comes to our help and strengthens us, for it bears within itself the seed of eternal life.  This seed and the consolation that accompanies it inspire us to undertake an awesome struggle with the darkness that we have discovered within ourselves, until it is all ‘swallowed up by life’ (2 Cor. 5:4). We stand constrained by the abyss of the love of Christ, the Cross and the grace of His Resurrection on the one hand, and the abyss of our fall on the other hand.  The abyss of our fall cries to the abyss of the mercy of the love of Christ (cf. Ps. 42:7) and if we acquire this two-fold vision in our life, we will never cease to be inspired day and night.”

Illness, physical and spiritual, can be therapeutic instruments for healing us of the ills of our egocentricity if we choose to embrace them as a podvig. But this is only be possible if we are prepared to glorify God for all things, the joys and the sorrows. When we treat illness as a podvig we are echoing the words of Saint Paul to the Romans, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” And such podvigs give life a deep sense of purpose that frivolous egocentricity never can and never will.

Source: Ancient Christian Wisdom

Seraphima’s Extraordinary Adventures

 


The year is 1943, with communists oppressing Russia and persecuting Christians. The main character, a girl named Seraphima, dreams about a Palm Sunday celebration in a church where her father serves as a priest. The dream ends with the Soviet police taking her father away, and the church being blown up. 

Seraphima lives in a Soviet orphanage and secretly keeps a single reminder of her family — a cross. She finds it difficult to form friendships with the other girls, and the main teacher at the orphanage mocks and persecutes her.

Her friend tells her the house is full of secrets, including some resident ghosts. Seraphima visits a mysterious secret chamber under the stairs, to see one of them. From this moment, Seraphima falls into a whirlpool of incredible events, allowing her to shed light on the mystery of the orphanage, and the fate of her parents.

When the teacher discovers that Seraphima is a Christian, and that she secretly wears a cross, she has Seraphima banished from the orphanage. The girl refuses to renounce her faith, and she waits in suspense to find out who will arrive to take her away . . .

 

 

Christmas as the Anchor for Reality

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Every year, though the cycle of the liturgical seasons in the Church, I am discovering new levels of meaning in festal icons. Here is what I have recently come upon about the Nativity icon: “Like most festal icons, the Nativity icon is not only the image of an event that happened two thousands years ago, but rather by its form and the hierarchy of its elements, shows us the inner working of how the Divine Logos is Him by whom at things were made. The icon also shows us how His incarnation acts as the anchor, the fulcrum around which all manifestation holds together. Christ unites the highest:  angels, star, with the lowest which are the animals and a cave. He brings together the far and wise, the wisemen, to the near and simple, the shepherds. All of this is an image of how the Divine Logos holds the world together. By its reference to death, to the entry into the cave, the nativity icon links it imagery to other icons in which Christ is underground, such as the icon of Theophany and the Anastasis.” (Jonathan Pageau)

For more about The Nativity Icon as an Image of Reality go here

 

For The Ass and The Ox in The Nativity Icon go here

For The Cave in the Nativity icon go here

PS.  Please share with me more analysis of the Nativity icon

 

The old woman and the cab driver

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“I arrived at the address and signaled. After waiting a few minutes, I beep again. Since this was supposed to be my last passenger, I thought about leaving, but instead I parked the car, went to the door and knocked … “Just a minute,” said a fragile, elderly woman’s voice. I heard something being dragged along the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A little woman of about 90 was standing in front of me. She was wearing a plain dress and a hat with a veil, as if from 1940s films. Next to her was a small suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for many years. All furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no trinkets or dishes on the shelves. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photographs and glassware.

“Would you help me carry the bag to the car?” She asked. I took the suitcase to the car and then came back to help the woman. She took my hand and we slowly walked toward the car.

She continued to thank me for my kindness. “It’s nothing,” I told her, “I just try to treat my passengers the way I want them to treat my mother.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got into the car, she gave me the address and then asked: “Could you go through the center of the city?”

“This is not the shortest route,” I replied.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. – “I’m not in a hurry. I’m going to the hospice. ”

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes sparkled. “My family left a long time ago,” she continued in a low voice, “The doctor says that I have not very long to go.”

I calmly extended my hand and turned off the meter.

“What route would you like to go?” I asked.

For the next two hours we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the area where she and her husband lived when they were newlyweds. She showed me a furniture warehouse, which was once a dance hall, where she worked as a little girl.

Sometimes she asked me to slow down in front of a specific building or alley and sat staring into the darkness, saying nothing. Then she suddenly said: “I am tired, perhaps we will go now.”

We rode in silence at the address she gave me. It was a low building, something like a small sanatorium, with a driveway along the portico.

Two nurses approached the car as soon as we arrived. They gently helped her out. Must have been waiting for her. I opened the trunk and carried a small suitcase at the door. The woman was already sitting in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” She asked, reaching for her purse.

“Nothing at all,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she replied.

“There are other passengers,” I replied.

Almost without thinking, I leaned over and hugged her. She hugged me tightly in response.

“You gave the old lady some happiness,” she said. – “Thank you”.

I squeezed her hand and then left … The door closed behind my back, it was the sound of closing another book of life …

Source: Orthodox Parables and Stories

Born to Hate Reborn to Love

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A Spiritual Odyssey from Head to Heart

The Incredible Tale of Klaus Kenneth

(Not for the faint-hearted) 

A friend recommended this book and its author last Sunday, and I have no words to describe the experience! I am half-way through the book and still reeling from the shock of the reading experience, chapter after chapter. And I believed that “The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios” by Dionysios Farasiotis was scary… Nothing had prepared me for this. Klaus Kenneth, emotionally and physically abused by family and priests, a gang leader at 12, a terrorist at 22 and a junkie at 25; then, a Buddhist monk, a Hindu mystic and an occultist in Central America, and this is only a chapter in his life. In his sincere search for escape from rejection and abuse, Klaus found himself on an odyssey that took him around the world several times, lured him into a vortex of pleasure and power, and initiated him into the great philosophies and religious traditions of our times. Having tried it all, and reaching the very brink of the abyss of despair and the desire for nonexistence, Klaus encounters the One whom he had never thought to look for, the One that he had always discounted: the great I AM, the God of Love and healing, the God of regeneration and eternal life.

“Do not fear!” “In my Name you will always be stronger!”

“To this day, I have never again experienced fear or doubt, and certainly no real despair.”

In that whirlwind of spiritual seeking, in all this frenetic searching for something more in his words, I believe he elaborated on his darker moments a little too much. I understand that he was trying to make his life an open book, but some of his experiences of power that he gained from Satan could serve as a temptation to readers. Eventually, Mr. Kenneth made right with God and we learn that he ultimately became an Orthodox Christian. At least, “The Gurus, the Young Man, and Elder Paisios” is written with more restraint. I am honestly not sure if that is a book to be recommended, as the first part of his book reads like a visit to Hell in graphic detail. Or, like “the difficult road out of hell”. It has honestly scared me. I mean, it is certainly most encouraging that after his conversion and Christ’s promise to him “Do not fear!” “In my Name you will always be stronger!”, Klaus “to this day, has never again experienced fear or doubt, and certainly no real despair.” Yet, the reading is not for the faint-hearted. Half-way through the book, I am certainly looking forward to his extended talks with Elder Sophrony. In fact, it was under the guidance and prayers of Elder Sophrony that this version of his book came to be published, so who am I really to voice any objections for certain parts which I have found disturbing … Have you read this book and what are your views?

Another thing which I made me uneasy was all this personal, Confession tone of the narrative, something that one does not find in Orthodox discourse where a person’s personal experiences are not the centre of the discourse, but the church experience instead. This personal tone may be quite common in Protestant discourse but not in Orthodox. However, if we approach all this with positive thinking, there is so much for us to profit. Yes, Klaus Kenneth may be extreme, but so is Elder Sophrony, and so many other Saints.

For an interview with the writer, go to Journey to Orthodoxy here and for his precious talks with Elder Sophrony here.