The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustynnik — 20

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Christ is Risen!

The Light shines in the darkness

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Some of the Epitaphios flowers are still fresh. Holy Water revives them.

 

Our enforced lock-down gives one the opportunity to call others, to send texts and forward emails. It is always lovely to hear from people, especially the ones you haven’t heard from in a long while. Amidst the sad statistics, it is good to hear pieces of good news which bring hope and encouragement as well as to share one another’s burdens. Perhaps God has given us this time to teach us patience and attentiveness; to listen more to His Word and to the words of others, to hear what the other is saying without the busyness of distraction. We should always take care of course what we hear and discern that which is good from that which is evil. The Welsh have a saying, “Gossip, is the devil’s mailbag!”

Messages lie at the very heart of the “good news” of the Gospel. We repeat in this season of Paschal Joy “Christ is Risen!” It has become a greeting as well as a proclamation.

Nettle soup (part 2)

On hearing the message that the Saint (Columba) was to eat only nettle soup, the cook was rather concerned about such a poor diet for his master. He thought to himself; “I will add some milk!” So he hollowed out the stick used for stirring soup and through it he secretly poured the milk. St Columba ate the soup and ordered that all the monks should follow his example and have this tasty soup. (Part three next time!!)

myrrh-bearing women

The Message

 

Luke 24:9 “Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven

and to all the rest.”

 

Early in the morning with the sorrow that they shared

The women set out with the spices that they had prepared.

 

They came to the place where he was laid, the stone was rolled away

Expecting only death, they found an empty tomb at the break of day.

 

Perplexed and troubled at this scene, two angels then appeared

The women bowed their faces to the ground as they were afeared.

 

The angels in bright garments addressed the myrrh bearers and said:

“Why is it so that you seek the living among the dead?”

 

Remember how he spoke to you of how the Son of Man would die

There is no reason for your presence here, nor need for you to cry.

 

Did he not say that this would come to be at the hands of sinful men,

How he would be crucified and on the third day rise again.

 

Go proclaim the good news to the eleven and to others who will listen,

That Jesus Christ who died upon the Cross has today arisen.

 

 Glory be to the Risen Lord!

 

Faith and love which are gifts of the Holy Spirit are such great and powerful means that a person who has them can easily, and with joy and consolation, go the way Jesus Christ went. Besides this,  the Holy Spirit gives man the power to resist the delusions of the world so that although he makes use of earthly good, yet he uses them as a temporary visitor, without attaching his heart to them. But a man who has not got the Holy Spirit, despite all his learning and prudence, is always more or less a slave and worshipper of the world. 

St. Innocent of Irkutsk, Indication of the Way into the Kingdom of  Heaven. 

 

My love and poor prayers

Eν Χριστώ

 

 

 

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

Blessed Elder Amvrosios Lazaris the Athonite and the Dread Judgment Day

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“The Dread Judgment “Day” will last as long as the Six Psalms last, a few minutes.  At this time, while we will be judged, the Angels will chant the Six psalms. …

All the people who will be alive at this moment, they will instantly experience death and then be immediately resurrected. Our bodies will be immaterial, space-less. We will be able to see each other’s body and we will all be 33 years old.

Christ Icon on Iconostasis

Our Lord will hold the Book of Life, the Gospel, open, and immediately, each one of us will go on our own either to the right or to the left, because we will know in our hearts whether we are for Paradise or not.

Christ icon on Bishop's throne

This is exactly why in the Bishop’s throne, the Book in the icon of Christ is open and there is no candle over this icon–this indicates that there will be no Mercy in the Second Coming. While in the Iconostasis, the Book which Christ is holding is closed and there is a candle lit over the icon because there is still Mercy. “

✝️ Blessed Elder Amvrosios Lazaris the Athonite (21/12/1912 – 02/12/2006)  ☦️

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The Hieromonk Amvrosios (born Spyridon Lazaridis) departed this life on 2 December 2006 (New Calendar), at the age of 92. He was the spiritual father of the Holy Monastery of Our Most Holy Lady Gavriotissa, Dadi, and of thousands of Christians from all over Greece.

During a chat, I [Archimandrite Ephraim, Abbot of the Vatopaidi Monastery] once had with the late Elder, he told me that after his military service, he wanted to go to the Holy Mountain, but he didn’t know how or where to go. Then a young man of about 25 appeared and told him: “I know the place, come with me”. And so he went.

They set off together, went down to the harbour and embarked on a boat. “He gave me bread, as well”, he said, “and we ate together all the days I was with him. He didn’t tell me his name, though, and I didn’t ask. So we arrived at Dafni and from there walked on, further up the Holy Mountain.

When I was with him, I felt very safe. As we went along, he showed me the Monastery of Xiropotamou, where they honour the Forty Martyrs. He asked if I would like to pay my respects and I agreed to do so. We went into the katholiko, the main church of the Monastery, and when I kissed the icon, forty men appeared and surrounded us. The young man turned to me and said: “They’re the Forty Martyrs and they’re happy that you’re going to be a monk”.

From there we continued on our way and reached Karyes, and from there went to the Holy Monastery of Koutloumousi. The young man stopped, pointed out the monastery to me and said: “You’ll stay here, Spyro. You’ll become a monk. You’ll be patient and obedient to the Elder”. And he disappeared.

It would seem that this was an angel of the Lord, Spyridon’s guardian angel. Spyridon remained at this monastery as a novice, and, at the age of 25, became a monk with the name of Hariton.

… Elder Amvrosios was always in communion with the Saints. Once,  “When I was in bed, in pain, I [Elder Amvrosios himself says] could see the chapel of the Holy Unmercenary Doctors opposite, and I asked them to help me. Two doctors appeared in white smocks and they tried to set my leg. ‘Pull, Kosmas’ said one. ‘Hold it here, Damianos’, said the other. In five minutes, the pain had gone and I was well again”. When the brethren in the monastery saw him completely well, they praised God and the Holy Unmercenary Doctors.

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The blessed Elders Porfyrios Kavsokalyvitis († 02/12/1991) and Amvrosios the Athonite (†02/12/2006) together with some lay pilgrims on a visit.

 

Read more about Elder Amvrosios’ life, here

Elder Aimilianos and Christ Pantokrator

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Please have a look at the eyes of the Elder how much they resemble Christ’s ‘different’ eyes and left vs right features in that famous Sinai icon*. Isn’t this a striking similarity? I am completely mesmerised, if I may use such an expression, with this photograph of the Elder, and I have been spending really a lot of time simply looking at him, ever since his repose in Christ. Compassionate, Peaceful, yet Stern too. It feels like an icon to me, and not a photograph. Your thoughts?

Elder aimilianos

*

Many (1) agree that the icon represents the dual nature of Christ, illustrating traits of both man and god, perhaps influenced by the aftermath of the ecumenical councils of the previous century at Ephesus and Chalcedon. Christ’s features on his left side (the viewer’s right) are supposed to represent the qualities of his human nature, while his right side (the viewer’s left) represents his divinity.

(1) Cf. Manaphēs, Sinai: Treasures, 84; Robin Cormack, Oxford History of Art: Byzantine Art (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 66.

 

Christmas as the Anchor for Reality

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Every year, though the cycle of the liturgical seasons in the Church, I am discovering new levels of meaning in festal icons. Here is what I have recently come upon about the Nativity icon: “Like most festal icons, the Nativity icon is not only the image of an event that happened two thousands years ago, but rather by its form and the hierarchy of its elements, shows us the inner working of how the Divine Logos is Him by whom at things were made. The icon also shows us how His incarnation acts as the anchor, the fulcrum around which all manifestation holds together. Christ unites the highest:  angels, star, with the lowest which are the animals and a cave. He brings together the far and wise, the wisemen, to the near and simple, the shepherds. All of this is an image of how the Divine Logos holds the world together. By its reference to death, to the entry into the cave, the nativity icon links it imagery to other icons in which Christ is underground, such as the icon of Theophany and the Anastasis.” (Jonathan Pageau)

For more about The Nativity Icon as an Image of Reality go here

 

For The Ass and The Ox in The Nativity Icon go here

For The Cave in the Nativity icon go here

PS.  Please share with me more analysis of the Nativity icon

 

Veiled Before God

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Because of the Angels

For 2000 years in the Orthodox Church, the tradition has been for women and girls to veil their heads during worship, whether at church for the liturgy, or at home for family prayer time.

What is the Scriptural and Patristic evidence for this tradition, and why is it important?

In this article, we will take a look at headcoverings in the Old Testament, headcoverings in the New Testament, headcoverings according to the early Church, headcoverings in icons, and headcoverings today. At the end of the article there are links to additional resources for learning about Christian headcoverings.

Headcoverings in the Old Testament

Centuries before the birth of Christ, women’s headcoverings were an accepted practice for God’s people. It was not merely an option for those who wished to be holy. Rather, it was a matter-of-fact expectation that all women would cover their heads.

When the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to pen the first five books of Scripture, women’s headcoverings were simply assumed to be the normal practice. In the book of Numbers, when a unique ceremony is performed that requires an uncovered head, Scripture makes a point to say that the woman’s headcovering needs to be removed:

the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands” (Numbers 5:18)

Of course, such a requirement would make little sense, if women did not normally keep their heads covered.

Even earlier than this, in the book of Genesis, we read about Rebekah, on a journey to meet her future husband, Isaac:

Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took a veil and covered herself.
(Genesis 24:64-65)

Christian girls worshiping in traditional headcoverings at a Russian Orthodox Church

Her godly discretion is a model for women today. She did not flaunt her physical beauty. Rather, she veiled herself, increasing her allure through an outward display of modesty.

Women’s headcoverings can also be found in the story of Susanna. It is the captivating story of a beautiful, virtuous woman who was falsely accused, and later vindicated by the wisdom of young Daniel. Susanna wore a veil that covered not only her head, but her face as well. Scripture looks disapprovingly upon the removal of her veil:

Now Susanna was exceeding delicate, and beautiful to behold. But those wicked men commanded that her face should be uncovered, (for she was covered,) that so at least they might be satisfied with her beauty. Therefore her friends and all her acquaintance wept. (The Story of Susanna / Daniel 13:31-33)

In this passage of Scripture, virtuous people approve of women’s headcoverings and veils, while ungodly men seek their removal.

Headcoverings in the New Testament

Women’s headcoverings are one of the many points of similarity between Israel and the Church. Godly women had covered their heads for thousands of years prior to the advent of Christ. And when the New Testament Church was born, godly women continued the practice.

Women’s Head Coverings in the Orthodox Church

In St. Paul’s first epistle to the church in Corinth, he instructs everyone to follow the holy traditions which have been received:

Now, I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. (1 Corinthians 11:2)

Women’s headcoverings are one of the holy traditions which the Church had received, and St. Paul spends the next several paragraphs discussing them. He says that headcoverings manifest honor, in the context of worship:

  1. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head.
    (1 Corinthians 11:4)
  2. Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head.
    (1 Corinthians 11:5)

The message is pretty clear:  It is honorable for a woman to wear headcoverings during worship, but it is dishonorable for men to wear them. This is why men remove their hats for prayer, even to this day.

Not content to make his point only once, St. Paul reiterates himself a few verses later. Women are to cover their heads, and men are not to do so:

  1. A man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (1 Corinthians 11:7)
  2. The woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.
    (1 Corinthians 11:10)

Catacomb of Priscilla

The Old Testament reveals that this holy tradition is ancient, but it only begins to hint at the reasons.

Here in the New Testament, we are given some reasons for the practice. According to 1 Corinthians 11, headcoverings manifest a woman’s honor. They also are important “because of the angels”.

Angels are present with us when we pray, and when we worship. While we may not fully understand why headcoverings are important to the angels, it is sufficient for us to know that this reason is given in Scripture. If Scripture says that women’s headcoverings are important to the angels, then it is something we should take seriously.

Headcoverings according to the Early Church Fathers

St. Mary Magdalene, wearing a headcovering

St. John Chrysostom (d. A.D. 407), in a sermon at the Feast of the Ascension, spoke both of angels and the veiling of women:

The angels are present here . . . Open the eyes of faith and look upon this sight. For if the very air is filled with angels, how much more so the Church! . . . Hear the Apostle teaching this, when he bids the women to cover their heads with a veil because of the presence of the angels.

Origen, another prominent teacher in the early Church, said,

There are angels in the midst of our assembly . . . we have here a twofold Church, one of men, the other of angels . . . And since there are angels present . . . women, when they pray, are ordered to have a covering upon their heads because of those angels. They assist the saints and rejoice in the Church.

The Apostolic Tradition was written in the second century, and the author is believed to be St. Hippolytus of Rome. This book has instructions for catechumens, including this:

And let all the women have their heads covered with an opaque cloth . . .

Myrrh Bearing Women

And St. Cyril of Alexandria, commenting on First Corinthians, wrote:

The angels find it extremely hard to bear if this law [that women cover their heads] is disregarded.

Headcoverings in Icons

Icons in the Orthodox Church are a visual guide to the Faith, a sort of “picturebook” of Christianity. Icons teach us about the life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and about the lives of many Christians who have gone before us.

Icons also teach us about headcoverings.

The Mothers of Modern Medicine

Virtually every icon of an Orthodox woman displays her wearing a headcovering. As far as I know, the only exception is St. Mary of Egypt, and she was a solitary saint who lived alone in the desert, far away from any people.

Among the female saints who participated in society, all of them wore headcoverings, and their headcoverings are shown in icons.

Even Mary the Mother of God–the most blessed woman in the entire universe–is shown in icons, wearing a headcovering.

Can you think of a better role-model for women?

Headcoverings Today

In our church, all women and girls are asked to wear headcoverings, in obedience to God’s command in Scripture, and out of respect for the holy traditions of the Orthodox Church. Just inside the front door of the church, we keep a basket of headcoverings, just in case a woman forgets hers at home and needs to borrow one for the day. Headcoverings are also worn at home, during family prayer time.

While honoring God’s direction is a reward unto itself, there are many other benefits as well. For example:

Headcoverings manifest a woman’s honor. As St. Paul points out in Scripture, a woman brings honor to herself by covering her head during prayer.

Headcoverings encourage humility. Godly women come to church to focus on worship, not to draw attention to themselves. A girl may be tempted to show off an attractive hairdo. When a woman wears a headcovering, this temptation is removed. She can focus on prayer, instead of on hair.

Headcoverings save time. In today’s culture, it can be tempting to spend a lot of time and energy on hairstyles. But headcoverings are quick and easy. It takes a lot less time to put on a headcovering, than it does to prepare a hairdo for display.

Headcoverings help us show love and consideration for our brothers. Godly men come to church to focus on worship. But the flowing locks of beautiful woman can be distracting. By veiling her hair, a woman can display her modesty, and remove an unnecessary distraction.

A mainstream theological journal recently published an article about women’s headcoverings. Soon after, the author of the article became a member of the Orthodox Church. In the article, she beautifully illustrates the iconic purpose of headcoverings:

My wearing a head covering is not only a symbol or sign that I am in agreement with His order, but that I visibly, willingly submit to it. With submission comes blessing.
~ Christa Conrad

Theotokos Tender Mercy Icon

In an issue of The Handmaiden, a lady named Elizabet gives her testimony about wearing headcoverings:

For twelve years I have worn a scarf [headcovering] at all times. I now perceive that it has been—and continues to be—essential for the pilgrim journey and salvation of my soul. The bottom line for me—and a growing number of my sisters—remains obedience. And with it comes a sense of being in our rightful place in God’s ordered universe, rejoicing with the angels. Now I gratefully say, “I am!” in the presence of the great I AM—at prayer and in church, surrounded by the angelic host, worshipping our Lord and King. To God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, be the glory, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen!

Reference: Women’s Headcoverings

The Broken Priest

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Such insight and perception of the all too frail human priest from Father Seraphim Aldea!

St. Drostan — Spiritual Fatherhood

Bishops, priests and monastics – male and female – can suffer (God willing, maybe not all of us do) from a type of loneliness that comes from the responsibility of always comforting (without being comforted), always forgiving (without ever being forgiven), always getting everyone back on their feet and spiritually renewed (while hardly ever receiving any spiritual support themselves). Yes, this is the cross we were given; and yes, this is the path we have taken. And yet, we are all human – clergy and monastics included – and like all humans, we need forgiveness, we need light, we need support, we need to be allowed to get up and start again. We need what all humans need – to feel loved.
There is so much I love about St Drostan, yet I suppose it is this particular miracle – the healing of a priest called Symon – that brings him instantly close to my heart. There is something special to me, a priest, about this story. St Drostan’s miracle speaks loudly about a suffering which is rarely talked about in the Church, a kind of suffering that goes mostly unnoticed by all except those who are affected by it – the clergy of the Church.
Because of this perception – that clergy should never need any help – priests and monastics tend not to ask for help when they suffer. And they do suffer, for it can be very lonely as a priest. It can be depressing. Life can get very dark. People forget that our bishops, priests and monastics are the most exposed among us – spiritually, they are on the front line, they are the ones under the greater attacks, they are the ones both God and the devil test most. God does it out of an excess of love; the devil – out of an excess of hatred.
St Drostan’s miracle spoke to me because it envolved the healing of a priest, but also because of the nature of that healing. Symen, the priest, needed light. The priest had lost his sight, had lost his direction, had lost his hope. When darkness engulfs the heart of a priest, that is no ordinary darkness, but the deepest of the deep. Symeon, the priest, goes to St Drostan to ask for light, and St Drostan opens his spiritual eyes to the Light of Christ.
When we were working on the compostion of this icon, there were a number of things I wanted it to convey. Priest Symeon (note his epitrachilion, a symbol of his priesthood) has his eyes closed, as a sign of the spiritual darkness which is fighting him. There is complete abandonment on his face. St Drostan is his last hope, and he places his soul in the hands of this holy man. I know from my own experience how much a priest longs to be blessed himself, to feel a hand over his own head taking away his sins, forgiving him, granting him light and the hope of a new beginning. A priest can hold his hands over hundreds of heads in a week, praying for all, absolving all, while his heart longs for a loving hand above his own head.
St Drostan does precisely that. His expression is loving, but focused and deep in prayer. He does not look at the kneeling priest, but at the Light pouring through his hands over Symeon’s hands, completely aware that this Light (not himself) is the source of all healing and salvation. Like all confessions, this icon depicts the meeting of three Persons, not two: the spiritual father, the son and God Himself. Symeon’s humility (he is kneeling before the saint) comes from his need and despair, but St Drostan’s humility (note his posture) comes from his awareness that he is doing God’s work, in His Maker’s presence (which is why is is slightly bowing, as if standing before Christ). I purposely chose not to depict St Drostan as a priest (although he was ordained), because I wanted to signify that spiritual fatherhood is not an exclusive charisma of the ordained clergy – the Tradition of the Church has kept the memory of simple monks (and, indeed, nuns) whom Christ had blessed for this particular work.
Finally, pay attention to the Light that crosses the icon diagonally, from the upper right corner to the lower left one. This Light, the Uncreated Divine Light, God Himself, descends from Heavens and first rests on the spiritual father. St Drostan’s hallo is ‘fed’ by the divine Light, as a sign that his holiness is God’s holiness – God and Man become one in His Divine Light. The Light then travels from the spiritual father onto his hands, as a sign that holiness is always translated into holy works. In this case, the holy deed is the healing, the restauration of Symeon’s sight, the very gift of the Divine Light from the spiritual father to his spiritual son, who have now become as one. in God’s Light.
… As I prayed for an understanding, for a vision of what this icon should look like, I was reminded once again of how much I owe my own spiritual father. I am totally aware that all I received through him came from Christ; I am aware he is only human. But for me, this ‘only human’ man has kept me spiritually alive (and has spiritually resurrected me many times).  … for one’s spiritual father, the most simple and direct way to tell him that nothing of his sacrifice is forgotten. It lives on through me. I am alive through this sacrifice.