Montenegro Serbian Orthodox Church in Coronavirus Times

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My brothers and sisters, Christ is in our midst. This Sunday 22/4/2020, in Montenegro, Holy Liturgies were offered open to the faithful, not in defiance of a ban on public gatherings as part of measures to protect people from infection, but cooperating with the authorities. At the special request of Metropolitan Amfilohije Radović (Serbian Cyrillic: Амфилохије Радовић), the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro, and the faithful, with the cooperation of Prime Minister Markovitz, Minister of Justice Zoran Pažin and Police chief  Veliovitz.  Sign of the times? Your thoughts? A Photoblog.

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Source: enromiosini. gr

 

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How the Departed Interceded for a Drunkard Priest

Photo: G.Balayants / Pravoslavir.ru

Another Modern True Story

    

The bishop who told this story is still alive. It is genuine and has profound significance, because it speaks of the prayers of the living for the departed. God always hears these prayers, especially during the Divine Liturgy.

In the diocese of this bishop whom we have mentioned, there was a Papa Ioannis serving—a devout priest loved by all. He would somewhat linger during the proskomedia1 because he commemorated many names. But the priest had a terrible shortcoming: He loved to drink. As diligent as he was in the fulfillment of his priestly duties, so powerless was he before wine. Many implored him to overcome this passion, so unbecoming of a servant of God. The priest himself was aware of it, was furious with himself, and tried to quit drinking several times, although everything would start again within a few days.

Once, when this papoulis2 had again surrendered to his passion, he went to church. Half-drunk, he exclaimed, “Blessed is the Kingdom…” and he began the Divine Liturgy. By God’s allowance, the priest slipped in the altar and dropped the Precious Gifts from his hands. He froze with horror! Dropping to the floor, he began to gather the Body and Blood of Christ with his tongue. He was choked with guilt, because it happened because of his intoxication.

The priest went to the bishop and confessed his terrible sin to him. The next day, the bishop, after much thought, sat down at the table and took a pen: He had to begin the process of defrocking Fr. Ioannis. The bishop’s hand was lingering in indecision when he beheld as if in a vision how thousands of people were coming out of the walls of the room. There was a burning pain in their eyes. Passing by the bishop, they cried out, “No, Vladyka, do not punish this priest! Do not defrock him! Forgive him!”

An endless stream of people passed in front of the bishop: men, women, children, well-dressed and poor—an entire demonstration of souls! And they all stretched out their hands to the bishop and cried out, imploring, “No, Your Grace, don’t do this; don’t expel our papouli! He remembers us and helps us at every Liturgy; he truly takes pity on us; he is our friend! Don’t remove him from his dignity! No, no, no!!!”

The vision continued for a long time. The stunned bishop watched the sea of faces pleading for the drunken priest. He realized that they were the souls of the reposed whom Fr. Ioannis commemorated at the Liturgy. And this commemoration greatly alleviates their lot, like water given to the thirsty in the summer heat. “This is a clear testimony that our prayers assuage the souls of the reposed,” the bishop thought.

He called for the priest.

“Fr. Ioannis, tell me, when you serve the Liturgy, do you commemorate a lot of names at proskomedia?”

“Hundreds of names, Your Grace. I haven’t counted them.”

“Why do you remember so many names and delay the Liturgy?” the bishop asked, as if angry.

“I pity the departed: They have no other help but the prayers of the Church. Therefore, I ask the Most-High to grant them rest. I have a book where I record all the names that are given to me for commemoration. I inherited this practice from my father, who was also a priest.”

“You do well,” the bishop agreed. “Their souls need it. Continue doing this. Just be careful, and don’t drink anymore—not a drop of wine, starting tomorrow! Such is your penance! You are forgiven.”

From that day, Fr. Ioannis was truly freed completely from the passion of drunkenness. And now he stands even longer at the proskomedia, commemorating the names of the departed.

1 The service of preparation before the Liturgy—Trans.

2 An affectionate term for a priest used by Greeks—Trans.

 

From the book Miracles and Revelations of the Divine Liturgy,
published by Paraclete Monastery (Oropos-Attica), 2012.

Pravoslavie.ru Translated by Jesse Dominick

The Mind of the Chalice

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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”

Twelve Recommendations on How to Prepare Yourself for Confession

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Confession is a sacrament of reconciliation of a man with God, which occurs in the Church. Through the sin a person losses the Kingdom of Christ, shown in numerous sacraments of the Church. Thanks to repentance, which makes a person reborn, we have an opportunity to enter the spiritual life of the Church again. When a priest is accepting someone’s repentance, he becomes a witness on behalf of the Church and at the same time a guarantor who states that this person was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found (Luke 15:32). What is more, a priest proclaims before God that this person is going to reconcile with the Church. At the end of Confession, a priest reads a special prayer, in which he asks God to unite the person with the Church – just like the broken brunch which can take on the tree and bear fruit.

It is better to discuss the frequency of Confession with your parish priest. He serves in the church you usually attend, and this is why it is exactly him who should know about your spiritual life.

Anyway, if you confess from time to time but do not analyze regularly your condition in terms of the New Testament, then your Confession is not full. The less attentive we are the worse we realize our sins.

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Here are the general tips for preparing for Confession:

  1. You should confess everything you have committed. To do this you need to think about it and recall everything in advance. The newcomers can use special spiritual literature such as “The Experience of Confession” by Archimandrite John (Krestyankin). Such literature can help to recall something we have forgotten or have not considered a sin.
  1. Confession means that we spell out certain sins. What is not spelled out is not healed. And this “spelling” begins even before your Confession. It is an inner dialogue with your conscience in terms of the Gospel. On the other hand, if a person begins to confess with the words “I’m sinful, just like all the others”, that means he has not prepared for the sacrament, and he does not recognize the sins of his life.

Another problem is that a person learns that something in his life is a sin, but he himself does not recognize that as a sin, and does not see the point of confessing such things. The thing is that in such case a person lies when he says, “I repent”. Hiding is not an option. It would be better to say about this to the priest: “I have learnt that from the Christian point of view this is a sin, but I still cannot understand this with my own mind”. Then the priest can help to make certain steps, which will help you to recognize your sin. Perhaps, he will decide to accept your Confession as it is and let you partake of the Holy Communion so that your soul can be warmed by the sacraments, by the meeting with Christ.

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  1. It is better to confess to your local priest, especially if it is not another “regular” Confession, but the first Confession in your life or in a long time. It is much easier to confess to a priest from a far monastery, because you possibly will not see him in the future. However, it is much harder to tell everything the priest from the local parish. This means you are ready to overcome your pain and shame, to drop your “shell” off.  This will be the opposite of what Adam has done. The process of our healing starts only when we make this step of revealing ourselves.
  1. At Confession we should avoid general phrases such as “I have sinned by condemnation, negligence, deception” and so on. The meaning of these words is too abstract, which means that one can hide anything behind them.  Under “condemnation” one can understand just fleeting thoughts, while the other one falls asleep and wakes up condemning his colleague or supervisor and suffers from this himself as well. I think, there is a big difference.
  1. The best way to prepare for Confession so that it become more specific, is self-examination. If a Christian is getting used to such everyday analysis and begins to analyze each day from the spiritual view point, his Confession become full.
  1. If you are not experienced enough, then you can put down your Confession. Making such notes is quite useful for it helps to avoid unnecessary words and details while speaking. At the same time, our memory works better when we write, and thus it becomes easier for us to analyze our life. The text of your Confession will help you not to get lost or to forget something you want to confess. As a rule, the necessity of such notes declines with time.
  1.  The sins which are most difficult to speak about should be spoken at first. I think, it is clear that hiding the sins at Confession causes harm to our souls. Sometimes people hide them indirectly. For example, one can confess a grave sin with general words using mild synonyms (“got involved with a woman” instead of recognizing it as “fornication”) or puts it between typical sins (“slander, impatience… adultery, gluttony”). You see, a person puts one of the most destructive sins in one line with the sins, to which the priest is usually less attentive. Perhaps, this is exactly what this person is counting on. But this is a slyness caused by the false hope that the sacrament will “work automatically”; that there will be no need to blush, that the priest will not ask for details to find the root of the sin, that he will not demand to acknowledge the sin unconditionally. Such Confession will not heal your soul. It will weight you down at best, and thus it will make you come once again for a true Confession. In the worst case, a person will “sedate” his conscience.

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Unfortunately, people often come to Confession with exactly that aim – to sedate their conscience. To set free from the questions it asks them. They want it happen easily and without any difficulty. But my purpose at Confession is not to sedate your conscience, but to awake it.

  1. Do not justify yourself. When you confess you have been aggressive towards your family members, do not say that they have caused your anger with their behavior. My feelings are my feelings. This is my responsibility. It depends on me how to react on this or that event in my life.
  1. Confession needs from you to be ready for penitential work. The sins, and especially the grave sins, will not fall behind. In my opinion, it is a mistake when a priest accepts too easily the Confession in which the deadly sins were eliminated. Quite often, the following situations can take place. A woman confessed the sin of abortion, but she did not receive any penance. Soon her conscience begins to torment her again. She repeats this sin again and again at every Confession, but she cannot find peace. Why? Deadly sins are just like cancer, and in this case, we need chemotherapy. We need work a lot to heal ourselves. Usually I suggest to read a short penitential prayer for committed abortions. At the same time, a person should make bows and pray the Lord that He forgive both of the child’s partners for their sin, as well as pray for the unborn children.

In addition to this one can visit hospitals and serve there as a volunteer to help other people to avoid this dreadful decision. One can simply visit children’s hospice and read the children different bedtime stories. And then such work will help to heal your wound and get free. What is more, it will become the proof of your sincerity.

  1. You should not solve your life problems at Confession. Confession is a sacrament of reconciliation of a man with God, but not the sacrament of guidance. A priest should not interfere with people’s personal affairs until it concerns the issues of sin and virtues. To buy a car or not, how to divide the inheritance between the relatives and so on – such problems should not be solved at Confession. The aim of the priest as a pastor is to help a Christian to learn how to coordinate his life circumstances with the Holy Gospel.

Of course, it is possible to ask for advice. But such conversation should occur outside the sacrament of Confession. Another important point is the following: if a priest gives you a piece of “spiritual” or “everyday” advice, it does not mean you must obey it blindly. If the pastor does not know much about certain circumstances and the peculiarities of the person, he can be wrong. He can recommend, but it is up to you to decide whether to follow his advice or not.

  1. Do not speak about third parties at Confession. Sometimes, when people begin to explain the details of certain sins, begin to gossip about other people. This is a mockery of Confession. It is not that “They make me feel aggrieved”, but “I feel aggrieved”; not “They annoy me”, but “I get annoyed”. What is more, outer circumstances do not provoke us, but help us to reveal our passions. Thanks to this, I can see my weaknesses and fight against them. Otherwise, they would “sleep” in me, and I would not be able to notice them. Then at the Last Judgement, I would see that there is so much sin in my soul. But it would be too late, because the time of repentance has passed.
  1. Sin is an illness. Healing this illness is the work of the whole life.

There is no case when it is impossible to repent. A soul can be tough, but there is a disciplinary system of fasts, home prayers and other church prescriptions, which help to awake the soul. There are many examples when people confessed and partook of the Holy Communion without any feelings. With time, their souls were warmed by the light of God’s grace, and that led them repent for real.

The path to God is open. There is no sin, which cannot be forgiven or healed. “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Hebrews, 13:8).

By Hieromonk Agapius (Golub)