Judgment in Three Acts

spring storm

 I was busy, stressed and prayer-less shopping at a supermarket when one of the employees called me out persistently, at least 3-4 times, ‘insisting’ I stop right there and turn around. Why? … She wanted to greet me with “Christ is Risen!” 

*

I finally met that person I had spent the whole day judging and quarrelling about with my family. How dare he try to solve that problem, my problem –my pain and my suffering–  in a different way than I would? … He was right! Not only did he also help me but he did so gently, with a great sense of humour and compassion.

*

I was walking back home when a wretched, ragged beggar stopped me and asked for a little money.  “Excuse me, ma’am. Please help me. I have not had anything to eat for the last two days!” He followed me pleading for quite some time. My heart was cold and I gave him nothing. I only turned back and looked at him perplexed at the softness of his voice. Then, he looked me in the eyes and gently blessed me: “May the Theotokos intercede for you and keep you under Her Protecting Veil!”  Ashamed, I changed my mind and decided to give him a little money, but  … too late! He vanished before my eyes!

*  Text by C. Photo by Jason Tiilikainen

 

 

 

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 26

BELIEVE

Believe …

Hristos a înviat

 

I recall on my first visit to Romania attending the funeral of an old lady in a small village. The Parishioners had kept vigil all night before the funeral, waiting patiently outside her home, saying fervent prayers for their departed friend. There were weeping and sorrow mixed with resurrection hope and humble faith together with profuse expressions of sympathy and compassion for the bereaved family.

St Columba ordains a priest.

In central Scotland, there was a priest called Molluch who wanted to be a priest although he could not read or write. He approached St Columba on one of the saint’s missionary journeys to that region.  St Columba wanting to test Molluch’s faith told him to go and fish in the nearby lake and when he had caught a fish to come back. Puzzled by this instruction but obedient Molluch took a small coracle to the lake and started fishing. For two days and two nights, he caught nothing but on the third day he caught a fish. However, on catching the fish he took pity on it; carefully removing it from the hook, he returned it to the water. Rowing back to shore Molluch confessed to the saint and told him what had happened. St Columba commended him for his patience, compassion, and humility; qualities which he saw as necessary for the priesthood. St Columba ordained Molluch who duly proved to be an excellent priest.

O What Faith

Luke 7:9; “I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel.”

Gentle gentile strong and brave

Built a synagogue and gave

A chance of life to his dear slave:

By his faith.

He showed his care and great compassion

In more than any normal ration

When humility was not the fashion:

He showed faith.

A Centurion ruled with iron glove

But this one knew of Him above

Whose hands could heal with powerful love:

Given faith.

Considerate in his way and kind

A virtue one would rarely find

In one so masterful a mind:

Blessed by faith.

His faith was simply of the best

Surpassing Israel and the rest

Such trust which passes every test:

This is faith.

To the glory of God

Sayings from the Desert Fathers

The old men used to say, “If someone has faith in another and hands himself over to him in complete submission, he does not need to pay attention to God’s commandments but he can entrust his whole will to his father. He will suffer no reproach from God, for God looks for nothing from beginners so much as renunciation through obedience.”

 
Εν Χριστώ

The Coronavirus Diary of a Joyous Pustinik — 22

orthodox pilgrims climbing

Hristos a înviat!

 

From my little chapel in my front room, I never serve the Divine services in slippers! Somehow, although this would be more appropriate and comfortable, it seems rather casual and disrespectful; so I always put on my clean shoes as I would as in Church! I’m sure no one would notice my feet under my cassock, but I know, and I know that all things should be done in order as the Apostle Paul reminds us.( 1 Corinthians 14:40) To dress correctly befitting the task is something that we should not easily dismiss. It was good to see some of the gentlemen wearing ties at Pascha!!

I remember mountain walking in Transylvania with my spiritual brother and some students some years ago- a variety of inappropriate footwear seemed the fashion- trainers, sandals and even grandfather’s old brown brogues, but no walking boots! Needless to say there were some very sore feet at the end of each day.

 

  St Columba and the shoes of Turf. ( part I of 2)

In the early Church in these islands with few writing materials, the Gospel was often conveyed by singing bards. A message came to St. Columba (who was also a singing bard) that the leading Bishop in Ireland had outlawed this practice and that” he was not to set foot on the Island of Ireland!” St Columba remembering how many had been converted on earlier missions by singing the Gospel stories decided to go back to Ireland but in order not to contravene the Bishop’s instructions he cut and took two turfs of soil from Iona with him on the boat. On reaching Ireland he tied these two turfs to his feet!

Mountain Walking in Transylvania

Summer 2003

Matthew 7:14: “Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way

which leads to life ,and there are few who find it.

The climb was hard following the track

It tired the legs and wrenched the back;

Clearer and lighter was the air

Greater and slower was the care.

In which we made our way.

The thin line of friends began to spread,

Like a spider’s hoary thread

On the mountain climb together

Stretched in love for one another.

As we walked the way

Stopping often to refresh and rest,

To view the scene, to pray, to jest,

To share a thought, to catch a sigh

To marvel at the birds on high.

As we walked His Way.

Our destination now in sight,

We summon up our little might,

To reach the summit and the goal

With all our heart, mind, strength and soul.

With Him who is the Way.

 

What toil we must endure, what fatigue, while we are attempting to
climb hills and the summits of mountains! What, that we may ascend
to heaven! If you consider the promised reward, what you endure is
less. Immortality is given to the one who perseveres; everlasting
life is offered; the Lord promises His Kingdom.

St. Cyprian 

 
 Eν Χριστώ

A Window to Heaven

coliva_in_biserica

Today,  another blessing and surprise encounter awaited me!  But let me start from the very beginning. Early at dawn, I went Elder Symeon’s monastery for Matins, Holy Liturgy and the Memorial service on Saturday of Meatfare.  The service was one of the longest ones I have ever attended; the priests were reading for hours (!) long lists of names of our departed brothers and sisters. What a consolation and a hope to literally be a member of His Body, which our Mother Church will never forget or give up!

Such Mercy and Love outpoured on us all! We also prayed for all our brothers who,  throughout the ages, because of untimely death in a faraway place, or other adverse circumstances, have died without being deemed worthy of the appointed memorial services. The divine Fathers, being so moved in their love for man, have decreed that a common memorial be made this day for all pious Orthodox Christians who have reposed from all ages past, so that those who did not have particular memorial services may be included in this common one for all. 

I was also very impressed by how some of the faithful ended their lists of fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, children, relatives names with “benefactors, friends, enemies”. Enemies?! Now that was something that I had never heard of before but which I will certainly start adding to my personal diptychs. 

kollyva

Somehow, in all this, Sister Aggeliki of Blessed Memory warmed my heart.

Fleetingly, another thought crossed my mind, about a good man I was told about the other day who consciously decided not to have an Orthodox burial, but cremation instead. And so it happened. When Elders were asked if we could at least give his name for Forty Day Liturgies or for a Trisagion, we were told “no” because “his wish has to be honoured”. This shadowed side, the darkness into which a stubborn sinner can choose to throw himself … Lord have mercy…

Today, we, the militant church, felt outnumbered by the triumphant and invisible Church. Oh, how soon, we too will cross to ‘the other side’. I am so looking forward to meeting my +Elder Gregorios, +Sister Aggeliki …

“But take heed to yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a snare”. Oh! those cares of life!  May we have “an acceptable defence before His dread Judgment Seat.”

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And then, it happened! At the coffee and the kollyva that followed. There, out of the blue, I met Vassiliki, a frail but very bright woman, 91 years old, who immediately impressed me with her radiant smile, joy and generosity of spirit. In just a few minutes, we realised that we had both worked, side by side, together with Sister Aggeliki. That was it. Now nobody could stop Kyria Vassiliki from sharing case upon case, from court to hospitals, with the liveliest details, all her memories with Sister Aggeliki. She kept telling me how special Sister Aggeliki was! As if I did not know!

Blessed Sister Aggeliki, a legend in our town, I never had a doubt that all those orphans and ill children and families in need which you have tirelessly helped and supported will be offering their thanks to God for you on heaven and in earth. But what touches most my heart is how “easily” you “gave up” your novitiate at St. Nektarios’ monastery in Aegina, at your spiritual father’s word, to stand by and support your elderly, ill mother and your mentally-ill sister.

How patiently you bore your Cross, living an unmercenary doctor’s and nun’s life in a city and waiting until the last 6 months of your life to finally receive the great schema! How all these very harsh circumstances at home did not deter you from offering your love and medical services to everybody for free.  How could you, Sister Aggeliki, retain your sense of humour, enthusiasm and joy when such reality was awaiting you back home every day?

Every single day and night at the mercy of your mentally ill sister — such a martyrdom! I have spent lots of mornings and evenings at your home and your poor sister was giving you such a hard time! Anybody else but you would have “committed” her to a mental institution, but not you.  Because you told me that in the midst of such paranoia, your sister loved God and you wanted to take care of her, take her to church, to holy communion and … Sister Aggeliki was also appalled by the shock treatments psychiatrists applied to medical patients back in those decades.

And that martyrdom and Cross was only one of the many you courageously bore, dear Sister Aggeliki. How could you compose spiritual poetry and theatrical plays and oratoria attracting such wide audiences? And all that and so much more.

I have so many questions to ask you, dear Sister. Please help me understand your answers and prayers “across the other side”.

+ Memory Eternal, Sister Aggeliki, pray for us, “τούς ζῶντες τούς περιλειπόμενους”, “all us who are alive [and] remain unto the Coming of the Lord  (1 Thessalonians 4:15). 

IMG_0536IMG_0880

sister aggeliki tsaousi

For more information about Saturday of Souls, here

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

I Want Peace

peace

A pilgrim once met a hermit.

– “I want peace.”

The hermit took a piece of stick and wrote on the ground: ‘I want peace’.

-“Now, look how simple this is!”

In one move, he crossed out ‘I’.

“My child, you need to delete first the ‘I’. It is impossible for anyone who trusts in himself to find peace on his own, away from God. The ‘I” always feels threatened by everybody and everything and drives away God and His Peace.”
In one move, the hermit crossed out ‘want’.

My child, you need to delete the ‘want’ too.  ‘Want’ reveals desires, needs and worldly attachments. No matter how many of your worldly desires you fulfil, new ones, unfulfilled, will upset you and deprive you from peace.” 

Then, the pilgrim looked at the ground, saw the crossed out words and understood. ‘I’ and ‘want’ had been crossed out and … Peace was there!