Prayer for Difficult Times

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By Elder Sophrony of Essex

‘In difficult times, when all my efforts have failed to conform the events of my life towards the Gospel teaching, I would pray in the following manner:
“Come and make Yourself one with my will. Your commandments do not fit within my narrow heart, and my finite nous does not comprehend their content. If You are not well pleased to come and dwell within me Yourself, then I will inevitably be led towards the darkness. I know that You do not work through force, so I entreat You: Come and take charge of my house, and wholly renew me. Transform the hellish darkness of my pride into Your humble love. Transfigure with Your Light my corrupted nature, that no passion might be able to remain within me that would prevent Your coming with Your Father (John 14:21-23). Make me a dwelling place of that holy life which You Yourself have allowed me to taste of here in part…Yes, O Lord, I entreat You, do not deprive from me this sign of Your goodness.” ‘

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Elder Sophronios’ prayer is so ‘Palamite’ ( +St. Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonika the Wonderworker)

 “The first two years in his monastic habit, he spent with fasting, vigil, concentration of the mind and unceasing prayer. In his prayers he always evoke as intercessor the Mother of God and in every occasion he would ask for Her help. Once, when he was still and wholly surrendered to the thought of God, he saw in front of him a very venerable elder (St. John the Theologian). Turning at him with a gentle look, the elder said: ”I came my child, sent by the Most Holy and Queen of all to ask you, why every hour, day and night, you cry to God ‘…enlighten my darkness, enlighten my darkness …?” In reply, Gregory said: ”And what else shall I ask, me who am full of passion and sin, but to be shown mercy and be enlighten to see and do the Will of God?” Then the Evangelist told him: ”The Mistress of all – through me, her servant – commands that I should be your helper.” Then Gregory asked him: ”When will the mother of my Lord help me, now or after death?” ”Now and at the future life”, said the Theologian and disappeared, filling the heart of Gregory with unspeakable joy in regard to the promises of the mother of God.”

 The life of Saint Gregory Palamas Archbishop of Thessalonika the Wonderworker by Philotheos, Patriarch of Constantinople

 

 

A Great Lent Story

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A real story where the disciple thought he knew better than his spiritual father …

 

‘It was a day in Great Lent that the Elder saw from afar a burglar breaking into his cell.

This burglar was the same one like last year …

The Elder hid in the barn until the burglar completed his task.

When the Elder’s disciple later found out, he was furious and scolded his Elder:

– “Why did you not call me to catch him? This is the same burglar who broke into us last year and remains unrepentant!”

– “Who knows, my child”, answered the Elder. “Maybe he will repent this year …”

-“And if he repeats this again?”, the disciple burst out.

-“Then, my child, I must run, open the door and give him everything, so that he will not fall into temptation for a third time …”

The disciple knelt, kissed his spiritual father’s hand, and left in tears…’

 

St Gregory the Theologian in Spiritual Warfare

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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

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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)

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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.
 Amen

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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)

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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