Now is the Judgement of this World

1 June 2020

Now is the Judgement of this World[1]

In the last chapters of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Lord Himself warns us in the most intense and frightening way about the catastrophes which will precede His Coming. He foretells that that evil will be uncontrollable[2] and people’s afflictions will be so unbearable that they will ask the mountains to cover them,[3] so that they may not see the terrible day of the Lord’s coming: ‘There shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword,’[4] ‘men’s hearts shall fail them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth’.[5] Even the affliction of God’s elect will be extreme and the pain will be insufferable for the surrounding world. Nevertheless, in spite of the tragic character of these words, the Almighty Jesus says suddenly: ‘And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.’[6] The Apostle Paul also reassures us that God will not allow us to be tempted above our strength, but that together with the temptation He will grant a way to escape.[7]

The Book of Revelation, which provokes fear in many, speaks in essence about the final victory of the Lamb Christ and of His elect, who ‘loved not their lives unto death’[8] ‘and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’.[9] Terrible signs and apocalyptic afflictions had already become a fact from the moment of Christ’s crucifixion: the sun was darkened, the earth was shaken, the dead came to life and so forth. This prophetic event has repeated itself throughout the current of history. From early Christianity until our times, the fury ‘of the murderer of men’[10] has tried again and again to exterminate with inconceivable cruelty every trace of the seed of Christ. How many times have torturers, devils in human bodies, subjected the faithful to unprecedented torments? And how many holy ascetics throughout the centuries, like the contemporary example of our Fathers Silouan and Sophrony, have condemned themselves to be thrust there where Satan is so as to be burnt in the outer fire? Nevertheless, Christ’s blood on the Cross, the blood of the Martyrs and the endless tears of the holy ascetics became the power of triumph in the Church.

 

When we are threatened by death from all sides, the power of our faith diminishes because love has grown cold and because our expectation of salvation has grown weak. However, if we still stand steadfast and say with courage to the Lord, ‘Amen, come Lord Jesus’ for our deliverance, then God will give us that faith which overcomes not only the world but even death. Thus we will understand the true meaning of the words of the great Apostle Paul: ‘Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’[11] This does not mean that sin is blessed, but that when evil will multiply above measure, the faithful will wage war against it with greater tension. The crisis and the adversity of those days will force some to turn to Him Who alone is ‘able to save them from death’,[12] and in this struggle they will surely be given the gift of the great grace. Those who have recourse to human means will either become themselves criminals or will fall into dark despair. All things will be polarised and the pain will be a two-edged sword, for it can become either a privilege for those who follow the way of the Lamb or a plunge in despair and wickedness for those who spare their own life. ‘He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still.’[13]

The calamities and general panic will be followed by the coming of the Beloved Lord, bringing all His grace, eternal life, the life that we all wait for and that is ‘hidden with Christ in God’.[14] His Coming will grant joy that ‘no man taketh from us’.[15] Seeing the end approaching, whether it is the general or our personal end, we turn our spiritual gaze towards God saying: ‘Who is sufficient for these things?[16] Do Thou Thyself help us to be ready for anything Thy providence will allow. We can only be saved through Thy power and grace. We can do nothing good upon earth. Come quickly, O Lord.’

Elder Sophrony spoke about the end of times in a positive way, being inspired by the living experience of the Saviour God. He never spoke about the sign of the antichrist. His mind was on the sign of Christ, the circumcision of the heart, caused by His spotless love. He did not wish to frighten people with the imminent end, the coming afflictions, the rage of the enemy against those who follow the meek and lowly Christ, ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’.[17] On the contrary, he derived inspiration from his strong hope in the coming of the Author of our faith, so that with our head high we may hasten to meet the Lord Jesus, Who is coming again just as He ascended to heaven, ‘while blessing’,[18] calling His own to be ‘with Him unto all ages’,[19] with the words: ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father.’[20]

The crisis of our time is nothing other than a privilege and a challenge for us, which hides within it the great gift of faith. It is a unique opportunity to prove our faith and to give the Almighty Lord the possibility to manifest His power in our weakness and poverty.

As Saint Sophrony writes, Christ, our example, ‘does not have a tragic character and neither does His saving Passion… The tragedy is not in Him but in us.’[21] Moreover, through the Gospel, we discover that two diametrically opposed states coexist harmoniously in the Person of the Lord: the tragic nature of His work for our salvation and the triumph of His imminent victory. In the final moments of the life of the Lord, we hear from His holy mouth His most momentous words:

  1. As He was going up to Golgotha, He turned towards the women who were following Him, saying: ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.’[22]
  2. ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?’[23] and at the same time, He said to the thief, ‘Verily, verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise’.[24]
  3. ‘His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground,’[25] and a little later, He prayed, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’[26]
  4. ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death’,[27] and further on ‘Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.’[28]

The Lord was hastening towards His voluntary Passion and shameful death, so as to take upon Himself the tragedy, the shame and pain of the whole Adam. His irrevocable purpose was to open Heaven for us and lead us to the banquet of His love. Thus, deadlock and tragedy cease to afflict us, and there is no room for despair. ‘The Lord gives the faithful a foretaste of the vision of His eternal victory; the tragedy of the fall, the dark abyss of death, are overcome by Christ, Who does not reject us, but receives us in His bosom.’[29]

A little while before the Passion, the Lord offered peace to His disciples. Elder Sophrony explains: ‘The essence of Christ’s peace is perfect knowledge of the Father. So it is with us – if we know the Eternal Truth lying at the root of all being, then all our anxieties affect merely the periphery of our existence, while within us reigns the peace of Christ.’[30]

In a similar way, in our own epoch, when the ‘power of darkness’[31] is roaring, the Lord cries and thunders with His voice, ‘Lift up your heads’[32] for grace is drawing nigh and do not be terrified by the hardness of heart of those all around. Seeing the injustice in the world which is in accordance with the prophecy of the Lord: ‘The world hateth you’,[33] and seeing sinners prosper, the Christian is consumed by zeal for righteousness. His inspiration would fade away if he did not have the assurance of the Book of Revelation: ‘Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.’[34] The man of faith lives with the expectation of the coming of the Lord, because without expectation there is no hope, without hope there is no salvation, for ‘by hope we are saved’,[35] and without salvation there is no Christianity. True Christianity is the expectation of the coming of the Lord; deprived of it, man can only surrender to complete despondency, as expressed by the Apostle, ‘Let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.’[36]

In the beginning of the history of Christianity, the whole Church lived with the daily expectation of the Second Coming. The early Christians had a very highly developed eschatological hope. They had their face turned steadfastly to the east. The hope of Christ’s coming kept them in great tension, and imparted to them such grace that it rendered them fit for the sacrifice of martyrdom. The prayer that they bore on their lips and in their heart was ‘Let Thy grace come, and let this world pass away’. It is not that they did not love creation, but having tasted heaven in their heart, they knew that they were not made for that which is unstable and transitory. Their spirit, created for eternity, longed for boundlessness. As they lived continually in the presence of God, His grace brought the ends of the world upon them. They prayed that the end of man’s tragic history might come, yet gloriously, by entrance into the searchless infinity of God.

Until the Almighty Saviour comes again into this world, the tares shall grow together with the wheat of God. From the moment the enemy sowed them through sin, no victory, nothing good could be achieved without toil and combat, oftentimes even unto blood, following the Lord, Who courageously foresaw at the end of His path the resurrection and salvation of the world. When the trumpet shall sound the end of the world, then ‘the Lord shall consume (Satan) with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy (the sinner) with the brightness of His Presence.’[37]

As the Lord forewarned His disciples about the end of the world which would take place in His Person, so as to deter their stumbling when it should come, thus also now we must know that all things related to the Last Judgement have been prophesied and we ought to await them with courage. ‘Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise. For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry.’[38] The evil servant says, ‘My Lord delayeth his coming,’[39] and the foolish virgins, while the Βridegroom tarried, ‘all slumbered and slept’ without taking ‘oil in their vessels’.[40] However, the crown belongs ‘unto all them who love His appearing’[41] and unto those who endure ‘as seeing him who is invisible’.[42] The Master does not tarry: ‘The Lord is not slack concerning his promise as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’[43] During a time of crisis and despair among the nations, when iniquity abounds, the gift of faith and expectation gestates within the faithful. Blessed is the servant who will say with trust, ‘Amen, come Lord Jesus.’

Our era is often considered to be post-Christian, but this is only because this world, in its arrogance and self-justification, has never known authentic Christianity or the true spirit of holiness. This spirit makes man a ‘new creation’ in the image and likeness of the Holy Trinity, and imparts to him a ‘royal priesthood’ wherein he presents to God every creature through his prayer of intercession.

When people are confronted with the signs of the end times, many in the world who do not know Christ are paralysed with confusion. It is a fact that in our days the dynamics of the fall have intensified to an extreme degree in the whole world. The current of Cain’s fratricide seeks to eradicate the spirit of humility and evangelical love that has the power to save the world. The passions of dishonour have developed into an art which contends to devastate even the life of God’s elect. The world goes through ‘a famine of hearing the words of the Lord’,[44] not because the word of God disappeared, but because people no longer turn to it in order to find peace. They prefer to smother the insurmountable problems of their times by ‘bread and circuses’.

The crisis that the world is currently going through has one magnificent aspect. It constitutes a true privilege and a great challenge for the Church in its work for the evangelisation and spiritual regeneration of man. The tribulations which are coming will force many souls to seek a Saviour from heaven and to find the path of salvation. This crisis is a challenge especially for us, priests, in our holy ministry to the world. The Lord speaks through the mouth of His Prophet Isaiah saying: ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people.’[45]

How can we, as priests, offer to our fellow men the incorruptible consolation of the New Israel, which is none other than Christ Himself?

The Apostle Paul writes in the Epistle to the Romans that the ‘casting away’ of the Jews for their lack of faith became the cause of the ‘reconciling’ of the world.[46] Could perhaps, now also, the devastating image of the world’s turning away from God become a cause for its regeneration in faith? If this has already taken place in a few individuals and groups, could it not then be generalised and bring about the reconfiguration of the whole world? The power for this belongs to the Lord but it requires the co-operation of our humility.

In our age, which is a period of suffering, poverty, despair and great travail, people are in need of comfort. As we have said, Christ is the incorruptible consolation and salvation of the world. Christians and, more especially, the priests of God, are His humble instruments which offer this comfort to the world. Christ relates easily to them that are sick, to them that are sore broken. In His very nature He is the God of mercy and of every consolation. We need to teach the faithful to approach Him with a humble spirit and a contrite heart, and then of a surety they will be able to find contact with Him and the repose which is bestowed by the grace of His salvation.

The Church has imparted to its clergy very strong means by which we can console the people of God:

Firstly, we can encourage them to pray in His Name, because there is none other Name under heaven given to men through revelation, whereby they may be saved.[47] Through the invocation of the Name of the Lord we enter into His Presence, because His Name is inseparable from His Person, and then the power of His Presence renews us. The Name of the Lord becomes a source of comfort and regeneration. Particularly nowadays, when Christians cannot find sanctuary in the services of the Church, the Name transforms the heart into a temple not made by the hands of man, wherein Christ imparts power and peace.

Secondly, we can encourage the faithful to study the word of God. Thus, they will learn the language of God, which He used to speak to us, and they will speak to Him with the same words inspired by the Holy Spirit. In this way, the Spirit will pray within them. As through the word of the Lord all things came into being, so now, through the power of His word, the faithful are regenerated. Moreover, the word of God was not given in order to frighten man, but to instill courage within him and restore his soul. To whomever approaches it with faith, it imparts ineffable consolation and peace, as well as the strong conviction that ‘the Lord has overcome the world’[48] and is ‘with us always even unto the end of the world’.[49] His word will never pass away. Thus, He addresses to us the word that He delivered to His chosen people: ‘Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. Fear thou not; for I am with thee…for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.’[50]

Finally, under normal circumstances, we also comfort the people of God by offering them the Holy Liturgy. It is vital that in our parishes or in whichever place we serve, we draw together a nucleus of people who understand the power of the great Mystery of the Divine Eucharist. New people will continually be attracted to this core and the number of faithful will increase. We should encourage people to come to the Liturgy prepared and with a positive disposition, offering their whole life to God together with the precious gifts. When the Lord responds to the offering of His people, saying, ‘The Holy things unto the holy’, they receive in return the very Life of the Risen Lord. They have the opportunity to exchange their corruptible and desolate life with the incorruptible and blessed life of God. This exchange is indeed unequal and fearful, but also the most lovingkind at the same time. Afterwards, the faithful sing a triumphal hymn of thanksgiving and spiritual victory: ‘We have seen the true light; we have received the heavenly spirit; we have found the true faith. We worship the undivided Trinity for the same has saved us.’ This is the ever new song of the children of God who become like ‘them that dream’[51] in the Liturgy. And when it is not possible to attend the Liturgy, we accept it and strive to make the cry of our prayer reach His throne as a ‘bloodless, reasonable and acceptable’ sacrifice before Him. As Saint Silouan said: ‘We are given churches to pray in, and in church the holy offices are performed according to books. But we cannot take a church away with us, and books are not always to hand, but interior prayer is always and everywhere possible… the soul is the finest of God’ s churches, and the man who prays in his heart has the whole world for a church.’[52] When circumstances do not allow us to attend the Liturgy, God is not unjust, but grants His abundant grace to those who thirst for communion with Him and devote all their strength to finding ways of contact with him. However, if the possibility is open for us to participate in the Holy Liturgy, it would be a great delusion to consider that our own personal prayer can make up for the rich communion of gifts of God’s elect in heaven and on earth.

As priests, we are able to comfort the people who approach us by all the means through which we ourselves obtain divine consolation and peace in our heart every time we enter into the living presence of the Redeemer. As Saint Paul writes: ‘Blessed be God…Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.’[53]

However, if we desire the pastoral ministry wherewith the Church has entrusted us to be well-pleasing to the Lord and fruitful, imparting inspiration and life to the suffering people of our times, then we must be mindful to fulfil one necessary prerequisite: our every priestly work ought to be in accordance with the word of the Lord: ‘He that serveth is greater than he that sits at meat.’[54] That is to say, our ministry will have a prophetic character and we shall minister blamelessly ‘being clothed with the grace of priesthood’, when we follow in the footsteps of Him Who said: ‘I came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.’[55] We as priests ought always to humble ourselves and to place ourselves lower than the people that we serve, who come to us for help, so that they may feel honoured and open their hearts to the word of grace.[56] The most perfect example of imparting the Gospel to the rejected is given by the Lord in his meeting with the Samaritan woman, a heretic who led a dissolute life. Honouring her through His humble love, He proved her to be equal to an Apostle of His word. We should never behave as those who have power, but on the contrary, as those who comfort, surrendered to the work of God, and to the humble sacrifice of love. In this way, we will justify the title ‘Father’ with which Christians address us and we will impart hope to our brethren who are in need and adversity, reviving the gift of faith in their life.

Just to support one another and preserve our faith under the apocalyptic circumstances that threaten us, is in itself a precious gift of the Holy Spirit. This is confirmed in one of the Sayings of the Desert Fathers:

‘The holy Fathers were making predictions about the last generation. They said, “What have we ourselves done?” One of them, the great Abba Ischyrion replied, “We ourselves have fulfilled the commandments of God.” The others replied, “And those who come after us, what will they do?” He said “They will struggle to achieve half our works.” They said, “And to those who come after them, what will happen?” He said, “The men of that generation will not accomplish any works at all and temptation will come upon them; and those who will be approved in that day will be greater than either us or our fathers.”[57]

As a final consideration on our subject, we will refer to the word of Saint Silouan the Athonite, ‘Keep thy mind in hell and despair not.’ Crushed by despair and the hell of demonic attacks, Silouan heard this word in his heart, which ordinarily should have crushed him even further and led him into utter despair. Nevertheless, the counterweight of faith strengthened him and opened unto him the perspective of the Gospel which is: death – resurrection, the despair of hell – the Kingdom of Light. He says with simplicity, ‘I started to do what the Lord advised me and my mind was cleansed and the Spirit witnessed in my heart to salvation.’[58]

For someone to reach the light, it is essential first to go willingly through darkness with confidence in the word of Christ. In order to enter life we must pass through death following Christ and through this life as ‘living from the dead’,[59] because only close to Christ are we able to lose our life and find it again.

Whoever voluntarily and continually judges himself in the light of Christ’s commandments, becomes stronger than any other judgment. If we confront the crisis of contemporary life with the wisdom of the Gospel, it can be transformed into a springboard for a rich entrance into eternity.

Consequently, if we encourage the faithful to turn to God with pain of heart in those days, they will be convinced that the grace of the Holy Spirit is abundant, plentiful and palpable in the life of the world, because eternity is opening up wide before us. Precisely for this event we are prepared by the word of the Lord, ‘Lift up your heads…’ ‘The time is short: it remaineth, that both they that have wives be as though they had none; And they that weep, as though they wept not; and they that rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; and they that buy, as though they possessed not; And they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away.’[60] The great and last trial comes upon earth, but also the greatest grace which accompanies the coming of the Lord and which will bring strength for the living to be transformed and for the departed to be resurrected, in order to receive altogether the promised perfection of the Almighty Jesus in the Kingdom of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

[1] John 12:31.
[2] See Rev. 22:11.
[3] Cf. Luke 21:30.
[4] Luke 21:23.
[5] Cf. Luke 21:26.
[6] Luke 21:28.
[7] 1 Cor. 10:13.
[8] Rev. 12:11.
[9] Rev. 7:14.
[10] John 8:44.
[11] Rom. 5:20.
[12] Cf. Heb. 5:7.
[13] Rev. 22:11.
[14] Col. 3:3.
[15] Cf. John 16:22.
[16] Cf. 2 Cor. 2:16.
[17] Cf. Rev. 13:8 and 17:8
[18] Cf. Luke 24:51.
[19] Cf. 1. Thess. 4:17.
[20] Matt. 25:34.
[21] On Prayer (Περὶ Προσευχῆς), (Essex: Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 21994), p. 82.
[22] Luke 23:28.
[23] Matt 27:46.
[24] Luke 23 43.
[25] Luke 22:44.
[26] Luke 23:34.
[27] Mark 14:34.
[28] Mark 14:61-62.
[29] Archim. Sophrony, The Mystery of Christian Life (Τὸ Μυστήριο τῆς Χριστιανικῆς ζωῆς), (Essex: Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 32016), p. 417.
[30] Cf. Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), We Shall See Him as He Is, trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (Tolleshunt Knights, Essex: Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 2004), p. 68.
[31] Luke 22:53.
[32] Luke 21:28.
[33] John 15:19.
[34] Rev. 22:12.
[35] Rom. 8:24.
[36] 1 Cor. 15:32.
[37] Cf. 2 Thess. 2:8 (see Greek text).
[38] Heb.10:35-37.
[39] Matt. 24:48.
[40] Matt. 25:4-5.
[41] 2 Tim. 4:8.
[42] Cf. Heb. 11:27.
[43] 2 Pet. 3:9.
[44] Cf. Amos 8:11-14; On Prayer, p. 105-106.
[45] Isa. 40:1-2.
[46] Rom. 11:15.
[47] Acts 4:12.
[48] Cf. John 16:33.
[49] Cf. Matt. 28:20.
[50] Isa. 41:9-10 and 13.
[51] Ps. 126:1.
[52] Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), Saint Silouan the Athonite, trans. Rosemary Edmonds, (Tolleshunt Knights, Essex: Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 1991), p. 294.
[53] 2 Cor. 1:4.
[54] See Luke 22:27.
[55] Cf. Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45.
[56] Acts 20:32.
[57] The Sayings of the Desert Fathers, trans. Benedicta Ward (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1975), p. 111.
[58] See Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), Saint Silouan the Athonite, trans. Rosemary Edmonds (Tolleshunt Knights, Essex: Stavropegic Monastery of St John the Baptist, 1991), p. 437 and 460.
[59] Rom. 6:13.
[60] 1 Cor. 7:29-31.

A Holy Warning

Elder Parthenios

Elder Parthenios of the Monastery of Saint Pavlos: Αn orthodox message from the Holy Mountain

“Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

The abbot of the Holy Monastery of Saint Pavlos, father Parthenios, speaks to you. I am in the monastery of Saint Pavlos since 1954 till now, with the help of our God, Virgin Mary and all of saints. Till now, we are blessed of God and we all celebrated the Holy Easter, with all of our happiness and love, the Risen of our Lord. This year it was the only year, since I came in the Mount Athos (Holy Mount), that we celebrated alone. Because all of the previous years we had with us more that 100-150-200 visitors, only in our Monastery. Together all the Monasteries of the Holy Mount had approximately 5,000 visitors, who have come every year, to honor the Holy Easter, the Risen of our Lord!

It was hard for me, that this was the year that we glory alone the God. Because of the measures they took, they left us alone with only few workers who are regular here. I am telling you that, with a lot of father’s love, I am in pain, in grief. Because all the faithful men who used to come here with us, were our consolation, to praise all together to the most important event, the Easter. All together we were chanting the pray of “Christ is Risen”, full of joy. Perhaps, God allowed this temptation to be penetrated, for our sins. Maybe He wants to activate us, cause the people got away from the Lord’s path and doing nonsense.

Our Churchs, all over the country, in Athens, in Thessaloniki and other where were like a cemetery. All the people were isolated in their houses; even the churches have closed their gates. What happened? What happened?

Unfortunately, our politicians trying to do their best. These are human measures, we cannot blame them. On the other hand, I am sending them a message. These measures are not enough. I am begging our politicians and our ecclesiastical authority, to shout at people to open the churches for the public, to go out on the roads, to take with them the holy icons and go for a litany, in order to beg our almighty God to obviate that temptation. The governors of this time cannot save us. Only the powerful God, He is the one who can save us. Open the doors of the churches, take the people outdoors, get the icons out, and get down on your knees, like the Ninevites did, to beg the God, His omnipotence, to quash this temptation. Otherwise, I don’t know where we will end up.

Please, do not be delusional, only God can save us, only our Lady Virgin, only the Saint Apostles and all the Saints together. Also can save us our pray and faith to God. “What did save the world?” “Our faith”!

Let all these thoughts of lukewarm and oligopolies, behind. We are Christians and I refer to the politicians who prepare to seal up/chip the people, but this will be their biggest scandal, because they not do justice to Christians. We, the Christians, strongly believe in His Almighty, we are baptized; we are anointed by the Holy Oil in the sealing of God. “Seal donation of the Holy Spirit, amen.”

Anyone who is not baptized, has the freedom to be sealed by the government, it is their decision. But do not force us, the Christians. Whatever you want to do against us, the God will be the Victor!

The God says: “Just as someone will confess in front of other people that he believes me, so I will do for him too, in front of my Father who live in the sky.” “Just as someone denies that he loves me, in front of the people, so I will do for him too.” Do not believe what the Zionists and Masons, the devils say; they do not believe in anything. On the other hand, we strongly believe in the real God. Whatever it takes, we confess Jesus Christ the Crucified we lean on Him our hopes, in his All-powers, nowhere else.

Many happy returns! Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

Our Lord has beaten the world. He says: “Don’t be afraid! I have been beaten the world for you!” That is our confession and our faith! Thank you so much!

Source: Enomeni Romiosini

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

ascension

Sunday of the Fathers Homily 

JOHN 17:9-13

“I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are mine; all mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me; I have guarded them, and none of them is lost but the son of perdition, that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.

 

If ever there was a prayer that lasted 2020 years it is this prayer. In the Gospel today we hear how in this Great Priestly Prayer to His Father our Lord reveals the goals that He set out in His life on earth and the completion of these goals.  On this Sunday after the Ascension our Lord reminds us that He is bringing before the Father all those who believe in Him, from the Holy Apostles and through them, all those who will believe in their testimonies to the end of the world. Having achieved His mission then, Christ returns to the Father. How important for us also to have goals in life which is a remedy against confusion, sloth, depression and adversity. In these days of the pandemic we need to be energised and discerning about the things of the world, what our Christian goal is, knowing the direction of our life and how to get there.

 

Ephesians 5

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

 

Throughout the Gospel passage, our Lord is concerned for His disciples. The major theme of the discourse is about relationship with the Father and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. The key ingredients to this relationship are love, obedience and unity. Our Lord provides us with the wherewithal to withstand the ravages of the world since we are grafted into His Life. Love for one another will bind us together and will be the sign to others that we are Christ’s disciples. John 13: 35.This love is grounded in faith and in obedience: 

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15

The result of loving obedience will be the experience of being in a relationship with God and enjoying His peace. Discipleship is all about following and when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost, He will guide us into all Truth. 

 We are in a waiting period with lock down and we must not lose heart. Times of waiting are never easy so we must persevere in faith with hope.

Romans 5:3

“And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance.

 We have been chosen out of the corrupting power of the world ; the word Ekklesia, usually translated as Church, means those “called out.” We have been taught by Christ and are sanctified by His life giving death upon the Cross. We (disciples) are to remain in the world in order, like the Apostles, to witness and to have the opportunity to become part of that unbreakable unity with the Father and the Son John 17:11. Christ’s return to glory with the Father which He enjoyed before His incarnation heralds our return to Paradise.

In the meantime we must set our goals and know the direction we are going.

 

A young woman told her father that she wanted to marry a certain seminarian who was to be a priest in the Church. The father, a wealthy man objected:

“He may be a good man but you will be poor and he is a stranger to us, we do not know even where he comes from!”

“True father, the daughter said, but I know him and I know where he is going and I would like to go with him.”

The journey begins now with knowledge, the relationship starts today with obedience, eternal life is already present in that love which never ends.

And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

We have to use that knowledge in the journey that is before us like a divine road map. Putting our hand into the Hand of God, our journey will be filled with love and joy which is the antidote to fatigue and boredom. Obedience to the commands of Christ, His salvific life, his teachings, example and instructions as found in right doctrine and scripture provide us with the means of travel for this most exalted mission. We have then an aim and a mission, a purpose and a goal to be an instrument of love and a witness in His world. St Dimitri of Rostov said;” the goal of a man’s life is to strive always and in every way to be united with God…. For it is God from Whom the soul has received it’s life and it’s nature, and for Whom it must eternally live.”

On this Sunday of the Fathers of the First Ecumenical council we see expressed that affirmation of unity in true doctrine amongst the God bearing Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council through the Nicene Creed which is the Symbol of faith.

We who believe in Christ are kept by His prayer for us unto the ages of ages. Amen.

 

Christ has Ascended!

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Dear Friends in Christ,

The Icon was painted on glass by Georgiana Necula, the flowers were given today by one of the sisters of the Parish and the icon stand drape was a curtain embroidered by my grandmother in the 1930s.

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“Leaving the things of earth upon the earth, and surrendering to the earth things of ashes, come, let us come to our senses and raise our eyes and thoughts on high; let us, O mortals, turn our gaze together with the senses up unto the heavenly gates. Let us consider ourselves present at the Mount of Olives, and gaze intently at the Redeemer Who is riding upon a cloud; for the Lord hath hastened up from there into the heavens. And there the bountiful Giver of gifts distributed gifts unto His Apostles, calling to them as a Father, and strengthening them; He guided them like sons and said unto them: I am not separated from you; I am with you, and no one shall be against you.” (OIKOS FOR THE ASCENSION)

Christ is in our midst

A Joyous Pustinnyk

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 37

mount athos

Touching Heaven! 

Christ is Risen!

I’m back!

I have all my data and files retrieved and installed on my new laptop. So once more I am able to inflict my poems on you. My “tech savvy” trusted helper patiently guided me through the installation, asking nothing in return. Such love and kindness inculcates a bond of respect.

However, I am going to miss my old keyboard, my new laptop is so sensitive to the touch! Things are different and yet the same- the same files but a new approach, a new style, a new image.

Quite recently, I met a former pupil in the city centre whom I had taught at school. He said:

“Hello sir!”  I haven’t been referred to as sir for some time! I searched my memory for a name, I hardly recognised him, not simply because of his physical maturity but because he had grown in confidence from the rather shy student I began to remember. He had changed and yet he was the same- his voice deeper but with the same inflection, accent and tone. When he began to speak, I knew who he was. What a joy it was to see him and to hear his news.

In the appearances of our Lord after his resurrection, his disciples do not always recognise him. The nature of His glorious resurrected body was so different and yet the same. His resurrected body contain the wounds of the crucifixion and yet it was transformed. His voice, His words, His actions reveal his identity.

2 Corinthians 3:18

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

 

Touching Heaven

John 21:4 “Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.”

 

The young monk stood upright head bowed in prayer.

Barefoot, he perched on rocks breathing the fresh spring air

The blue, tranquil lake lapped at his feet.

His eyes closed in mystery towards the setting sun,

Hands held aloft in reverence for the Holy One

Harmony of God and nature’s seat.

His leather holy belt hung at his waist

A sign of his ascetic labour and a taste

Of blessed Communion, Oh so sweet.

The stillness mirrored in his soul

Deep thoughts of Christ to make him whole

His heart in tandem with creation’s beat.

Here where sea and sky converge

This figure and Christ’s image merge

Earth touches heaven and for an instant meet!

To the Glory of God

 

“That is what the torment of hell is in my opinion: remorse. But love inebriates the souls of the sons and daughters of heaven by its delectability.”

St. Isaac the Syrian

From Poland With Love

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This morning in the kitchen whilst watching Matins on Skype and baking cookies with children, I had unexpected guests. At the time I was listening to beautiful “Blessed are Thou O God teach me Thy statutes” by Dmitry and Father, when I realised a stag and a doe (?) appeared in front of our window! Roughly twenty meters from our house. After gasping, I thought they have come for Typica! The Stag stayed for the Gospel whilst the female went for a walk. Enjoy the photos! 

Christ is in our midst!

Marta

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 35

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Remember the little things- lifting the leaves–a Peace Plant and Basil miracles

 

Dear Friends in Christ 

Christ is Risen!

My peace plant that one Parishioner gave to me earlier this year is thriving. I was reading about the care of Peace Lilies and it said in the blog that when they need some water they will tell you as their leaves will begin to droop. Do not overwater! Plants may speak to us but what about us speaking to the plants? Eyebrows were raised some years ago when a prominent person admitted to talking to plants. I did not think this was odd.

 

Whilst not indulging in philosophical debate or tiresome monologue with my plants, I often say “Christ is Risen!” to them and show them a little attention by making sure that they have light, warmth, sustenance and care. Love, it seems, lifts the leaves.

 

I am reminded that God created the plants by speaking and they came into being:

 

Genesis 1:11-13 

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

We have been placed on this earth as stewards of God’s creation.

 Our Lord Jesus Christ told us to behold the lilies of the field and that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (Matthew 6:28) Indeed!

If speaking kindly words to plants helps them to grow, how much more will speaking encouraging words to our fellow humans help them develop and “lift their leaves”. We humans, it seems, require much the same as plants: love, warmth, sustenance, light and care.

 

I also want to share with you the little miracle that a parishioner witnessed back in 2013 when he transferred his Basil to Holy Water!

image

Glory to God

 

Love and prayers

Eν Χριστώ

Father Pustinnyk

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 34

st dymphna

St Dymphna

Dear friends in Christ

 Christ is Risen!

I hope you are all well.

 Since I have not written a diary for a few days, some people are asking if I am well!  Glory to God, by your prayers. I am well. I thought that I would write a little note to you all on the Feast of  St Dymphna!

I wish you every blessing on this Feast of St Dymphna the Virgin Martyr or Ireland (650). I was introduced to her by the priest who Chrismated me. I recall that we were visiting St Patrick’s Chapel. I think he had an affinity with saint being himself of Irish descent but his spiritual father, Blessed Seraphim Rose held her in veneration and had a garden in the Monastery in California dedicated to the Celtic saints. He said, as he spread himself upon the chapel walls, how powerful were her prayers and that since ” not many people know her, she is not so busy, so she has time to intercede for us.” If you don’t know her then please read about her extraordinary life.

A short time later, I had cause to call upon her intercessions on behalf of someone. St Dymphna put it into my mind to go and to search for the article that the person had lost and to go three times to this certain place and on the third occasion, I would find the missing article. It was a test of faith, but sure enough on the third visit there was the missing article, and I can tell you that there was much joy when it was found. I have had occasion to call upon the saint subsequently and each time her intercessions have proved most powerful and fruitful. I share this story, so more people may come to know her and call upon her prayers before Christ.

 

Through the prayers of St Dymphna

Eν Χριστώ

 

How a Monastic Prays for the World

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So moving, isn’t it? Prayer is Light! Here is also a link to a time table to pray the Jesus Prayer in the time of the Pandemic crisis. Please consider praying the Jesus prayer for 15 minutes for the world and choose your time slot. It goes without saying that the time zone can be altered depending upon where you are in the world. Please share with your Orthodox friends, especially in the USA and Australia, as there are a few available spaces in their time zones. You can have more than one slot if you like and apparently, there is an option for people to have the same time slot if they use a comma or semicolon but it would seem best to use the available spaces first. Please consider. Our world is parched dry, so thirsty for prayer and the Holy Spirit.
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1QagBKLCyxZJVtG8FX106QkrGMAXhf8u_GWVPiQEJXpk/edit#gid=2002126163

*Photograph from the Ascetic Experience

 

lessons from a monastery

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