All Creatures Great and Small

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“Once a dog was dying from thirst in the desert. A monk went by and gave him the water he was keeping for himself. That moment Heavens opened and a voice was heard: ‘He who saved the dog will have a multitude of his sins forgiven’.”

Blessed Gabriel the Confessor and Fool for Christ

Source: Fr. Charalambos Livios Papadopoulos

Blessed Gabriel was gentle Saint of our times, compassionate for all Creation. In his youth, he had an unusual entertainment; he used to take a small stick in his hands and ran away. Chirping birds sat on it and followed him all the way. This surprised everyone. Vasiko was a soft-hearted child. He did not allow putting a trap for mice, but caught them in a cage alive and afterwards set them free out of the yard. Read about the rest of his life here

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Fr Herman recalls a quiet moment when he was with Fr Seraphim [Rose] and their animals came up to them: Svir [the monastery dog] looking up devotedly and wagging his tail, and a lovely, white-pawed cat named Kisa standing quietly by.“From your point of view,” Fr Herman asked in a reflective mood, “what are animals all about?”

Fr Seraphim replied: “They have something to do with Paradise.”

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“Abba Xanthios said, ‘A dog is better than I am, for he has love and he does not judge.

—  Sayings of the Desert Fathers

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“Geronda, how do animals sense a person’s goodness?”….. “They can instinctively sense if you love them. The animals in Paradise felt the fragrance of Grace and served Adam. Since the transgression, nature groans together with man” St Paisios

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“My mind tells me that even the animals are better than me; so, I humble myself and obey them. Very early this morning, being tired from praying all night and exhausted because of my illness, I lay down to rest. After a while, I heard a kitten meowing outside my cell as if she needed something. I really wanted to rest, but I humbled myself and went against my own will. I obeyed the kitten and replied to her calling. I went to open the door. It had started to rain and I let her in so she wouldn’t get wet. What do you think then? Should I obey the animals or not? My thoughts tell me I should.” – St Paisios

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“All these things connected with nature help us greatly in our spiritual life when they are conjoined with the grace of God. When I sense the harmony of nature, I am brought to tears. Why should we be bored with life? Let us live life with the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Truth. The person who has the Spirit of God, who has Divine Wisdom, sees all things with love of God and notices all things. The wisdom of God makes him grasp all things and delight in all things.”- Saint Porphyrios

 

 

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Photos & Selection of the Fathers’ Saying: Orthodoxy and Animals

 

 

 

 

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Keep Your Mind in Hell and Despair Not

Not for the faint of heart!

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“No one on this earth can avoid affliction; and although the afflictions which the Lord sends are not great men imagine them beyond their strength and are crushed by them. This is because they will not humble their souls and commit themselves to the will of God.”

 

These words seem to sum up soberingly D. Balfour’s tumultuous life, and indeed in so many respects ours…

 

SPEECHLESS! “It seems ludicrous to rate a book like this according to a certain amount of stars…I searched for it after reading the book I Know a Man in Christ — a great book about our holy and blessed Elder Sophrony, which mentions this correspondence with the amazing Englishman David Balfour. I imagine that the only reason why anyone would be interested in this book would be to learn about this incredible spiritual friendship. (No! There are so many more reasons to want to study this book) And this book does allow for that — and much more besides. I’ve read letters of spiritual direction before. These letters go way beyond that. They give insights to the Elder and to St. Silouan which are simply impossible to convey otherwise. And this David Balfour — he went from Catholic hieromonk to Orthodox hieromonk to British Army major and intelligence officer to diplomatic interpreter to midlife husband and father to Oxford Byzantine scholar in old age. A biography of him wouldn’t go amiss, although I don’t think we’ll see one. And underlying his whole life is the gaining and the losing and the eventual regaining of that inestimable treasure, the Holy Orthodox Christian faith and Holy Grace. Not for the faint of heart.” (D. Kovacs )

 

 

Not for the faint of heart.” Most certainly!

 

What an intense book which can be read on so many levels! A heart-rending spiritual biography of a brother in Christ struggling for his faith and the salvation of his soul amidst staggering trials, temptations and tribulations! A sobering warning too to all of us to be deadly serious with our faith and never forsake our obedience to our spiritual father at any cost! Hell indeed broke loose when Balfour decided to disobey St. Silouan and use his own mind instead for his life-decisions! To give you just one example: After converting to Orthodoxy and becoming an Orthodox hieromonk, Balfour disobeyed St Silouan’s ‘suggestion’ to move to France, and then to England, and went to Greece instead. Things went well at first, but with the outbreak of the Second World War, Balfour was forced to flee Greece and started wandering all over Europe, while undergoing a very dark period of disobedience, disillusionment, doubt and eventual loss of his faith, to the extent that he decided to shave his beard and defrock himself in Cairo, Egypt! I cannot even begin to imagine how traumatic all this experiences must have been for him!

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What a most sobering book! “For Whom the Bells Toll” indeed. How often have I betrayed the Lord and disobeyed my spiritual father in the past! How dire the consequences of my disobedience have always been! Indeed, how fragile our faith is, how precarious our decision to follow the Lord at any cost like a true disciple, how unpredictable our falls and how uncertain our salvation until the very last moment of our life!

 

Striving for Knowledge of God: Correspondence with David Balfour is a treasury of wisdom distilled from Fr. Sophrony’s reading of the Fathers of the Church, from his conversations with St. Silouan, and from his own experience. Since most of these letters were written to someone new to the Orthodox Church and to Orthodox monasticism, they are of greatest interest to anyone contemplating converting to Orthodoxy.

 

In particular, the correspondence touches and elaborates on the difference between Eastern Orthodox and Western thought, in both Christian and philosophical writings. Thus Fr.Sophrony mentions Schleiermacher, Spinoza and Kant, and St John of the Cross (The Dark Night of the Soul). He dedicates a few pages to the concepts of the heart and prayer. In Eastern Christianity, he argues, the spiritual heart is not an abstract notion but is linked with our material heart and has its physical location. In opposition to the Western search for some visionary mystical experience, Fr.Sophrony advocates the prayer of repentance, which is the basis of all spiritual life.

 

As a reply to Balfour’s doubt over the importance of specifically Eastern ascetic and dogmatic traditions, Fr.Sophrony asserts the organic integrity and integrality of ascetic life, dogma and the Church. Criticising Schleiermacher in connexion with this issue, he writes:

 

“There are three things I cannot take in: nondogmatic faith, nonecclesiological Christianity and nonascetic Christianity. These three – the church, dogma, and asceticism – constitute one single life for me.” – Letter to D. Balfour, August 21, 1945.

 

“If one rejects the Orthodox creed and the eastern ascetic experience of life in Christ, which has been acquired throughout the centuries, then Orthodox culture would be left with nothing but the Greek minor [key] and Russian tetraphony.” – Letter to D. Balfour.

 

Fr.Sophrony also warns against attributing to intellectual reasoning the status of being the sole basis for religious search:

 

Historical experience has demonstrated that natural intellectual reasoning, left to its own devices, fatally arrives at pantheistic mysticism with its particular perception of reality. If this takes place in the soul of the Christian who does not want to reject Christ (as in the case of Leo Tolstoy), he arrives at Protestant rationalism or at spiritualism, which stands mystically close to pantheism… I am convinced that the rejection of the Church will lead to the rejection of the Apostolic message about Сthat which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes… and our hands have handled (1Jn.1:1) [148].

 

 

On a more general level, these letters are full with profound theological and spiritual insights. What a most blessed golden ‘chain’ of Grace and Sainthood! Elder Sophrony, already under consideration for glorification, was ordained to the diaconate by St Nicolai (Velimirovic) of Zicha and became a disciple of St Silouan the Athonite. Can you imagine? All these Saints were also ‘connected’ with the greatest probably Saint of our century, St. John Maximovitch! St. Nikolai Velimirovich is often referred to as Serbia’s New Chrysostom. St. John Maximovitch, who had been a young instructor at a seminary in Bishop Nikolai’s diocese of Ohrid, called him “a great saint and Chrysostom of our day [whose] significance for Orthodoxy in our time can be compared only with that of Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky). … They were both universal teachers of the Orthodox Church.”

 

Coming back to the book, of all theological concepts touched upon in this book, the one which most interests me  is the concept of Godforsakenness, as outlined by Fr.Sophrony, who worked out a distinction between two types:The first one is when man deserts God: To the extent that we live in this world, to that same extent we are dead in God. The second one is when God hides from man: a horrific state of Godforsakenness. When man has no more life in this world, i.e. cannot live by this world, the memory of the divine world draws him there, yet despite all this darkness encompasses his soul. He explains: these fluctuations of the presence and absence of grace are our destiny until the end of our earthly life. Fr.Sophrony saw suffering as a necessary stage in ascetic development: Divine grace comes only in the soul which has undergone suffering.

 

“We must have the determination to overcome temptations comparable to the sorrows of the first Christians. All the witnesses of Christ’s Resurrection were martyred. We should be ready to endure any hardship.”

 

“The most important thing in the spiritual life is to strive to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit. It changes our lives (above all inwardly, not outwardly). We will live in the same house, in the same circumstances, and with the same people, but our life will already be different. But this is possible only under certain conditions: if we find the time to pray fervently, with tears in our eyes. From the morning to ask for God’s blessing, that a prayerful attitude may define our entire day.”

 

“Whoever gives up his cross cannot be worthy of the Lord and become His disciple. The depths of the Divine Being are revealed to the Christian when he is crucified for our Savior. The Cross is the foundation of authentic theology.”

 

Not for the faint of heart, indeed!

Chalice of Eternity

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Time, or the Art of Deception: 1990 
Time stands still in this surrealist composition.The water and the metronome are suspended as if Time had just stopped – yet might start again, a moment later.

An Orthodox Theology of Time -I / V

“This morning during Matins I had a ‘jolt of happiness, of fullness of life, and at the same time the thought: I will have to die! But in such a fleeting breath of happiness, time usually ‘gathers’ itself. In an instant, not only are all such breaths of happiness remembered but they are present and alive—that Holy Saturday in Paris when I was a young man—and many such ‘breaks.’ It seems to me that eternity might be not the stopping of time, but precisely its resurrection and gathering. The fragmentation of time, its division, is the fall of eternity. Maybe the words of Christ are about time when He said: ‘…not to destroy anything but will raise it all on the last day.’ The thirst for solitude, peace, freedom, is thirst for the liberation of time from cumbersome dead bodies, from hustle; thirst for the transformation of time into what it should be—the receptacle, the chalice of eternity. Liturgy is the conversion of time, its filling with eternity. There are two irreconcilable types of spirituality: one that strives to liberate man from time (Buddhism, Hinduism, Nirvana, etc.); the other that strives to liberate time. In genuine eternity, all is alive. The limit and the fullness: the whole of time, the whole of life is in each moment. But there is also the perpetual problem: What about the evil moments? Evil time? The terrible fear before dying of the drowning man, of the man falling from the tenth floor about to be crushed on the pavement? What about the tears of an abused child?

(The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann 1973-1983, p.78)

To Be Continued

For Part II go to https://orthodoxcityhermit.com/2015/12/18/4441/ 

Paris Massacre’s “Act of War” and Islam’s New Martyrs’ ‘Army’

 In Memoriam  —  A Video, Liturgic Chant and Iconography Tribute

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In the darkness of the Paris tragedy,  May God give rest to all the victims! Comfort to their families! Mercy to the killers! Repentance for the assassins before they depart this earth! Saints Denis, Genevieve, and Maria of Paris, Irenaios of Lyons, Martin and Gregory of Tours, Prosper of Aquitaine, John Cassian the Roman, Caesarius of Arles, Hilary of Poitiers, and all the martyrs and saints of France, pray for the protection of the people of France and our world!

Litanie des saints de Paris

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GRbtJi_U-BE&app=desktop

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A Letter from the People of the Cross to ISIS

The world is talking about you
Your apocalyptic dreams and spectacular sins
Are now awakening the middle east
In your holy war, come to holy ground
Come children of Abraham come
The people of the cross gathers at your gates with a message

Love is coming after you.
Like a rush of wind grazing over the pacific
From hills of the mount of olives to the desert winds of Jordan
From the cedars of lebanon to the silk roads of the East
An army comes. With no tanks or soldiers
But an army of martyrs faithful unto death
Carrying a message of life
The people of the cross  
Comes to die at your gates. 
If you wont hear our message with words
Then we will show you with our lives
Laid down.

For every throat you slit and every woman you rape
For every man you burn and every child you turn to dust
There is blood on your hands brother

But Come Brothers Come

Come with your bloodstained hands,
Come with your eyes full of murder for the people of the Cross,
Come lay your guns and your knives at the foot of the cross
A love that is overdue and overwhelming
Breathes through your cities

Though your sins are like scarlet
They can be washed white as snow
Though you call yourselves servants
He will make you into Sons
Where can you run from His love?
Even the darkness cannot hide you

Come Brothers Come
There is the sound of a rushing rain
To remove your sins and bind your wounds
You die for your god but our God died for us 
The King of Kings comes to be the sacrificial lamb
Slain on the altar where we should have been
Jesus Christ, Isa Al Masih
Walks through the Middle East

There is forgiveness tonight oh brother
There is healing for your sins oh brother
We are no different.
Apart from Christ, we are no better than the worst jihadist
Christ has been crucified once. and for All.
To make sinners like you and me into brothers
Even you.
Even now.

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Who Would Dare to Love ISIS? (A Letter from the People of the Cross)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSv4vBcFyvo

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Paris terror attacks: a night of carnage in France’s capital–Friday November 13

“Hell is empty and all the devils are here.” 

“It still remains unclear how the situation developed inside the concert hall. According to witnesses, the attackers stormed the venue as a California rock group ‘Eagles of Death Metal’ was performing on the stage. A Europe 1 journalist, who was inside the Bataclan, said the men were unmasked and carried what he recognized as Kalashnikov-type guns. “The assailants had time to reload at least three times. They were not masked, masters of themselves. They were very young,” the reporter Julian Pearce said, according to the Liberation newspaper. People who managed to flee the theater reported seeing between six and eight shooters inside were killing those who remained in the concert hall “one by one”. One of the gunmen at Bataclan reportedly shouted “Allahu Akbar!” meaning, “God is [the] greatest” in Arabic.

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In 1714, just before Easter, Constantin Brancoveanu – the Christian ruler of the Romanian Kingdom for 26 years – was taken to Istanbul and imprisoned. His four sons were imprisoned with him. In a typical gesture, the Muslim rulers of the Ottoman Empire gave them the well-known choice: convert to Islam or die. Because they refused to deny Christ, on August 15th (the Dormition Feast), they were all decapitated – first the Christian king’s councillor was beheaded, then all his sons (Matthew, the youngest of them, was 11 years old). The King, his wife and daughters, were forced to witness the public executions. Western diplomats were present; the official representatives of France, England and Russia (among others) felt they could not refuse the Muslim ruler’s invitation. In the end, after the killing of all his sons, the King himself was publicly executed – it was his 60th birthday. Their heads were carried and displayed through Istanbul; their bodies were thrown in the Bosphorus. Today, they are all commemorated as Martyrs.

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The Glorification of 1241 New Martyrs of Naousa

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Central photograph of St. Philoumenos the New Righteous Hieromartyr, the Cypriot, at Jacob’s Well where Christ spoke with St. Photini. Surrounding are other pictures and icons of St. Philoumenos and associated scenes. He was martyred on November 16th/29th 1979

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St. Philoumenos the New Hieromartyr of Jacob’s Well

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Holy New-Martyrs of Jasenovac

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St. Jacob of Hamatoura

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Synaxis of the Holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia

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… Three centuries later; we see Muslim children carrying the heads of the people their fundamentalist parents have murdered. We hear these children calling for more executions. The only difference is that, this time, Western journalists are also killed.

The West may be in shock, but Eastern Europe isn’t. For us, this is just the return of a very recent nightmare. Less than a century ago, the Ottoman Empire was still present here, in our countries. Think about that!

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New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke

We all – West and East – have so much to learn from each other. The world needs to look at its past – its common past. The West needs to understand that what happens in other parts of the world will one day (very soon, it seems) happen at home, in its own back-yard.

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The 1241 New Martyrs of Naousa who were brutally massacred 

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 The 21 New Martyrs of Egypt & Libya

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Saint Ephraim the Newly-Revealed Wonderworker of Nea Makri

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Holy New Martyrs Emmanuel, Anezina, George and Maria, The Four Crypto-Christians New Martyrs

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The 100,000 Holy Martyrs of Tbilisi

When one visits the thousands of Orthodox monasteries in Greece, Bulgaria and Romania, one must learn how to see beyond their exterior beauty and exoticism. All these places are built on harrowing pain and horror, yet they remain living prayers for the peace and salvation of the whole world; for centuries, they’ve held on to a holy stubbornness to not let go of hope, to not let go of love, to not allow hate to win and take over our hearts.

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New Martyrs Raphael, Nikolaos, Eirini

If that happened, if we let go of love and embraced the hatred, we’d be denying Christ; we’d be losing the real battle, the battle these old and new Christian martyrs died for.

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Hell Is Empty and All the Devils Are Here: a quote from the first act of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Source:  http://www.mullmonastery.com/uncategorized/1714-2014-love-and-hate-not-much-has-changed/ . Read also http://myocn.net/an-orthodox-christian-response-to-beheading-by-muslims/

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“As the world reels from the horrors we have read and talked about since Thursday, our only recourse remains that which is the most powerful: prayer.” (Ryan Hunter)

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“The Muslim threat will not be neutralized, and Muslims will not come to see the falsehood of their own faith, – which, after all, must be our hope and the only real solution to the problem – until and unless the Christians stop appeasing them through their anti-Christian ecumenism and debauchery, demonstrating in their own lives what it is to be a real Christian. The present confrontation between Western ecumenism and Muslim terrorism is providential … a final appeal to the conscience of Western Christians to cast off their indifference and acquire zeal for the one true faith, which is Christianity.” http://www.orthodoxchristianbooks.com/articles/690/islamic-terrorism-western-ecumenism/

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Faces of Freedom, Lives of Courage

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Faces of Freedom, Lives of Courage

By Thomas Sears & Radu Cristea

Faces of Freedom, Lives of Courage is a fragment of communist Romania’s history seen through the unique and shocking experiences of nine individuals. Leontina, a nineteen-year-old student who hides a letter addressed to Radio Free Europe that was thrust into her hands by an acquaintance who was being pursued by the Securitate. This naiveté leads to interrogation, beatings, torture and imprisonment in one of many of Romania’s extermination camps. Razvan, a German professor who, at a great danger to himself, took pictures of the army firing on unarmed, peaceful demonstrators in Cluj Napoca on December 21, 1989. Grigore, a law student after WWII, who was imprisoned by the Securitate in an effort to eliminate “resistance groups,” and beaten and tortured for a year before his official trial, which sentenced him to many years of hard labor. This book provides interviews of those above as well as 6 other individuals whose lives were drastically changed while living under communism and later under the vicious regime of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu.

http://www.amazon.com/Faces-Freedom-Lives-Courage-Thomas/dp/1625103859

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For more information please watch:

(a) the trailer of the book at :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gqX9lSy7Kpg

(b) excerpts of the nine individuals’/prisoners’ interviews—unique and shocking experience at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tTJ88hpG48&index=2&list=PL1H1BhlE_PRnyYShr0KUILeITD474uQHd

(c) Jon R. Kennedy, author, speaker, missionary at large, interview of the authors in Romania at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLRP_dYDb74

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