St. Seraphim Sarov and a child’s love for his spiritual father

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This is a story about St Seraphim which Fr. Seraphim from Mull Monastery first heard from one of the sisters at his Monastery in Diveyevo:

“When St Seraphim was living as a hermit in the forest, two young men who were novices at the monastery in Sarov had him as their spiritual father (can you imagine that?). One was called Sasha; I don’t remember the name of the second one.

At one point, St Seraphim gave them an obedience to go and pray to the Saints of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev. He had been there as a young man himself, just before entering the monastery in Sarov, and he probably wanted his two spiritual sons to receive the same blessings he had.

Anyway, having received this obedience and a blessing from the Monastery, they left for Kiev. On the way to Kiev though (which would have taken weeks), Sasha grew increasingly sad and weak. He was missing his spiritual father so much that he felt he could not go on without St Seraphim.

 

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As they were travelling further from Sarov, things got increasingly worse, his heart ached so much, his pain cut so deep that he fell physically ill. He suffered for a few days, tormented by the love he felt for the great Saint and the separation from him, until he eventually died.

He died missing his spiritual father. This is a story I’ve struggled with for a long time, until last year, I asked my own spiritual father about it. What happened to the soul of poor Sasha? Was that not spiritual death, to get so attached to a human being that you could not live without that person?

My spiritual father only said: ‘that young man was not missing St Seraphim, but Christ’s image in the great elder’. He may not have had the spiritual maturity to understand this, but the love he felt, that beyond-human need to be united with St Seraphim, was actually the craving, the longing, the love his heart felt for Christ.

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St Seraphim had revealed to him Christ Himself. Sasha had felt Christ’s love in the saint’s love. His soul understood that there is no life apart from his spiritual father, because – unknown to his simplicity – he had learnt that there is no love apart from Christ. So when the young man died, he did not become separated from his spiritual father, but he finally became One with the Lord of his heart.”

 

* Dedicated to my dearly loved spiritual Father

I know how the monk  Sasha ( Alexander) felt. When away on pilgrimages, the break in my heart gets wider and tears begin to fall. I miss him so much, though,  it seems, it has not been to death so far! 

 

 

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An Orthodox Bible Reading Plan for 2019

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Is reading the whole Bible” one of your New Year’s Resolutions? Want a plan that will get you through the entire Bible in one year? Then have a look at this one year plan which has a lot to commend. Indicatively, a few of its most attractive features are:

1. The Scriptures are read in sync with the Church- the epistle and Gospel readings accord with the Lectionary of the Church;

2. Those Scriptures which the Church has most emphasised are emphasised- Using this plan we can read the Gospels and the Psalms through twice a year. (An Orthodox priest suggested the Psalms are recited rather than just read silently);

3. The daily readings are further divided, thematically,  into two separate sittings.

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Your thoughts?

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To download this one year Bible plan, click here.

To download its accompanying Psalm calendar, click here.

For more details and the rationale behind this specific reading plan, click here.

Pilgrimage to Evia

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Synaxis of All Saints of Euboea (Evia)

Blessed New Year 2019! May He who is the Alpha and Omega Christ our True God grant us every strength and all virtues necessary for our salvation in this year of His grace 2019. May we honour our calling and chosen way as Christians. Soon, I will start uploading lots of stories and photographs from a recent pilgrimage to Euboia.


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St. Iakovos Tsalikis and St. David of Evia

Ten Orthodox New Years Resolutions

new year
Making New Years resolutions? Consider the following Ten Points for a better Orthodox way of life. These will nourish your soul and bring you closer to God and an eternal heir to His kingdom.
1. Praying Daily: Have a regular prayer rule that includes morning and evening prayer.
2. Worshiping and Participating in the Sacraments: Attend and participate in the Divine Liturgy receiving Holy Communion regularly as well as regular participation in Confession.
3. Honoring the Liturgical Cycle: Follow the seasons of the church and participate in the fasts and feasts of the Church.
4. Using the Jesus Prayer: Repeat the Holy name whenever possible throughout the day or night.
5. Slowing Down and Ordering Your Life: Set priorities and reduce the stress and friction caused by a hurried life.
6. Being Watchful: Give full attention to what you are doing at the moment.
7. Taming the Passions: Overcome your habits, attachment to your likes and dislikes, and learn to practice the virtues.
8. Putting Others First: Free yourself from your selfishness and find joy in helping others.
9. Spiritual Fellowship: Spend time regularly with other Orthodox Christians for support and inspiration.
10. Reading Scripture and the writings of the Church Fathers.
Link to guidance on these ten points: Ten Points for an Orthodox way of life

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Happy New Year 2019 to all dearly loved in the countries of my heart, and to all the world! This New Year is yet one more plain covered with snow, unspoiled, pure … Let us tread responsibly on this expanse of whiteness still unspoiled. So much depends on the way in which we tread it. Will there be a road cutting through the plain following Light and Love? Or wandering steps that will only soil the whiteness of the snow?

The Remarkable Christmas Homily of Kyros Panopolites

Probably the most laconic ever Christmas homily!

 

In the 440’s a remarkable and unusual sermon was delivered on Christmas Day before a hostile congregation.

 

Kyros, a poet of some repute, came to Constantinople from his native Egypt and used his literary ability and the patronage of the empress Eudokia to become praefectus urbi about 435 and praefectus praetorio by 439. He held both offices simultaneously for about four years, but his career was ruined when Emperor Theodosius II accused him of being a pagan, removed him from power, and confiscated his property. Whether paganism was really the issue is difficult to say, as several sources claimed that the emperor’s real motive was envy of Kyros’ popularity among the people of Constantinople.

 

Stripped of his office, Kyros sought sanctuary in the Church and became a priest. Then, on the emperor’s orders, he was sent as bishop to Kotyaion in Phrygia. The rather unusual choice of an accused pagan as an episcopal appointee was explained by the reputation of the people of Kotyaion. They had killed four of their previous bishops, and Theodosius supposedly hoped that they would do the same to Kyros, thus ridding him once and for all of a dangerous rival.

 

Kyros arrived in Kotyaion at Christmas-time and was officiating in the church when the people, who had learned that he might be a pagan, suddenly called out for him to preach, presumably to test the validity of the report. It was under these circumstances that Kyros delivered his only recorded sermon. He ascended the ambo, gave the greeting of peace, and spoke:

 

“Brethren, let the birth of God our Savior Jesus Christ be honored with silence, because the Word of God was conceived in the holy Virgin through hearing alone. To him be glory for ever. Amen.”

 

The sermon had taken perhaps half a minute, and the reaction of the people was instant and unanimous. Instead of killing Kyros on the spot, they rejoiced and praised him, and he lived on to administer his see piously for many years. Kyros was a figure around whom Christian lore collected (cf. the story of the miraculous icon), and an element of hagiography may be operating in our accounts of this event. But we should remember that the evidence for Kyros’ sermon seems to come originally from Priskos of Panion, a contemporary observer and one not always favorable to Christian luminaries.

 

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Read more here.

A Christmas Card from Elder Sophrony Sakharov

 

Archimandrite Sophrony
The Old Rectory, Tolleshunt Knight
by Maldon, Essex

 

Christmas 1967

 

Beloved in Christ,
Sister Paraskevi!
May the grace and peace of the Lord multiply to you.
And first – I wish you a Good Christmas and a blessed New Year.
Pareskevi, has it ever occurred to you perhaps that you did something with my blessing, and the result was harmful? Or on the contrary, have you ever done something consistent with your ideas and having abandoned my words and my humble advice, that everything was done according to the good pleasure of God and successful? So also now listen to me like a crazy person, and do as I bless you to do.
The only way that will be beneficial to you and yours, is to complete your studies working as my monks work, from morning until evening – or rather night. Dispel now every care of life for [the third person the Elder speaks of here is left anonymous to not be known] and your family.
The unworthy Archimandrite Sophrony,
I send you the love of all who are to be found in our Monastery.

 

 

The Christmas Tree of Virtues

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On top it says:

The Christmas Tree in the Courtyard of Karakalou Monastery

 

On the bottom it says:

In view of the Nativity of the Savior Christ … if we need to decorate a Christmas tree, this would surely be the fruitless tree of our spiritual nakedness, which requires the needed decoration of the God-seeing, illuminating and incorruptible virtues…!

 

The tree is decorated with 40 ornaments of virtues, the top three being reverence for God, philanthropy and faith. It is then topped with the star of love.

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On this Holy Nativity, our wishes are for each human being to make his or her heart a cave for the King of Glory. We also pray to the newborn Child for you, that peace and quietness may abound in your heart, the peace that comes from the Lord of peace, to Whom we give glory and honour forever, Amen.