St Gregory the Theologian in Spiritual Warfare


Gregory the Theologian, 1408 – Andrei Rublev

Flee swiftly from my heart, all-crafty one.
Flee from my members and from my life.
Deceiver, serpent, and fire, Belial, sin,
death, abyss, dragon, night, snare, and frenzy,
chaos, manslayer, and ferocious beast!
Thou didst entice into perdition those
first-formed folk, my foreparents, offering them
at the same time the taste of sin and death.
Christ, the Ruler of all commandeth thee to
flee into the billows, to fall upon the rocks,
or to enter the herd of swine, O baleful one,
as once He bade that presumptuous Legion.
Nay, yield forthwith, lest I smite thee with the Cross,
whereat all things tremble;
Oh, flee!
I bear the Cross upon me, in all my members.
I bear the Cross whene’er I journey, whene’er I sleep.
I hold the Cross in my heart. The Cross is my glory.
O mischievous one, wilt thou never cease from
dogging me with traps and laying snares for me?
Wilt thou not dash thyself upon the precipices?
Seest thou not Sodom? Oh, wilt thou not speedily
assail the shameless herds of ungodly heretics,
who, having so recklessly sundered the Almighty
Godhead, have witlessly destroyed and abolished It?
But comest thou against my hoariness? Comest thou
against my lowly heart? Thou ever blackenest me,
O foe, with darksome thoughts, pernicious thoughts.
Thou hast no fear of God, nor of His Priests.
This mind of mine, most evil one, was verily
a mighty and loud-voiced herald of the Trinity.
And now it beholdeth its end, whither it goeth in haste.
Confuse me not, O slimy one, that I might, as pristine,
meet the pure lights of Heaven, that they might
shine like lightning flashes upon my life.
Lo, receive me; lo, I stretch forth my hands.
Farewell, O world! Farewell, thou who bringest woes upon me!
Pity be shown to all that shall live after me.




Self Examination at the Heart of Lent


Reflections on the sin of pride by St John Cassian


By the following indications, then, that carnal pride of which we have spoken is made manifest.

First of all, a person’s talking will be loud and his silence bitter;

his joy will be marked by noisy and excessive laughter, his seriousness by irrational sadness;

his replies by rancor, his speech by glibness,

and his words will burst out helter- skelter for a heed-less heart.

He will be devoid of patience, without love,

quick to inflict abuse, slow to accept it,

reluctant to obey except when his desire and will anticipate the matter,

implacable in receiving exhortations, weak in restraining his own will,

very unyielding when submitting to others,

 constantly fighting on behalf of his own opinions

but never acquiescing or giving in to those of others.

And so, having become unreceptive to salutary advice,

he relies on his own judgement in every respect

rather than on that of the elders.” (The Institutes, pp. 271-272)



Elder Ephraim’s Prayer Diary of the Great Lent (II)

elder efraim2

February 29, 1980 [3rd Thursday of Lent]

I feel sinful and dirty. The true awareness of my nothingness greatly helps me to see God.
“Thou shalt gladden him in joy with Thy face” (Ps. 20:6). Oh, that divine face! It has Eros and Beauty from the Glory, from the supremely radiant Light of the Trinity’s effulgence. This is what the transcendent Beauty of God is: a divine electrification and contact with God the Father, His humility and condescension. Oh, how unlimited the humility and simplicity of God is! The humility and condescension of the awesome God astounds and overwhelms me! How filthy and dirty man is! Even though he has so many sins and is so guilty, he feels haughty and behaves egotistically. There is nothing stupider than this.
The angels are celebrating in heaven, dressed in white with inconceivable beauty within the supremely  bright light of God. They are chanting — and what are they chanting! Their hymns are pure bliss. But that which makes them stay in this blessed state is the grace of humility and true self-knowledge.
Unfortunately, I am proud, which is why I lack this joy and grace. Like a helpless creature, like a thirsty deer, I seek, cry out, and long to be watered by the true Fountain —  my God  —  with a divine drink, with the water springing up into eternal life (cf. Jn. 4:14). “When shall I come and appear before the face of my God?” (cf. Ps. 41:2) I weep, seeking my God. When I touch Him, I feel him and weep. But how this is happening, I do not know; one thing I do know, and that is that I feel Him as much as He wants and corresponding to the humility I feel for my dirty self. My God and Father, open the eyes of my blind soul to see my nature, the nothingness of my nothingness, and through it to see You, the most lovely Light, Who gives eternal life to mortal man. Enlighten my darkness, O divine, lovely Light.


For the first part of his Lenten Diary, go to Elder Ephraim’s Prayer Diary of the Great Lent (I)

Elder Ephraim’s Prayer Diary of the Great Lent (I)

elder efraim

February 17, 1980

I experienced amazement and divine wonder tonight in my poor prayer. My nous tasted God. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9)

All this is a fruit of the labor of my Holy Elder, who truly toiled inside the caves of Athos with fasts, vigils, weeping, and tears. I, on the other hand, am a miserable, hideous monstrosity; an unmonastic monk; a sluggard eating the labor of my father, Saint Joseph. If God did not have mercy on me through his intercessions, I would be spiritually lost.

The festival in heaven entices me—there in the eternal and immutable blessings, where only silence reigns, since it is the only thing one is able to do. But when shall I behold the face of my lovely Father!!! When shall I be satisfied with His glory? Oh, what beauty! But I am a filthy stench and the demons’ joy.

My God, forgive me, the nothing of nothingness. Only Your mercy saves me from my evil self…

February 18, 1980

The communication of my sinful soul with the supremely radiant God was very wonderful tonight. The heavenly world is a different realm; a different mode of life; a different atmosphere.

My God, what can I, the miserable pauper, say about what You are! You are a stupendous and immense delight. You are impalpable, and yet how are You touched? For when this contact happens, the soul is electrified with divine electricity, and sweet and beautiful tears run and run from my eyes. But in the heart, what happens!

My incomprehensible, inexpressible, and lovely God, what can I, the miserable one say about You! There are no words, there is no man capable or competent to do so. One can only feel reverence, worship, sacredness, and divine love in silent amazement.

Oh, how much I would like to be no longer on earth with the uncertainty of my salvation! Oh, if only I were already in the world of my God, my Father, my worship. There is eternity, certainty, and security.

I weep because I am the greatest sinner in the whole world. I mourn the uncertainty of my salvation. I do not know if I shall be saved. Here is the crux of the matter. Alas! I wonder, shall I reach the calm haven of eternal bliss? I wonder, shall I see the glory of my God?

Have pity on me, O only-begotten Logos of God,

My Jesus Christ

Blessed Seraphim Rose on Lenten Temptations


Excerpt from Blessed Seraphim’s Rose correspondence:

“First Sunday of Great Lent, 1980

Glory be to God, we passed the first week of Lent well, although the devil seems to attack stronger than ever. Last night at the Vigil we had a fire in church, which, if Br. G had not noticed it when he did, might have destroyed the whole church. Just a few minutes before the fire there had been a strong (and I think beneficial) human confrontation almost on that very spot, and it was obvious to me that the fire was caused by the devil’s envy that I secretly rejoiced, seeing that he attacked our property out of frustration at losing his human prey.  The same day a piece on our main printing press broke, but I think I can fix it from a part on the other press. But how well God preserves us in the midst of such trials!”

He Broke the Fast

metropolitan anthony of sourozh

A Short Story by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh

Sometimes it happens like this: a person tries to keep the fast, but then he falls and feels that he has defiled his whole fast, and that there is nothing left from his feat. In fact, it is far from being like this. God looks at this fast from a different viewpoint. I can explain this to you with one example from my personal experience.

When I was a doctor, I was dealing with one poor Russian family. I did not take any money from them because they just had no money. Once, during Great Lent, when I was fasting especially strictly, trying no to violate any church rules, when they invited me for dinner. It turned out that during whole Lent they were saving money to buy a small chicken and treat me. I looked at that chicken and saw the end of my fasting feat in it. Of course, I ate a piece of it. I could not afford to offend them.

I went to my spiritual father and told him about the misfortune that had happened to me. I told him that I was fasting almost perfectly during Lent, but then I ate a piece of chicken during the Holy Week. Fr. Athanasios looked at me and said:

– You know what? If God looked at you and saw that you have no sins and that a small piece of chicken could defile you, He would protect you from that. But God looked at you and saw that there was so much sinfulness in you that no chicken can defile you more than that.

I believe that many people can use this example in order not to blindly follow the church canons, but be honest people first of all. Sure, I ate a piece of chicken: not as something dirty, but as a gift of human’s love. I remember an episode from the book by Fr. Alexander Schmemann, where he wrote that everything what exists in this world is God’s love. Even the food we eat is the Divine love in edible form.

From the book by Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, “The Works”

Reblogged from The Catalogue of Good Deeds

Great Lent: Fasting and Temptations


Christ’s Temptations in the Wilderness


Entering the second week of Lent, have you noticed temptations increasing … ?


“Fasting means I don’t eat, it is voluntary hunger. Therefore, to fast as an Orthodox during Great Lent is to drive ourselves into a marginal situation in which we feel the demands of the body, but the power of the soul masters it.
This marginal situation is expedient to the tempter to betray us with the most powerful temptations. He does not have power over the struggling fasting Christian, but the Christian is lured by the weaknesses of the body, which the tempter believes he can exploit. This happened with Christ.
The Evangelist Matthew writes: “Christ fasted forty days and forty nights and then was hungry. And the tempter came to Him saying….” The tempter came to Christ when He was hungry. Thus, hunger attracts him, but hunger is eventually what defeats him, when, of course, satisfaction is sought in the reasonable food of the soul – the words that proceed from the mouth of God – and not one-dimensionally from the unreasonable nourishment of the body.
gluttony vatopaidi icon

Gluttony, Vatopaidi icon

We must not, therefore, be surprised if during the fasting period of Great Lent diverse temptations occur, whether they relate to our personal, family or social life. At this time the tempter “approaches” Christians. He does this through many “internal” ways, but also with noisy external events, which correspond to internal impassioned thoughts, and tries to make our struggle during Great Lent worthless. But if we are sober, all these things will cause our spiritual maturation, paths for deeper self-knowledge and the knowledge of God.”
Source: Ekklesiastiki Paremvasi, “Η νηστεία και ο πειρασμός”, March 1999.

By Protopresbyter Fr. Thomas Vamvinis

Source: Mystagogy— Transl by John Sanidopoulos.


Fasting, Appetite and Hunger
Fr. Alexander Schmemann, in trying to put Christian fasting into perspective, in his book Great Lent: Journey to Pascha, writes:

Ultimately, to fast means only one thing: to be hungry – to go the limit of that human condition which depends entirely on food and, being hungry, to discover that this dependency is not the whole truth about man, that hunger itself is first of all a spiritual state that is in its last reality hunger for God.