The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 23

serving the orthodox mission in madagascar

Serving the Orthodox Mission in Madagascar

 

Christus resurrexit! 

Hospitality is a most prominent social feature of our Orthodox Christian Faith. It is impossible for me to visit my spiritual children and friends in Greece, Cyprus or Romania without being showered with the most lavish hospitality. This, of course, involves the most generous portions of delicious food and the most delightful company attended by conversation that continues deep into the night. Despite my best efforts and most fervent protestations about the quantity of food when serving, I invariably return home a kilo heavier!

 Before every meal, the food is blessed and in my experience, there is always consideration for others who may benefit from the generous provisions remaining. I know that at this time many of our Parishes are distributing food to the poor, the elderly and the isolated. Glory to God!

 

St. Columba, his blessings and the white horse: (Part 1 of 2)

 

Weary with old age Saint Columba in early May 597 was taken around the Island of Iona on a wagon drawn by a white horse. When he saw his monks working in the field he would stand up and bless them. Whenever he saw cattle or sheep grazing he would stand up and bless them. He also blessed the wild animals and birds that he saw. After this, he went to bless the contents of the barns. He was pleased to see them full and said: “If I have to depart from my family, I shall carry with me the knowledge that they have ample food for the coming year.”

 

The Meal 

 

Matthew 25:42:” Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming.”

  

“What a meal!” the Abbot said

on the feast of St.Wilfred.

“You excelled yourself this time dear brother!”

“The lamb was perfect, like no other.”

“The wine was good too, sweet and red

Better even than the bread.”

“Who was that unexpected guest,

Who appeared at once with all the rest?”

“I’ve no idea” the monk replied

“But I’ve a feeling that he tried

To take some food out to the poor

I saw some beggars at the door. “

“He’ll not come back I’ll see to that

I’d rather feed the kitchen cat.”

He will come back one day you know

To judge all people high or low

And let us pray it’s not too late

To help the one who’s at our gate

The invitation to the heavenly feast

Depends on how we treat the least!

 

 

“Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian practices, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as an indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ’s sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God”- St Seraphim of Sarov.

 
 
Eν Χριστώ

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Poustynnik — 16

wheet field 2 

Christ is Risen!

Remember the Little things # 16 

 

The Grain of Wheat

 

“The devil is in the detail” is an idiom that is often heard. Omitting to read the small print in a contract may cause you inadvertently to break a contract. Some things may seem simple at first but may take longer than expected. However, one might more properly say that “God is in the detail”, there are mysterious elements hidden within the movements of His Creation. To see the hand of God in the smallest of things takes for a discerning eye. Details,” the small things” have importance because they have intrinsic value at every stage of their growth and application.

I am able, by God’s grace, to leave small fragments of the antidoron for the faithful from the Liturgy celebrated four weeks ago before lockdown!

I remember being at Sambata de Sus Monastery in Romania where there was a wheat field ripe with full grain. One of the pilgrims after the Holy Liturgy took a head of the wheat grains and rubbed them in his hands and blew away the husk and then ate the wheat. The action took my mind back to that occasion in the scriptures when Our Lord’s disciples did the same:

Luke 6

6 Now it happened that on a Sabbath he went through the grain fields, and his disciples were picking and eating the heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not permitted on the Sabbath? 3 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you not read this, what David did when he and those who were with him were hungry— 4 how he entered into the house of God and took the bread of the presentation, which it is not permitted to eat (except the priests alone), and ate it and gave it to those with him?” 5 And he said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

prosforo

The Grain of Wheat

Matthew 9:38

 38 Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.”

 John 6:48: “I am the bread of life,……”

  

Salvation is held in that egg-shaped frame of life and energy.

No Pythagorean theory could calculate such perfect symmetry.

 No King but God could make such a realm of beauty and simplicity.

 That grain of wheat will be cut, dried and shaken in humility.

 

The miller will grind it into the flour of heaven, a foretaste of eternity.

 A man will earn his daily bread transporting that potential spirit to distillery.

 Another will take that white dusted remnant to the stores for his delivery.

 The mother will knead and bake the prosphora for the proskomede.

 

Then the Holy Spirit will invest within the Lamb the gift of immortality.

 The priest will give that Bread of Life, the One who died to set us free

 From broken hearts, our redemption from sin and earth-bound misery.

 The faithful stand, take and eat of that most precious Mystery.

 In that small grain, the Lord of the Harvest bestows the ultimate utility.

 

It was said of an old man that he dwelt in Syria on the way to the desert. This was his work: whenever a monk came from the desert, he gave him refreshment with all his heart. Now one day a hermit came and he offered him refreshment. The other did not want to accept it, saying he was fasting. Filled with sorrow, the old man said to him, “Do not despise your servant, I beg you, do not despise me, but let us pray together. Look at the tree which is here; we will follow the way of whichever of us causes it to bend when he kneels on the ground and prays.” So the hermit knelt down to pray and nothing happened. Then the hospitable one knelt down and at once the tree bent towards him. Taught by this, they gave thanks to God.

Saying from the Desert Fathers

 

 

Eν Χριστώ

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinnyk — 15

20200422_134530

Remember the Little things Diary #Day 15

Christ is Risen!

+ St George’s Day

 We remember today those Doctors, Nurses and Carers who work in our hospitals, surgeries and care homes. We thank them for their skill, courage and commitment. We have some of these front line heroes as part of our Parish who daily enter into battle against Coronavirus disease.

 I have two icons of St George at home, one, silver embossed, on the wall next to my staircase which I purchased many years ago whilst on holiday in Rhodes; the other given to me more recently. Every morning, when going downstairs I say, “St George defend me from every evil attack this day.”

 

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Saint George fought against evil with the virtues of valour and strength.

May the Holy and Great Martyr George the Trophy Bearer intercede before Christ for our Doctors, Nurses and Carers.

 

Troparion of St George Tone 4

As the deliverer of captives and defender of the poor, healer of the infirm and champion of kings, victorious great martyr George intercede with Christ our God for our souls’ salvation.

 

Nouns and Verbs

 

Matthew 7:21

 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

and

And Matthew 20:1-16 The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

 

Proper Nouns of holy faith possess a piety:

Bell and Bible, Church and Chalice, Lance and Liturgy;

But holier the Verbs; to love, to save, to heal, to pray,

To feed the hungry, clothe the poor, follow and obey.

 

Working in God’s Vineyard some sweat in the heat of day

But all receive the same reward, all have equal pay.

 O happy servants pruned and fruitful whom His Kingdom gain,

Rejoicing in the Son shine and singing in the Reign.

 

 “A small but always persistent discipline is a great force; for a soft drop falling persistently, hollows out hard rock.” St Isaac the Syrian

 

Love and prayers

Eν Χριστώ

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustynnik — 12

the prayer of silence

Remember the Little things- Day #12

 

Dear friends in Christ- Amidst the chaos of this pandemic and the disturbance to normal life, the most noticeable aspect of this most unusual period is the silence

You may recall those signs at school, ” SILENCE- EXAMINATION IN PROGRESS”; such a silence that we are experiencing at this present time is also a test of what we have learned as Christians.

The lockdown has changed even the way the earth moves and there is a reduction of seismic noise because of the lack of human activity. Silence for some is difficult and they look for distractions. However, silence is not simply an absence of noise, it is the opportunity and context for noetic prayer.

“Prayer,” as Metropolitan Antony Bloom said in his book Courage to Pray, “is an end to isolation- it is living our life with someone. “

“Compel yourselves in silence, the mother of all godly virtues. Keep silent in order to say the Prayer( of Jesus); for; when someone speaks, how is he able to escape idle talk, from which comes every evil word, which weighs the soul down by the responsibility for it:”

Elder Ephraim of Philotheou Monastery, Mount Athos, “Counsels from the Holy Mountain”

 

The Yoke of Christ

 

Matthew 11:29:” Take my Yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

 

There is no humility of wisdom in argument,

Let the soul be softened by sorrow,

For mysteries are revealed to the humble

And joy the portion of those who follow.

 

Let not anger consume the foolishness of pride

But let the grace of discernment be your diet.

Not every quiet man is humble,

But every humble man is quiet.

 

Meekness is not passive gentleness

It is the strength of contentment through new birth

The imitation of Christ is our Heavenly task

The Blessing, the inheritance of the earth!

 

Reflections on the Beatitudes and on the words of St. Isaac the Syrian

To the Glory of God!

 

“I give praise to your holy Nature, Lord, for you have made my nature a sanctuary for your hiddenness and a tabernacle for your holy mysteries, a place where you can dwell, and a holy temple for your Divinity.” St. Isaac the Syrian

*

“If you are praised, be silent. If you are scolded, be silent. If you incur losses, be silent. If you receive profit, be silent. If you are satiated, be silent. If you are hungry, also be silent. And do not be afraid that there will be no fruit when all dies down; there will be! Not everything will die down. Energy will appear; and what energy!” St. Symeon the New Theologian

Dear brothers and sisters, during this Great and Holy Week the Daily Punstynnik Diary to Remember the Little things will be suspended and hopefully resumed after Pascha in order to concentrate on silence and prayer. Let us thus now dive into this holy silence and let this week’s church services and events speak to us, as they can only do! I wish to all of you a blessed Holy Week! 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Pustinnyk — 11

angel oak tree

1500-year-old Angel Oak tree in South Carolina

Remember the Little Things — Day #11

I love trees. Trees are magnificent in their audacious grandeur; sown in the dark soil they seek the light.

The trees which were bare a month ago are now in full bloom. Spring has come with all its glorious plenary pulchritude. We thank God for such beauty. Trees offer shade and colour; they even take our carbon dioxide and exchange it for oxygen. Trees are the lungs of the world.

The newly glorified Saint Amphilochios of Patmos (1888-1970) said: ” Whoever does not love trees, does not love God.”

 In these hard times, it is a temptation to become despondent; but this spirit comes from the evil one. Our lives are hidden in Christ (Colossians 3:3) like the roots in the soil. Our faith can defy the weight of oppression like the sap which defies gravity through capillary action. Our lives can extend to all like the branches. If we have the will, with that awesome synergy which is Christ’s gracious dialogue with us, through His mercy and our hard work, we may bloom in holiness and bear fruit that will last.

Hearts of Oak

Theme: Despondency

John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Luke 6:44: “For every tree is known by its own fruit.

“When despondency seizes us, let us not give in to it. Rather, fortified and protected by the light of faith, let us with great courage say to the spirit of evil: “What are you to us, you who are cut off from God, a fugitive for Heaven, and a slave of evil? You dare not do anything to us: Christ, the Son of God, has dominion over us and over all. Leave us, you thing of bane. We are made steadfast by the uprightness of His Cross. Serpent, we trample on your head.”

St. Seraphim of Sarov

 

“It was said of Abba John the Dwarf that one day he said to his elder brother, ”I should like to be free of all care, like the angels who do not work, but ceaselessly offer worship to God. ”So he took leave of his brother and went away in the desert. After a week he came back to his brother. When he knocked on the door he heard his brother say,” Who are you?” before he opened it. He said,” I am John, your brother.” But he replied,” John has become an angel and henceforth is no longer among men.” Then John besought him, saying,” It is I.” However, his brother did not let him in but left him there in distress until morning. Then, opening the door, he said to him, “You are a man and you must once again work in order to eat.” Then John made a prostration before him, saying,” Forgive me.” 

 

I hear Lord, there was once a Tree planted here in this place

 A Tree so fine and so splendid, a Tree full of beauty and grace.

  “Who planted this Tree of Life Lord here in this garden?

 It’s said that its fruit was so sweet and had the gift of peace and pardon

 Who tended this Tree in its youth Lord when it was growing into the light?

 When the gales blew and the storms raged in the middle of the night.

 Who first saw this Tree bud and blossom into flower

 As the sap of its spirit gave joy to each hour?

 Who watered this Tree Lord when it was parched and dry

 When some men ate of its labour and others wagged heads and passed by?

 Who cut down its branches where the birds of the air made a nest?

 Didn’t they taste of its fruit Lord, did not they know it was best?

 Who cut the Tree down to the ground Lord whilst it was rich in finest full bloom?

 There must have been more than one axe Lord, to bring about such a doom.

 But look Lord I see a young sapling springing from out of its roots

 And what wondrous a sight to behold Lord, there are thousands and thousands of shoots!

 What is this Garden called Father, is it Eden, what mystical name please impart?

 “The Tree is my Son, my young gardener and the garden my child is your heart.”

 

My love

Eν Χριστώ

New Year’s Resolutions

Battistero_di_San_Giovanni_mosaics.jpg

“Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt” (Matthew 2:13)

“The angel commands us, as he did Joseph. ‘Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt’ (Matthew 2:13). That is to say: renounce your sin and your slackness; take into your soul the Jesus you saw at Bethlehem and Mary, whom you must never separate from her son; flee the evil and the temptations that surround you; set yourself a hidden, retired, silent life, a life of intimacy with the small child and his mother — and also with Joseph”. (Lev Gillet, The Year of Grace of the Lord, p73).

The life of the Holy Family, whether in Egypt or later on at Nazareth — what an inspiration and a model for us! This is a year I truly want to hide and disappear together with Him. God willing, the goal will be the first three rungs of Saint John Climacus Ladder of Divine Ascent: 1.On renunciation of the world–2.On detachment–3. On exile or pilgrimage.

Blessed New Year 2020 to all!

Your prayers

 

 

I Want Peace

peace

A pilgrim once met a hermit.

– “I want peace.”

The hermit took a piece of stick and wrote on the ground: ‘I want peace’.

-“Now, look how simple this is!”

In one move, he crossed out ‘I’.

“My child, you need to delete first the ‘I’. It is impossible for anyone who trusts in himself to find peace on his own, away from God. The ‘I” always feels threatened by everybody and everything and drives away God and His Peace.”
In one move, the hermit crossed out ‘want’.

My child, you need to delete the ‘want’ too.  ‘Want’ reveals desires, needs and worldly attachments. No matter how many of your worldly desires you fulfil, new ones, unfulfilled, will upset you and deprive you from peace.” 

Then, the pilgrim looked at the ground, saw the crossed out words and understood. ‘I’ and ‘want’ had been crossed out and … Peace was there!