He lent to the Lord

oavlos1

Photos of the personal belongings of His Holiness Patriarch Pavle and a few stories about his proverbial poverty and non-attachment to material things

His Holiness Patriarch Pavle was born as Gojko Stojcevic in a small village in present day Croatia. He lost both of his parents at a young age and was raised by his aunt. He studied in Belgrade and was majoring in Theology and Medicine. He graduated from University of Belgrade in 1942. He worked as a construction worker after WWII and then took his monastic vows in Ovcar. That is when he received the monastic name Pavle. He later took post-graduate studies in Athens, Greece when he returned in 1957 he was elected as Bishop of Ras and Prizren. He held that position for 33 years before becoming Patriarch in 1990. He held that position until his death on November 15th, 2009.

The Patriarch of Serbian Pavel had only one robe, which he himself made (he always answered with a smile: “I have more than one robe and I don’t need – I cannot wear two at once.”) He dressed himself with a vestment – he cleaned and ironed himself.
The patriarch repaired shoes and even sewed shoes for himself (moreover, if he saw that someone had torn his clothes or shoes, he offered his services in repair). The patriarch until the end used old printing and sewing machines, heated the water on a tiny old stove, wrote with a pen. He had neither personal assistants, nor a personal secretary, nor a personal car. 

The photos below show some of the personal belongings of the Patriarch of Serbian Pavel

pavlos10pavlos9pavlos8pavlos6pavlos5pavlos4pavlos3pavlos2

His Holiness was known for his humility. When he was asked why he always walked or took public transport,  he replied “I will not purchase one until every Albanian and Serbian household in Kosovo and Metohija has an automobile.”

Here are a few great stories that show how humble of a man he was ……….

******The Mercedes Story******

Patriarch Pavle, as he was known, continued to live a simple life even after he moved to the new residence – the Patriarchal Palace – in Belgrade. People form Belgrade often encountered him on the streets, riding the train or the bus … Once, while walking alone the hilly street of King Peter the I, towards the Patriarchate,a Mercedes – last model barely passed him, the driver – a priest from one of the well-known parish in Belgrade, stopped the car and said:
– Your Holiness, permit me to invite  you in! Just tell me where you heading …The Patriarch entered the car, and as  soon as it  started moving, asked:
– Tell me, Father, whose  car is this?
– It’s mine, your Holiness!
– Stop it! – the Patriarch replied, he then got off, made the sign of the Cross and said to the priest:
-May the Lord, watch over you!

*****The Black Automobile Story*****

The great session of the Holy Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church had just ended. As it was the customary, his Holiness was heading to the vespers service at the Cathedral. When he exited the Patriarchal Palace, he saw many black limousines parked near and asked:
– So many luxury cars, who do you think they belong to?
– To our bishops, Your Holiness! They came with them to the Synod meeting-replied the priest who accompanied him. 
– Oh, God watch over them, what would they’ve traveled with, if they weren’t taken the monastic vows of  poverty?!

******The Travel Story******

In the Patriarchate building, it is often heard the story of the Patriarch dialogue with the deacon accompanying him everywhere; as they were ready to go to the church in Banovo Brdo, the deacon asked:
– So, how are we traveling? By car?
– By bus! – the Patriarch replied with determination.
– It’s crowded, it’s stuffy in the bus, and the church is not close …
– We’re going (by bus)! – His Holiness replied shortly.
– But … – the Deacon, following him, advance a new argument, — Your Holiness, it is summer, many people go to Ada Ciganlija [a famous pool] and buses are full of barely naked people. It is not appropriate…
– You know, Father – the Patriarch replied back – one can  see what he desires to see!

*****Raising Salaries*****

Patriarch Pavle refused, in fact, to get paid.He only received a small pension he was entitled to as a formal bishop of Raska and Prizren. All his needs were modest, given that he sewed his mantle and repaired his shoes … Yet, he still had some money left of that pension. What was left of it, he divided among poor or donated it to other purposes of civic good.

When a request from bishops was made to increase their salaries in 1962, his reaction as a bishop became proverbial :

– “But why, since we are not able to spend what we already have?”.

He did, likewise with what he received as gifts. If he received mantle material, he keep it until he met a monk or a priest not been able to afford it. Then he would calculate how much they would need to sew a cassock (mantle) and give them exactly that, so he may share the rest with others.

May our Lord grant us the same spiritual poverty and humility. Patriarch Pavle’s acts condemn me.

“Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.”— Proverbs 19:17

By Susanna Schneider

 

 

 

Advertisements

When Sickness Heals Sickness

 

ChristtheHealer 1

The Podvig of Illness Healing the Illness of Egocentricity

Podvig is a Russian term that is used to describe struggle, ascesis, and quite literally, hard work that become spiritual offerings by virtue of the orientation of the soul from self to God.  … Elder Sophrony noted that harmful self-love can be overcome only through much struggle and effort.  According to Saint Theophan the Recluse, “all the saints accept the only true path to virtue to be pain and hard work… lightness and ease are a sign of a false path. Anyone who is not struggling, not in podvig, is in prelest” [spiritual delusion] (The Path to Salvation, p. 209). One can add that anyone not struggling for virtue is under the deluding influence of egocentricity that prevents the sufferer from seeing God and neighbor and philautia that prevents the wretched soul from genuinely loving them as well.

The terrible struggles involved in physical illnesses and ailments can also be understood in terms of podvigs as long as those experiencing such illnesses and ailments perceive them as being allowed by God’s loving providence for their own purification and illumination. And this perception can only come through a conscious and heroic act of will to move beyond the orbit of self.

Fr. John Krestiankin, in his letters to laypeople, writes, “While our illnesses, yours and mine, should not upset us, for we have already gone out into the final frontier; our podvig of labors is already over; it is left for us only to bear the podvig of illness. I think that this is the most valuable and promising spiritual labor, for nothing humbles a person like sickness.  Now we truly stand before the Lord like babes, with the awareness that we and all of ours are in God’s hands. We stretch out our hands to Him, our hearts cry out only to Him, and no ambition or pridefulness about this podvig can stick to us. How good and saving this is!” 

When we are physically ill or incapacitated, we are forced to confront our own weakness and helplessness. In such instances, we are no longer capable of doing ordinary things for ourselves. We are dependent on others who have their own lives to lead and we feel as though we are on the periphery, not in the center. This is painfully crushing for the ego, which finds itself at a crossroads: should it rebel with even more vehement egocentric demands or humbly accept life on its own difficult terms. Often, people try both approaches. Blessed are those who willingly allow their ego to be humbled, for then the nous awakens and turns to the only One it can: it turns to God in prayer, in hope, and in love.

The notion of illness as podvig could be most beneficial for us if we look at our spiritual state in this way, for indeed, we are spiritually ill and without care from those physicians and nurses in the Hospital of the Church we would be lost, exposed, and in danger of spiritual death. If we were able to keep this notion of our illness and our dependency in the recesses of our heart, we would be more inclined to call upon the most Holy Name of Christ in humility and repentance.  The recollection of our own spiritual illness would assist us in the continual remembrance of God throughout the day. 

This notion is found in the teachings of Elder Sophrony and explained by Archimandrite Zacharias, “Two abysses lie before us:  the depth of the mercy and love of God shown by His Cross to which we join ourselves by voluntarily mourning  over our transgressions, and the depth of the fallen state in which we find ourselves.  Both lead us to intensify our cry to God, in the way of all righteous souls, and grace comes to our help and strengthens us, for it bears within itself the seed of eternal life.  This seed and the consolation that accompanies it inspire us to undertake an awesome struggle with the darkness that we have discovered within ourselves, until it is all ‘swallowed up by life’ (2 Cor. 5:4). We stand constrained by the abyss of the love of Christ, the Cross and the grace of His Resurrection on the one hand, and the abyss of our fall on the other hand.  The abyss of our fall cries to the abyss of the mercy of the love of Christ (cf. Ps. 42:7) and if we acquire this two-fold vision in our life, we will never cease to be inspired day and night.”

Illness, physical and spiritual, can be therapeutic instruments for healing us of the ills of our egocentricity if we choose to embrace them as a podvig. But this is only be possible if we are prepared to glorify God for all things, the joys and the sorrows. When we treat illness as a podvig we are echoing the words of Saint Paul to the Romans, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” And such podvigs give life a deep sense of purpose that frivolous egocentricity never can and never will.

Source: Ancient Christian Wisdom

The old woman and the cab driver

taxi.jpg

“I arrived at the address and signaled. After waiting a few minutes, I beep again. Since this was supposed to be my last passenger, I thought about leaving, but instead I parked the car, went to the door and knocked … “Just a minute,” said a fragile, elderly woman’s voice. I heard something being dragged along the floor.

After a long pause, the door opened. A little woman of about 90 was standing in front of me. She was wearing a plain dress and a hat with a veil, as if from 1940s films. Next to her was a small suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for many years. All furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no trinkets or dishes on the shelves. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photographs and glassware.

“Would you help me carry the bag to the car?” She asked. I took the suitcase to the car and then came back to help the woman. She took my hand and we slowly walked toward the car.

She continued to thank me for my kindness. “It’s nothing,” I told her, “I just try to treat my passengers the way I want them to treat my mother.”

“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got into the car, she gave me the address and then asked: “Could you go through the center of the city?”

“This is not the shortest route,” I replied.

“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. – “I’m not in a hurry. I’m going to the hospice. ”

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes sparkled. “My family left a long time ago,” she continued in a low voice, “The doctor says that I have not very long to go.”

I calmly extended my hand and turned off the meter.

“What route would you like to go?” I asked.

For the next two hours we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the area where she and her husband lived when they were newlyweds. She showed me a furniture warehouse, which was once a dance hall, where she worked as a little girl.

Sometimes she asked me to slow down in front of a specific building or alley and sat staring into the darkness, saying nothing. Then she suddenly said: “I am tired, perhaps we will go now.”

We rode in silence at the address she gave me. It was a low building, something like a small sanatorium, with a driveway along the portico.

Two nurses approached the car as soon as we arrived. They gently helped her out. Must have been waiting for her. I opened the trunk and carried a small suitcase at the door. The woman was already sitting in a wheelchair.

“How much do I owe you?” She asked, reaching for her purse.

“Nothing at all,” I said.

“You have to make a living,” she replied.

“There are other passengers,” I replied.

Almost without thinking, I leaned over and hugged her. She hugged me tightly in response.

“You gave the old lady some happiness,” she said. – “Thank you”.

I squeezed her hand and then left … The door closed behind my back, it was the sound of closing another book of life …

Source: Orthodox Parables and Stories

Overcoming Depression

freedom.jpg

A few case studies analysed by St. Porphyrios at a rare audio recording and a chapter from his book “Wounded by Love”

“Nowadays people often feel sadness, despair, lethargy, laziness, apathy, and all things satanic.  They are downcast, discontent and melancholy.  They disregard their families, spend vast sums on psychoanalysts and take anti-depressants.  People explain this as ‘insecurity.’  Our religion believes that these states derive from satanic temptation. 

Pain is a psychological power which God implanted in us with a view to doing us good and leading us to love, joy, and prayer.  Instead of this, the devil succeeds in taking this power from the battery of our soul and using it for evil.  He transforms it into depression and brings the soul into a state of lethargy and apathy.  He torments us, takes us captive and makes us psychologically ill.

There is a secret.  Turn the satanic energy into good energy.  This is difficult and requires some preparation.  The requisite preparation is humility.  With humility you attract the grace of God.  You surrender yourself to the love of God, to worship and to prayer.  But even if you do all in the world, you achieve nothing if you haven’t acquired humility.  All the evil feelings, insecurity, despair and disenchantment, which come to take control of the soul, disappear with humility.  The person who lacks humility, the egotist, doesn’t want you to get in the way of his desires, to make any criticism of him or tell him what to do.  He gets upset, irritated and reacts violently and is overcome by depression.

This state is cured by grace.  The soul must turn to God’s love.  The cure will come when we start to love God passionately.  Many of our saints transformed depression into joy with their love for Christ.  That is, they took this power of the soul which the devil wished to crush and gave it to God and they transformed it into joy and exultation.  Prayer and worship gradually transform depression and turn it into joy, because the grace of God takes effect.  Here you need to have the strength to attract the grace of God which will help you to be united with Him.  Art is required.  When you give yourself to God and become one with him, you will forget the evil spirit which drags at you from behind, and this spirit, when it is disdained, will leave.  And the more you devote yourself to the Spirit of God, the less you will look behind to see the spirit that is dragging at you.  When grace attracts you, you will be united with God.  And when you unite yourself to God and abandon yourself to Him, everything else disappears and is forgotten and you are saved.  The great art, the great secret, in order to rid yourself of depression and all that is negative is to give yourself over to the love of God.

Something which can help a person who is depressed is work, interest in life.  The garden, plants, flowers, trees, the countryside, a walk in the open air — all these things tear a person away from a state of inactivity and awake other interests.  They act like medicines.  To occupy oneself with the arts, with music and so on, is very beneficial.  The thing that I place top of the list, however, is interest in the Church, in reading Holy Scripture and attending services.  As you study the words of God you are cured without being aware of it.

Let me tell you about a girl who came to me.  She was suffering from dreadful depression.  Drugs had no effect.  She had given up everything — her work, her home, her interests.  I told her about the love of Christ which takes the soul captive because the grace of God fills the soul and changes it.  I explained to her that the force which takes over the soul and transforms the power of the soul into depression is demonic.  It throws the soul to the ground, torments it and renders it useless.  I advised her to devote herself to things like music which she had formerly enjoyed.  I emphasized, however, most of all her need to turn to Christ with love.  I told her, moreover, that in our Church a cure is to be found through love for God and prayer, provided this is done with all the heart.”

By St. Porphyrios
+2 Dec

 

A glass of cold water

 

glass-of-water-in-desert-david-buffington

Arid Photograph – Glass Of Water In Desert by David Buffington

‘Gwnewch y pethau bychain’ (*)

Many people believe that to live according to the faith and to fulfill the will of God is very difficult. Actually — it’s very easy. One needs only attend to details, to trifles, and try to avoid evil in the slightest and most trivial things. This is the simplest and surest way to enter the world of the spirit and draw near to God.

A man often thinks that the Creator demands great things of him, that the Gospel insists on complete self-sacrifice, the abolition of one’s person hood, etc., as a condition of faith. A man is so frightened by this that he begins to be afraid of becoming acquainted with God, of drawing near to God, and hides himself from God, not even wishing to look into God’s Word.

“If I can’t do anything important for God, then I’d just better stay away from things spiritual, stop thinking about eternity, and live ‘in a normal way’.”

There exists at the entrance to the spiritual realm a “hypnosis of great deeds”: one must either do some big thing or do nothing. And so people do nothing at all for God or for their souls! It is very strange — the more a man is devoted to the little things of life, the less he wishes to be honest or pure or faithful to God in those same little things. And, moreover, each one must adopt a correct attitude toward little things if one wishes to come near to the kingdom of heaven.

“Wishes to come near”… In this is summed up all the difficulties of the religious life. Often one wishes to enter into the kingdom of heaven quite unexpectedly, in some miraculous and magical way, or, by right — through some kind of great feat. But neither the one nor the other is the right way to find the higher world. One does not enter God’s presence in some wondrous manner while remaining indifferent on earth to the needs of the kingdom of God and its bright eternity, nor can one purchase the treasures of the kingdom of God by some kind of eternal act, however great that act might be. Yet good deeds, holy deeds are necessary for one to grow into a higher life, a bright will, a good desire, a heavenly psychology, a heart that is both pure and fair…

“…Verily, verily I say unto you that whosoever offers one of the least of these but a cup of cold water, in the name of a disciple, shall not lose his reward.”

In this saying of the Lord is the highest expression of the smallness of the good. “A glass of water” — this is not much…

RELATED  On Those Who Do Not Try To Save Others

In every communication between people there must without fail be a good spirit. This spirit is Christ, openly manifest or hidden.

“In the name of a disciple”

— this is the first step in communicating with another person in the name of Jesus Christ Himself. Many people, not as yet knowing the Lord and the wondrous fellowship in His Name still have among themselves an unselfish, pure and human fellowship which brings them ever closer to the Spirit of Christ…

As a matter of fact, the lesser good is more necessary for mankind than the greater. People can get along with their lives without the greater good; without the lesser they can not exist. Mankind perishes not from a lack of the greater good, but from an insufficiency of just this lesser good. The greater good is no more than a roof, erected on the brick walls of the lesser good.

The lesser, easier good was left on this earth for man by the Creator Himself, who took all the greater good upon Himself. Whosoever does the lesser, the same creates — and through him the Creator Himself creates — the greater good. Of our little good the Creator makes His Own great good. For as our Lord is the Creator who formed all things from nothingness, so is He more able to create the greater good from the lesser…

Through such lesser, easy work, done with the greatest simplicity, a man is accustomed to the good and begins to serve it with his whole heart, sincerely, and in this way enters into an atmosphere of good, lets down the roots of his life into new soil, the soil of the good. The roots of human life quickly accommodate themselves to this good earth, and soon cannot live without it… Thus is a man saved: from the small comes the great. “Faithful in little things” turns out to be “faithful in the greater.”

Lay aside all theoretical considerations that it is forbidden to slaughter millions, women, children, and elderly; be content to manifest your moral sense by in no way killing the human dignity of your neighbor, neither by word, nor by innuendo, nor by gesture.

Do not be angry over trifles

“against your brother vainly” (Matthew 5:22)

or in the daily contacts of life speak untruth to your neighbor. These are trifles, small change, of no account; but just try to do this and you will see what comes of it.

It is hard to pray at night. But try in the morning. If you can’t manage to pray at home than at least as you ride to your place of employment attempt with a clear head the “Our Father” and let the words of this short prayer resound in your heart. And at night commend yourself with complete sincerity into the hands of the Heavenly Father. This indeed is very easy.

And give, give a glass of cold water to everyone who has need of it; give a glass filled to the brim with simple human companionship to everyone that lack it, the very simplest companionship…

B St. John Maximovich

* St. David’s of Wales last words, according to the Buchedd Dewi: “Be steadfast, brothers, and do the little things.” Our father among the saints David of Wales (ca. 512-587), known in Welsh as Dewi Sant, was a 6th century bishop and monastic founder in Wales and is its patron saint. He is also known as the Dewi Ddyfrwr (David the Water Drinker) due to his drinking only water and the founding of many holy wells associated with his life. His feast day  in the Church is March 1.

The Mind of the Chalice

Uncreated Light2

Holy Communion and Uncreated Light

Fr. Christos, Leros island, Greece, around 1990 — a real story told to a friend by the priest himself, now of + Blessed Memory

 

“It was Saturday morning. We had just finished Holy Liturgy and I was about to consume the Holy Gifts from the Chalice. Suddenly, a young neighbour entered the Altar, worried, sweating and panting, and told me:

‘Fr. Christos save us. My father thinks he is dying and wants to make a Confession and receive the Holy Communion.’

I got in a sweat. This young man’s father was the most difficult and mean man in the village. He was quarrelling with everybody. He had never set a foot to church, not even in funerals, weddings or baptisms. I made my Cross and felt that God was calling me to go to him with the Holy Gifts. When we entered the house of the dying, his name was Giannis, I put the Holy Chalice with the Holy Communion, an inch at least, on the nightstand, next to Giannis’ bed. I told him: ‘Giannis, in order to offer you Holy Communion, I must at first hear your Confession and read the prayer of forgiveness. Do you want this?’ ‘Yes’, he replied, so I put on my stole, he told me what was in his heart, I read to him the prayer of forgiveness, and then I got ready to offer him Holy Communion. I turn to pick the Chalice, and what do I see? The Holy Chalice was completely empty, not even a drop of Holy Communion. I nearly fainted. I say to Giannis: ‘I will hurry back to church to get Holy Communion, because I honestly do not know what happened and the Chalice is now empty.’ Then, Giannis started sobbing and told me: ‘Christ is doing this for me, Father. What I told you during my Confession were all lies because I was ashamed to tell you my real sins, which are a lot heavier.’ So, it happened. Then, I read him for a second time the forgiveness prayer and asked him to wait for me, so that I can go back to Church and fetch him Holy Communion. ‘Go’, Giannis told me, ‘and I will wait for you.’ I pick up the Holy Chalice, and what do I see? Pay attention to this miracle. An inch of Holy Communion was now inside the Holy Chalice. I made my Cross and offered Communion to the dying man. His face shone in peace, and he died that very minute in front of me, in repentance. Glory be to our Lord for all things! With what compassion, wisdom and discretion did Christ forgive and save Giannis!Memory Eternal! W should never despair of our salvation, even if we are the worst sinners of the world. May we all enter Paradise with repentance and an honest, humble Confession”

Like a swift sparrow

sparrow

O much-suffering Stephanie, * with the crown of the gifts of grace * hath the Lord now crowned thee, who gavest up thyself * to willing torments and pains in the nobility of thy soul: * ’twixt two palm trees thou wast bound, * and thereby thou wast rent in twain, * spreading out thy wings, * flying up unto God like a swift sparrow and forsaking to the fowlers * thy mortal body, O wondrous one. [Ainos (Praise) from the Orthros November 11]

*It is said that + Martyr Stephanie in Damascus was 16 years old at the time of her martyrdom.
*

Isn’t that an amazing transfiguration of a horrid death? What a stunning testimony to the transformative power of Christ’s Resurrection! This hymn reminded me today of St. Porphyrios and his precious advice on immersing ourselves in the Church’s hymns for their great healing power to overcome all the gloom, the sadness, the failure, and the death that seem to surround us.

*

The Elder Porphyrios once asked a pilgrim visiting him:

— Do you know the troparion that begins, “We celebrate the slaying of death …”?

— Yes, elder, I know it.

— Then say it.

—“We celebrate the slaying of death, the destroying of hell, the beginning of another way of life that is eternal. And leaping for joy, we sing a hymn to the Cause, the only blessed and most glorious God of our fathers.”

—Do you understand it?

—Certainly I understand it.

I thought that he was asking me for a translation into modern Greek.

The Elder then waved his hand dismissively saying,

— Little George, you didn’t understand anything at all! You said it quickly like a chanter in a hurry. Listen to what awesome things are said in this hymn: Through Christ and His resurrection, we do not get across a river, a gorge, a canal, a lake, or even the Red Sea. We have moved across an abyss that no human being could cross on his own. Ages came and went with the world waiting for this Pascha, for this passage. Our Christ passed from death to life! That’s why today “we celebrate the slaying of death, the destroying of hell.” Death is no more. We celebrate today “the beginning of another way of life that is eternal,” a life with Him.

Speaking with enthusiasm and conviction, the Elder was clearly moved. The elder paused and continued more energetically:

— Now there is no more chaos, no more death, no more slaying, no more Hell. Now everything is joy, thanks to the resurrection of our Christ. Human nature is resurrected with Him. Now we too can rise again that we might live with Him eternally … What bliss is contained in the Resurrection! “And leaping for joy, we sing a hymn to the Cause.” Have you seen how young goats now in the spring frolic on the green grass? They drink some of their mother’s milk and then prance about leaping for joy, and so do we celebrating the ineffable joy of the resurrection of our Lord.

He then stopped speaking. Pure joy was now in the air. And the elder continued,

—Can I give you some advice? In every sorrow, with every failure, in anything that causes you pain, collect yourself for half a minute and slowly say this hymn. Then, you will see that the most important thing in your life and in the life of the entire universe has already been accomplished with the resurrection of Christ. It is our salvation. And then, you realize that all our setbacks are so insignificant, that you don’t need to allow them to spoil your mood.

— St. Porphyrios, Wounded by Love