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?
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!”
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”
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
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.
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.
St. Paisios: “A layman once went to a monastery in the beginning of Lent and a certain monk there was abrupt and rough to him. However, the poor man had good thoughts and justified him. He later came to me and said:
‘I do not blame him, Father. After all, he had just completed the Three Day Fast!’ (1)
If this monk had done the Three Day Fast in a spiritual way, he would have had a spiritual sweetness and would have spoken to the layman with kindness. But he pushed himself egotistically to do the Three Day Fast, and so he blamed everybody for everything.”
A nun: Elder, what should I reflect on during Great Lent?
St. Paisios: You should reflect on the Passion, the Sacrifice of Christ.
During Great Lent, we are given a greater opportunity to struggle and participate more intensely in the Saving Passion of Christ:
with our repentance and prostrations;
with the cutting off of our passions;
with a reduction of our food intake.
For the love of Christ.
Another nun: Elder, how can I struggle more with temperance during Lent?
St. Paisios: Now, during Lent, those in the world take greater care to cultivate temperance, but we monks must always be careful. What is more important, though, is to be careful with the passions of the soul and then the body’s. Because if one prioritizes bodily asceticism over them and does not struggle to eradicate the passions of the soul, he will accomplish nothing.
We must make use, as much as we can, of all the opportunities this spiritual arena offers to us, in order to approach closer to the Crucified Christ. Then, we will helped by Him and rejoice spiritually at His Holy Resurrection , since we would have experienced more spiritually Great Lent.
Ι pray that God gives you strength during Great Lent, so that you may climb Golgotha and be near Christ there, together with the Theotokos and your patron Saint, John the Theologian, and that you may be granted worthy to participate in the awesome Passion of our Lord. Amen.
(1) The Three Day Fast (Ιερὸ Τριήμερο)With Clean Monday begins Great Lent in the Orthodox Church and marks the end of feasting. Clean Monday is called as such because Christians are called to cleanse themselves spiritually and bodily. It is also a day of strict fasting with no work. The holy fast has a duration of 40 days in imitation of our Lord’s fast in the desert. Strictly observant Orthodox hold this day (and also Clean Tuesday and Wednesday) as a strict fast day, on which no solid food at all is eaten. Others will eat only in the evening, and then only ‘xerophagy’ (lit. “dry eating”; i.e. eating uncooked foodstuffs such as fruit, nuts, halva, bread and honey, etc). For those who are able and willing, and always with the blessing of their spiritual father, it is encouraged by the Orthodox Church to keep a three day strict fast where neither food or water (if possible) is consumed until Clean Wednesday when one partakes of Holy Communion at the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. Some of the strictest faithful even go so far as to do this for the entire Clean Week, accepting only Holy Communion during the week. This is an excellent way to mark the beginning of a holy struggle against one’s passions and weaknesses.
From the sixth volume of the series ‘Spiritual Counsels of the Elder Paisios of Mount Athos’: About Prayer.
Γέροντος Παϊσίου Αγιορείτου Λόγοι ΣΤ΄ «Περί Προσευχής», εκδόσεις Ιερόν Ησυχαστήριον «Ευαγγελιστής Ιωάννης ο Θεολόγος» Σουρωτή Θεσσαλονίκης 2012, σελ. 199-200.
There are two visitors from Thessaloniki. They stand, leaning on the chestnut tree. Both in their fifties, pale and cantankerous. They seem to be from a ‘quasi/pseudo-ecclesiastical’ (1) organisation, because they are looking reproachfully at the Elder, and are making comments to each other quietly.
The children are playing, making noise – at which Paisios turns and says quietly:
“Do not make noise, because beside here, beneath the earth (2), Americans are hidden and we will wake them, and they will come to interrupt our silence.”
The children stop, and instantly become silent, puzzled.
At the opposite end, John is leaning sideways against the rock, atop his sack. He is lighting a cigarette. The two visitors, who appear to be harsh pietists, continue to look at the Elder with disapproval as he is boiling milk and is taking care not to spill it over. One of them can’t stand it anymore and turns to the monk:
“Elder Paisios, we are in the first days of Great Lent, we have a strict fast, and you are boiling milk to drink?”
The Elder is silent. He does not respond. He grabs the pot and lowers it, since the milk is boiled. He then goes into his Cell, brings six small, old china cups, puts them next to each other, and carefully pours the milk into each one. He waits a bit for it to cool off, while everyone looks at him with amazement and silence. The two pietists observe this with disgust, thinking that since there are six visitors and six cups, perhaps the monk will dare to offer even to them milk, during these strict days of the fast.
Elder Paisios takes the full cups one by one, places them on a wooden tray, and carries them seven meters away, where he places them down on the dirt, at the edge of a bush.
He places them there in order, then he comes, sits next to us, and begins to do something with his mouth silently, an eery whistling, while looking towards the bushes. Not a few moments pass, and over there, from the bushes, comes out a viper, very carefully, with five small snakes – her children. I hold my breath.
The snakes are coming, all of them approaching, one by one, slithering, passing right next to us, and they go slowly to the cups, and begin drinking calmly, slurping their morning milk …
By George Skambardonis
Πηγή: ΓΙΩΡΓΟΥ ΣΚΑΜΠΑΡΔΩΝΗ, Επί ψύλλου κρεμάμενος (Κέδρος 2003)
(1) For more information about such organisations in Greece and the charges against their “Westernizing” of Orthodox Christianity and their “Pietisticism” go here and/or study Kallistos Ware ‘s (Bishop of Diokleia) analysis in his book The Orthodox Church, here
(2) A reference in jest to the two hemispheres of the Earth, where Greece is apprarently “upside-down” to the United States, so that when Greek people are awake and at work, Americans are fast asleep, and our noise might wake them up 🙂
Last Monday some ladies at our parish baked our annual Kyra Sarakosti, or Lady Lent, “cookies”.
‘LADY LENT’: AN OLD GREEK EASTER TRADITION
An old Greek custom that still survives in modern, Orthodox Christian families throughout Greece with different vari ations, is that of Kyra Sarakosti, i.e. Lady Lent. This is a custom associated with the fasting period of Great Lent preceding the Sunday of Pascha; Kyra Sarakosti is used as a calendar that counts the 7 weeks of Lent.
Kyra Sarakosti, is a small figure, a paper drawing or sometimes baked of bread dough, which features something really unusual, a lady that looks like a nun who has seven legs and her hands are folded as if in prayer. Lady Lent’s seven legs, each represent one week of the fasting period, from Clean Monday to the Holy Week. The cross on her forehead is the symbol of her faith. She has her arms folded because indeed she is constantly praying. She has no mouth, not only because she can’t eat, as she is fasting, but also to avoid engaging in any idle talk. Finally, she has no ears, or they are covered with her scarf, so as not to listen to any calumny or judging, especially in this period of rigorous ascetic effort.
Lady Lent has been used as a “calendar” of Lent all over the country. Each week, starting on Saturday after Clean Monday, the faithful would cut one leg off. The last leg would be cut off on Holy Saturday. In some areas, the seventh leg was squeezed inside the bread of Resurrection, and was considered to bring blessing to whoever found it.
FORGIVENESS —The Holy Fathers are the children of the grace of the Holy Spirit. The result of this action of grace is when the heart excuses. It loves, it can speak well of someone and pray for him. It does not remember offense or evil.
Therefore it is impossible to forgive and not excuse. This is a psychological fact. The heart is made this way. It was not the brain, not the nervous system—as science attempts to teach, and the psychiatrists especially—but it was the heart that was made this way by God. It is called a Christian heart. It excuses, it does everything possible in order to justify and excuse. Isn’t that so?! That is a Christian quality!
The pagan or the Moslem do not know about this… the action of the grace of the Holy Spirit Try telling a Moslem to justify and excuse, to love his enemy. He will kill you.
You will come to her with anger, scornful words, remembrance of wrongs, and especially with some sort of old accounts which were buried and decomposing and which will be resurrected!
Once I wanted to ask you why you never think to ask me, “What is it that angers you? What makes you so sad? What is it that upsets you so?”
It is always the same thing: an unchristian heart. A wicked heart that is unwilling to forgive. A heart that is at enmity with God because it does not want to forgive, does not intend to forgive, yet bethinks itself to say the Lord’s Prayer … “and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors …” while at the same time the heart and mind are at enmity with a man.
I get so upset at this … because external form is not useful to anyone, much less to God.
I think … I’ve always concluded: this means that they still have not gotten the point, that the whole secret, that all the salt of Christianity lies in this: to forgive, to excuse, to justify, not to know, not to remember evil. Not sin, but evil.
If you are quiet and peaceful within yourself, this means that you are absolutely at peace with heaven, and you are ready to endure any nastiness from that person. That person could overtake you, publicly remonstrate you, play dirty tricks on you, slander you, and you will smile. Not laugh, but smile! Because you will be so illuminated by blessed mercy
The drunkard, the fornicator, the proud—he will receive God’s mercy. But he who does not want to forgive, to excuse, to justify consciously, intentionally … that person closes himself to eternal life before God, and even more so in the present life. He is turned away and not heard [by God].
…Firstly, it is asked, what is a Christian heart? An unchristian heart is that which will not and cannot forgive and pardon. Cannot and will not! That is why such a heart is at enmity with God, cannot say the Lord’s Prayer, has no right to say the prayer “It is truly meet” and has no hope of eternal salvation, if it does not justify, pardon and somehow pray for a person, for people that it cannot stand, cannot forgive. We confess that the thief and the fornicator, the publican are saved, right? But the Pharisee was deprived of salvation, who only kept an external form of faith. He praised himself and could not forgive.
Father, can’t you tell us how we can make our hearts forgive?
The matter is that our reproaches, the most direct and perhaps coarse warnings do not work on the heart of such a person. The proud man is unable to forgive. A proud man does not want to forgive and asks, “Why can others not forgive and still pray and receive the Holy Mysteries—why do you insist that / forgive, and only then may I confess and receive Communion?” This is proud self-love and not Christian, when one does not want to and does not intend to forgive or love. How can the Lord God hear such a soul and forgive him anything, if his heart has no intention of forgiving?!
Father, well, people receive Communion anyway. Could it be that they make progress in some other virtues [despite their inability to forgive]?
No, no virtue can atone for the lack of forgiveness, the lack of love that these people have. No podvig [ascetic undertaking], no almsgiving can atone for refusal to forgive. Almsgiving by the fornicator is an abomination before God, for it is given by unclean hands. He gives alms, but at the same time intends to wallow in his beastly sin. His almsgiving cannot justify him if he does not repent and ask for help, that he might renounce his sin and his passion. And the unmerciful man is deprived of even the right to be heard and obtain the right to give alms. That is terrible! “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” That is the only condition for being heard, for salvation. You cannot buy off God with any formalities. The law of God is an absolute law! That is why it is so painful and difficult for us when we meet souls which are not Christian, that is, souls which have no intention, or even the desire, not only ability, to forgive. “And why,” you ask, “can’t you forgive?” “Because I am not loved,” the person says, “therefore I will not love!”
Father, do you allow them to approach the Chalice?
The same thing happened with me and one sister. My heart has not forgiven her.
That is a function of the laws of female jealousy.
No, it’s not.
If that is so, then you need to work on yourself, so that you can excuse that person, and judge yourself before God. It is all so stupid and impudent. The thing is that this is Christianity.
Father, you told me before that you don’t advise me to meet with her.
Right. I don’t advise you to irritate the person or yourself. If you are quiet and peaceful within yourself, this means that you are absolutely at peace with heaven, and you are ready to endure any nastiness from that person. That person could overtake you, publicly remonstrate you, play dirty tricks on you, slander you, and you will smile. Not laugh, but smile! Because you will be so illuminated by blessed mercy, and by such righteousness before God and the Mother of God, that all of these evil scourges will be a pleasure to you.
Well, Father, one needs to be blessed in such cases.
Do you know what?! Orthodox Christianity possesses within itself the Grace of the Holy Spirit. And the meaning of Orthodoxy is in the association with the Holy Spirit, and to carry it within yourself. It can do anything!!! This is precisely the sign of being Orthodox.
But he who flees silence, who does not love silence, will have great difficulty passing through the toll-houses. The demons could seize him for that alone, that he did not love silence and solitude.
We did have some eruptions, but I’ll go to her straightaway.
But you said that you don’t advise it.
I don’t advise it because I know her weaknesses and your weaknesses. You will come to her with anger, scornful words, remembrance of wrongs, and especially with some sort of old accounts which were buried and decomposing and which will be resurrected!
And I will be without peace after seeing her?
Accuse yourself, only do not accuse her, and not because she was wrong to you. This is a weak human being, so you take yourself in hand and be demanding only with yourself. This is what Christianity is all about.
In all circumstances being demanding only with yourself ?
Only with yourself. Even executioners can be excused and justified. He was fulfilling his duties—as he was ordered, so he does. I was never offended by them! [Elder Sampson was earlier shot by an executioner but survived.]
This is the lot of the Lord Himself. They crucified the Lord, but he said, “Lord, forgive them!”
Because they don’t know what they are doing. They haven’t the courage to say, “No! I won’t!” That is their only guilt. But the Lord will erase that guilt, because no one ever taught them.
Father, if I go to her, I will also need courage in order to smile at her.
If you come to her in the Lord, with the Jesus prayer in your pocket and the “All-Merciful,” you will sincerely smile. Your little knots* (*Little knots: that is, a prayer rope. Father blessed all of his spiritual children to pray with one, but in their pockets, secretly.) will be in your pocket. Very sincerely. You will say, “How do you feel? How happy I am that you look so well!” It is this Christian love that will be sincere, and not a Jesuitical kind!!
I think about her all the time. I should go to her, but I am afraid.
It is the sin of smallness of soul and the sin of lack of love, sisterly love. Yes, it is lack of love. I bear a terrible anxiety and sorrow, that none of us want to go after all to Κ . Everyone finds some excuse of their own. “It will be unprofitable, inconvenient—to what purpose would I be sacrificing myself!” But… that poor girl, alone between four walls.
Get strongly angry at yourself, take yourself in hand, have pity on yourself. (St. Theophany the Recluse)
But we are also alone!
You are healthy people, you should be glad that you are alone and no one comes to disturb your prayer, and you are allowed to be silent. What great wealth that is—to love and to be silent. More precious than gold! And you run away from this silence! That silence is torture to you. But he who flees silence, who does not love silence, will have great difficulty passing through the toll-houses. The demons could seize him for that alone, that he did not love silence and solitude. Because the soul is helpless when it has left the body…. Imagine for just a moment, that you have left your body, your “box,” right? You are alone. It is well if your Guardian Angel is present. But what if he isn’t? And the demons are tormenting you all around? And that will happen!!!
Father, don’t say such frightful things.
It is because we have not learned Christianity while here on the earth, but have substituted it with ceremony and formalities. To speak truthfully, we do not know how to pity ourselves. If we truly felt sorry for ourselves, we would think about our inevitable death, about the moment, the day of our separation from the body. We do not know how to pity ourselves, because we do not know how to get angry with ourselves and punish ourselves. St. Theophan the Recluse often advised in his letters: “Get strongly angry at yourself, take yourself in hand, have pity on yourself.”
The worst thing is not forgiving and not loving, and to have enmity in your heart. These are the three main reasons. The Lord will forgive the adulterer, the bandit, the thief, the Pharisee. But He will not forgive such a soul.
Well, I am not so cruel as to not forgive.
Take care for yourself. All of our Psalter readings, our Akathists and Canons, the Gospels—it is all empty if it does not make us soft, tender, loving, weeping. All of that reading will only be to our condemnation.
A spirit that is broken and humbled does not know how to have enmity. It forgives to the last, pardons to the last, and judges only itself, always searching endlessly for the guilt within itself. It will forgive and pardon every man, even though he were an executioner or a torturer. I have had many horrible ordeals in my life, but somehow it was all easily forgiven!
Father, did you really forgive it all in a moment?
One need only pray to the Mother of God and the offense is taken away. It is taken away if you only ask the Mother of God. It is enough for your heart to have some kind of direct contact with the Mother of God, and that horror, offense and injury, sorrow and slander will be taken away.
Father, perhaps it is only forgotten, but when you remember it resurfaces?
No! It cannot. If the heart has forgiven and excused, then it will not be remembered. It is remembered only in the attic, the memory, without the heart’s participation. That is why one must discriminate between these two things: the heart and the reason. A memory may be of the heart, or of the brain. If the heart has forgiven, then it will never remember, for it has no memory. The brain, the nervous system may not forget and may remember, but the heart will protest and force the brain to be silent.
Father, I had such an experience. In my heart I was at peace, but my reason remembered nevertheless.
Just as we are here, our hearts did not turn to the Mother of God. When you say the “All Merciful”: “Do not abhor me, do not turn away from me, do not abandon me, do not leave,” a coolness comes, quietude, and every situation in which you ask for help is forgiven. The same dark, rotten, wicked, dirty person who comes into association with Her momentarily has a change of heart, and the heart becomes soft and compunctionate. The broken and humbled spirit comes, which is the only sign of Christianity—there must be a broken and humbled spirit. Other than this there is no indication. Not the keeping of fasts, not going to church, not reading Akathists and Canons—no! But a spirit that is broken and humbled cannot not forgive—it cannot! This is a state of the heart, a Godly heart…
Father, the folk saying goes that time heals.
No! That is human wisdom, absolutely. The sharpness of the pain of heart or the impression on the nervous system may smooth out. But in this regard we are speaking in terms of the external circumstances, and not the spiritual or moral state.
The inner state?
Yes, the moral, the spiritual. That is, if the heart cannot forgive or excuse and after three year’s time remembers it just as distinctly.
No, Father, I can’t express my situation that way. This is how it was for me: when I remembered it, I frit bad. I could not even think of her, I felt sick. But now I don’t have the same reaction.
That is, your heart during that time strove to excuse and forgive her. Do you understand? It all depends on the heart. Otherwise it is not possible. After all, it is not the brain that receives the Grace of the Holy Spirit, but the heart. Saint Seraphim of Sarov always talked much about this to everyone.
What can an angry person do?
He must pray and pray for healing. For the sake of his faith, for the sake of his insistence the Lord will change his heart. Secondly, any manifestation of evil must always be redeemed through almsgiving. The alms must be something of your own, something you need, and not something that is lying around unused.
St. Silouan’s the Athonite poetry-prayer, Byzantine iconography, and Arvo Pärt’s lyrical musical/ choral setting of the text faithful to its every nuance.(*)
Lenten Reflections (III)
Adam, father of all mankind, in paradise knew the sweetness of the love of God; and so when for his sin he was driven forth from the garden of Eden, and was widowed of the love of God, he suffered grievously and lamented with a great moan. And the whole desert rang with his lamentations, for his soul was racked as he thought, ‘I have distressed my beloved God’. He sorrowed less after paradise and the beauty thereof; for he sorrowed that he was bereft of the love of God, which insatiably, at every instant, draws the soul to Him.
In the same way the soul which has known God through the Holy Spirit, but has afterwards lost grace experiences the torment that Adam suffered. There is an aching and a deep regret in the soul that has grieved the beloved Lord.
Adam pined on earth, and wept bitterly, and the earth was not pleasing to him. He was heartsick for God, and this was his cry:
My soul wearies for the Lord, and I seek Him in tears.
How should I not seek Him?
When I was with Him my soul was glad and at rest, and the enemy could not come nigh me;
But now the spirit of evil has gained power over me, harassing and oppressing my soul,
So that I weary for the Lord even unto death, And my spirit strains to God,
and there is naught on earth can make me glad, Nor can my soul take comfort in any thing,
but longs once more to see the Lord, that her hunger may be appeased.
I cannot forget Him for a single moment, and my soul languishes after Him,
and from the multitude of my afflictions I lift up my voice and cry: ‘Have mercy upon me, O God. Have mercy on Thy fallen creature.’
Thus did Adam lament, and the tears steamed down his face on to his beard, on to the ground beneath his feet, and the whole desert heard the sound of his moaning. The beasts and the birds were hushed in grief; while Adam wept because peace and love were lost to all men on account of his sin.
Adam knew great grief when he was banished from paradise, but when he saw his son Abel slain by Cain his brother, Adam’s grief was even heavier. His soul was heavy, and he lamented and thought:
Peoples and nations will descend from me, and multiply, and suffering will be their lot, and they will live in enmity and seek to slay one another.
And his sorrow stretched wide as the sea, and only the soul that has come to know the Lord and the magnitude of His love for us can understand.
I, too, have lost grace and call with Adam:
Be merciful unto me, O Lord! Bestow on me the spirit of humility and love.
O love of the Lord! He who has known Thee seeks Thee, tireless, day and night, crying with a loud voice: “I pine for Thee, O Lord, and seek Thee in tears.
How should I not seek Thee?
Thou didst give me to know Thee by the Holy Spirit,
And in her knowing of God my soul is drawn to seek Thee in tears.” Adam wept:
The desert cannot pleasure me; nor the high mountains, nor meadow nor forest, nor the singing of birds. I have no pleasure in any thing.
My soul sorrows with a great sorrow: I have grieved God.
And were the Lord to set me down in paradise again,
There, too, would I sorrow and weep – ‘O why did I grieve my beloved God?’
The soul of Adam fell sick when he was exiled from paradise, and many were the tears he shed in his distress. Likewise every soul that has known the Lord yearns for Him, and cries:
Where art Thou, O Lord? Where art Thou, my Light? Why hast Thou hidden Thy face from me?
Long is it since my soul beheld Thee,
And she wearies after Thee and seeks Thee in tears. Where is my Lord?
Why is it that my soul sees Him not? What hinders Him from dwelling in me?
This hinders Him: Christ-like humility and love for my enemies art not in me. God is love insaturable, love impossible to describe.
Adam walked the earth, weeping from his heart’s manifold ills, while the thoughts of his mind were on God; and when his body grew faint, and he could no longer shed tears, still his spirit burned with longing for God, for he could not forget paradise and the beauty thereof; but even more was it the power of His love which caused the soul of Adam to reach out towards God.
I write of thee, O Adam: But thou art witness,
my feeble understanding cannot fathom thy longing after God,
Nor how thou didst carry the burden of repentance.
O Adam, thou dost see how I, thy child, suffer here on earth. Small is the fire within me, and the flame of my love flickers low. O Adam, sing unto us the song of the Lord,
That my soul may rejoice in the Lord And be moved to praise and glorify Him
as the Cherubim and Seraphim praise Him in the heavens And all the hosts of heavenly angels
sing to Him the thrice-holy hymn.
O Adam, our father, sing unto us the Lord’s song, That the whole earth may hear
And all thy sons may lift their minds to God
and delight in the strains of the heavenly anthem, And forget their sorrows on earth.
The Holy Spirit is love and sweetness for the soul, mind and body. And those who have come to know God by the Holy Spirit stretch upward day and night, insatiable, to the living God, for the love of God is very sweet. But when the soul loses grace her tears flow as she seeks the Holy Spirit anew.
But the man who has not known God through the Holy Spirit cannot seek Him with tears, and his soul is ever harrowed by the passions; his mind is on earthly things. Contemplation is not for him, and he cannot come to know Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is made known through the Holy Spirit.
Adam knew God in paradise, and after his fall sought Him in tears.
O Adam, our father, tell us, thy sons, of the Lord. Thy soul didst know God on earth,
Knew paradise too, and the sweetness and gladness thereof,
And now thou livest in heaven and dost behold the glory of the Lord. Tell of how our Lord is glorified for His sufferings.
Speak to us of the songs that are sung in heaven, how sweet they are, For they are sung in the Holy Spirit.
Tell us of the glory of the Lord,
of His great mercy and how He loveth His creature. Tell us of the Most Holy Mother of God,
how she is magnified in the heavens, And the hymns that call her blessed.
Tell us how the Saints rejoice there, radiant with grace. Tell us how they love the Lord,
and in what humility they stand before God.
O Adam, comfort and cheer our troubled souls. Speak to us of the things thou dost behold in heaven. Why art thou silent?
Lo, the whole earth is in travail.
Art thou so filled with the love of God that thou canst not think of us? Or thou beholdest the Mother of God in glory,
and canst not tear thyself from the sight,
And wouldst not bestow a word of tenderness on us who sorrow, That we might forget the affliction there on earth?
O Adam, our father,
thou dost see the wretchedness of thy sons on earth.
Why then art thou silent?
And Adam speaks:
My children, leave me in peace.
I cannot wrench myself from the love of God to speak with you.
My soul is wounded with love of the Lord and rejoices in His beauty. How should I remember the earth?
Those who live before the Face of the Most High cannot think on earthly things.
O Adam, our father, thou hast forsaken us, thine orphans, though misery is our portion here on earth.
Tell us what we may do to be pleasing to God?
Look upon thy children scattered over the face of the earth, our minds scattered too.
Many have forgotten God.
They live in darkness and journey to the abysses of hell.
Trouble me not. I see the Mother of God in glory – How can I tear myself away to speak with you?
I see the holy Prophets and Apostles,
and all they are in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God. I walk in the gardens of paradise,
and everywhere behold the glory of the Lord.
For the Lord is in me and hath made me like unto Himself.
O Adam, yet we are they children!
Tell us in our tribulation how we may inherit paradise, That we too, like thee, may behold the glory of the Lord. Our souls long for the Lord,
while thou dost live in heaven and rejoice in the glory of the Lord. We beseech thee – comfort us.
‘Adam’s Lament’ (2009) by Arvo Pärt
Why cry ye out to me, my children?
The Lord loveth you and hath given you commandments.
Be faithful to them, love one another, and ye shall find rest in God. Let not an hour pass without ye repent of your transgressions, That ye may be ready to meet the Lord.
The Lord said: ‘I love them that love me, and glorify them that glorify me.’
O Adam, pray for us, thy children.
Our souls are sad from many sorrows.
O Adam, our father, thou dwellest in heaven and dost behold the Lord seated in glory On the right hand of God the Father.
Thou dost see the Cherubim and Seraphim and all the Saints And thou dost hear celestial songs
whose sweetness maketh thy soul forgetful of the earth.
But we here on earth are sad, and e weary greatly after God. There is little fire within us with which to love the Lord ardently. Inspire us, what must we do to gain paradise?
Adam makes answer:
Leave me in peace, my children, for from sweetness of the love of God I cannot think about the earth.
O Adam, our souls are weary, and we are heavy-laden with sorrow. Speak a word of comfort to us.
Sing to us from the songs thou hearest in heaven,
That the whole earth may hear and men forget their afflictions. O Adam, we are very sad.
Leave me in peace.
The time of my tribulation is past.
From the beauty of paradise and the sweetness of the Holy Spirit I can no longer be mindful of the earth.
But this I tell you:
The Lord loveth you, and do you live in love and be obedient to those in authority over you.
Humble your hearts, and the Spirit of God will live in you. He cometh softly into the soul and giveth her peace,
And bearth wordless witness to salvation. Sing to God in love and lowliness of Spirit, for the Lord rejoiceth therein.
O Adam, our father, what are we to do? We sing but love and humility are not in us.
Repent before the Lord, and entreat of Him. He loveth man and will give all things.
I too repented deeply and sorrowed much that I had grieved God,
And that peace and love were lost on earth because of my sin. My tears ran down my face.
My breast was wet with my tears, and the earth under my feet; And the desert heard the sound of my moaning.
You cannot apprehend my sorrow,
nor how I lamented for God and for paradise. In paradise was I joyful and glad:
the Spirit of God rejoiced me, and suffering was a strange to me.
But when I was driven forth from paradise cold and hunger began to torment me;
The beasts and the birds that were gentle and had loved me turned into wild things
And were afraid and ran from me. Evil thoughts goaded me.
The sun and the wind scorched me. The rain fell on me.
I was plagued by sickness and all the afflictions of the earth. But I endured all things, trusting steadfastly in God.
Do ye, then, bear the travail of repentance.
Greet tribulation. Wear down your bodies. Humble yourselves And love your enemies,
That the Holy Spirit may take up His abode in you,
And then shall ye know and attain the kingdom of heaven. But come not night me:
Now from love of God
have I forgotten the earth and all that therein is. Forgotten even is the paradise I lost,
for I behold the glory of the Lord And the glory of the Saints
whom the light of God’s countenance maketh radiant as the Lord Himself.
O Adam, sing unto us a heavenly song,
That the whole earth may hearken
and delight in the peace of love towards God. We would hear those songs:
Sweet are they for they are sung in the Holy Spirit.
Adam lost the earthly paradise and sought it weeping. But the Lord through His love on the Cross gave Adam another paradise, fairer than the old – a paradise in heave where shines the Light of the Holy Trinity.
What shall we render unto the Lord for His love to us?
Source: St. Silouan the Athonite, by Archimandrite Sophrony.
(*) In an interview in Toronto in the 1980’s, Pärt shared his personal definition of minimalism as the process by which his music is reduced to the number One. In his view, that One is the Divine Creator. In Adam’s Lament (2009) he sees the Biblical Adam as a unifying symbol. Pärt said, “Our ancestor Adam foresaw the human tragedy that was to come and experienced it as his own guilty responsibility, the result of his sinful act. He suffered all the cataclysms of humanity into the depths of depression, inconsolable in his agony.” Adam’s Lament is based on a Russian text by the ascetic monk and poet, St. Silouan of Athos (1866–1938). Pärt’s fascination with Silouan is such that his setting of this text is faithful to its every nuance. The music reflects a range of devotional writing that’s by turns dramatic, passionate, humble and submissive.
A composition of Icons and portions of Saturday vespers and the Sunday hymns on the theme of Forgiveness Sunday: The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise
From Saturday Vespers:
The Lord, my Creator, took me as dust from the earth, and with the breath of life He gave me a soul and made me a living creature.
He honoured me as ruler on earth over all things visible and as a companion of the Angels.
But Satan the deceiver, using the serpent as his instrument, enticed me by food, separated me from the glory of God and gave me over to the earth and to the lowest depths of death. But as Master and compassionate, call me back again.
Wretch that I am, I have cast off the robe woven by God, disobeying Your divine command, Lord, at the counsel of the enemy, and I am clothed now in fig leaves and in garments of skin.
I am condemned to eat the bread of toil in the sweat of my brow, and the earth has been cursed so that it bears thorns and thistles for me.
But, Lord, who in the last times were made flesh of a Virgin, call me back and bring me into Paradise again.
From Sunday of Forgiveness service:
Adam sat opposite Paradise and, lamenting his nakedness, he wept: ‘Woe is me ! By evil deceit was I persuaded and robbed, and exiled far from glory. Woe is me ! Once naked in my simplicity, now I am in want. But, Paradise, no longer shall I enjoy your delight; no more shall I look upon the Lord my God and Maker, for I shall return to the earth whence I was taken.Merciful and compassionate Lord, I cry to you, ‘Have mercy on me who am fallen’.
Through eating Adam was cast out of Paradise. And so, as he sat in front of it, he wept, lamenting with a pitiful voice and saying, ‘Woe is me, what have I suffered, wretch that I am! I transgressed one commandment of the Master, and now I am deprived of every good thing. Most holy Paradise, planted because of me and shut because of Eve, pray to him who made you and fashioned me, that once more I be filled with your flowers.’
Then the Saviour said to him, ‘I do not want the creature which I fashioned to perish, but to be saved and come to knowledge of the truth, because the one who comes to me I will in no way cast out.’
ʺWoe is me!ʺ cried Adam in lament, “that a serpent and a woman have deprived me of intimate communion with God; and eating from the tree has estranged me from the Paradise of delight. Woe is me, for I cannot bear the disgrace! Once the king of all God’s creatures on the earth, I am now viewed as a hostage because of one piece of illicit advice; and though once vested with the glory of immortality, I, as mortal, carry about the skin of deadness lamentably. Woe is me! Which lamentation shall I enlist to collaborate with me? But You, Friend of man, who fashioned me from the earth, and who donned compassion; recall me from servitude to the enemy and save me.”
The stadium of virtue is now open; those who wish to compete, enter therein, girded for the good contest of Lent, for those who compete according to the rules shall receive their laurels rightfully. Taking up the full armor of the Cross, let us do battle against the Enemy. As an impregnable wall, we have the Faith, prayer as our breastplate, and acts of mercy as our helmet. Instead of sword, there is fasting, which cuts every evil from the heart. He who does this shall attain a true crown from Christ, the King of all, on Judgment Day.
(Idiomela of the Praises)
O precious Paradise, unsurpassed beauty, tabernacle built by God, unending gladness and delight, glory of the just, joy of prophets, and dwelling place of saints, with the sound of your leaves implore to the Maker of all to open for me the gates which I closed by my transgression, and may count me worthy to partake of the Tree of Life, and of the joy in which I delighted when I dwelt in you before Adam was banished from Paradise through disobedience and cast out from delight, beguiled by the words of a woman.