The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustynnik — 13

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Holy Week Highlights — a photoblog. Christ is Risen!

Nymfiosholy unction

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The Saints are delighted with the flowers! I eventually found the card. Thank you dearest sisters. I am overwhelmed, and all the saints in my icon corner are smiling.

Bleeding Crucifix today, on Holy Thursday, now in Athens, in Holy Andreas Chapel, Nursing Home Care

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Greek style! A flying priest! Go to https://ellada.press/vinteo-o-iptamenos-iereas-tis-chiou-edose-pali-resital-telos-sunelifthi/

And Cypriot style 🙂 Holy Saturday Vespers — How to make holy noise — Cypriot style 🙂
Please watch from 1:14:28 up to 1:17, and later, and pay attention to all details His Eminence Metropolitan Morfou

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This is one of the first Icons I “made.” It is a simple print stuck on to a piece of wood. I found it in my attic at the bottom of a cardboard box. 

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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

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“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! 

 

Entry into Jerusalem | The Palm Sunday Icon

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“Who are you?”

The Icon of the Entry into Jerusalem is most striking. We see our Lord seated upon a colt of a donkey. The donkey’s head is bowed low and a child is feeding the donkey. To the right is pictured the walled city of Jerusalem and at the gate are the assembled elders, one is holding a palm branch hailing him as the son of David, the Messiah but another is whispering, one is looking away, yet another is looking towards the palm tree and the remainder are looking at each other. They seem sceptical observers to the event. Their faces portray the overarching question which is voiced in the Gospel of Matthew “Who is this?” Is this the Messiah riding on a donkey?

Had they forgotten the prophet’s words:

Zechariah 9:9 

The Coming of Zion’s King

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Our Lord Himself in the middle of the scene has his head inclined towards his disciples who are following Him to the left of the Icon. He is looking to see if they are still there? In a few days time, of course, they would not be! Only the beloved disciple remained faithful- the others hid and fled, one denied Him and another betrayed Him. Behind our Lord’s Head is the Mount of Olives, outside the city, where he would be handed over to the authorities.

Our Lord rides upon the humble beast of burden that bears the cross on its back. He holds in His left hand a scroll which the Church Fathers suggest refers to the scroll in the Book of Revelation:

Revelation 5:3-5 

But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

The only ones who are active in this scene are the small children. One is cutting the branches from the tree and two others are strewing branches and garments before Christ’s path.  They are often pictured in white garments for purity. In their child-like innocence and enthusiasm only they are truly engaged in this historic ride into Jerusalem.

So who is this One who comes riding into Jerusalem? This is a question that Christ Himself asked His disciples-“Who do men say that I am?”  Who are you?  Was the question the High Priest asked of Jesus at His first-night trial. The same question Pilate asked of Jesus when He stood before Him at the Judgement seat. It is the question that Saul asked on the road to Damascus Who are you, Lord? It is the question the Holy Fathers considered at the First Ecumenical Council in 325 A.D.  Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they gave the definitive answer in the Creed: He is God of God, Light of Light, True God of True God being of one essence with the Father by whom all things were made.

But this question “Who are you?”  is for us to answer and confess for ourselves. We are told in the scriptures that many admired the work of Jesus but they went their own way. They witnessed the miracles and were amazed by his teaching yet they refused to accept Him. The same voices that cried out Hosanna to the Son of David after a few days cried out Crucify Him!

If Christ is King then we must follow Him to the Cross and beyond to the Resurrection. We must make our heart a throne for Him to come and reign as Sovereign Lord. Our Lord comes to us today and we have to make up our minds, to open our hearts and to commit our souls to Him as our Lord and God. Our Christian Faith is of ultimate importance.

C. S. Lewis once wrote:

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance, the only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

This is no time for fair-weather Christians. We know what Christ will do to those who have a lukewarm faith. (Revelation 3:16)

    The One who comes into Jerusalem today is the One Who is the Prince of Peace the Son of God, the servant and King. We cry out to Him Hosanna in the Highest. Save us O Master!

Palm Sunday 2020

Entrance to Jerusalem - 4- 2020

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)