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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A Man of God

The Portrait of a Spiritual Father

A Man of God, Father Symeon Kragiopoulos, The Theologian and the 'Liturgical' Being

In Memoriam

+ Father Symeon Kragiopoulos

“It is with some trepidation that I set pen to paper to record -what? What can one write about a personality whose holiness and spiritual wisdom stretched over many decades, who was shepherd to thousands of souls, saving them from destruction and bringing them into ‘a place of verdure’? About the comforter, the advisor, the father, the refuge of every soul in pain and every confused thought? About the last person who walked and strove in the ascetic life with the holy fathers whom God was pleased to give our generation, those who died to live, because, in living they were dead to the world. ‘so that the world may live’ through Christ, to Whom he brought it through his way of life, his teaching and his prayers? What can one say about a man who rivalled Saint Païsios in his humility, Saint Porfyrios in his discernment, Father Sophrony in his wisdom and Elder Iakovos in his love?

Considering all the above, when I was asked by the spiritual children and heirs to the holy legacy of Elder Symeon to write something In Memoriam, I initially declined for fear that I would not be able to paint a proper picture of him in words, that I would diminish his spiritual stature by not being able to render, even faintly, what the late father really was. What only made me agree to write was the fact that I’d known him for almost half a century and that our relationship was not merely one of spiritual fatherhood, but also one of close friendship. So, with the proviso that I will mention only my personal experiences,  let me begin. (*)

A Man of God

In September of 1969, I’d just taken up a position at the University of Thessaloniki. I visited the Pournaras bookshop, which was at that time not merely a place for selling books but somewhere where colleagues could meet. It was a reference point, you might say. Browsing through the new books spread out on the counter, I heard someone ask Panayiotis Pournaras. ‘I’ve heard that there’s a new professor at the university. A Mister Galitis. Do you know him?’ I turned and saw a pleasant-looking figure, a priest with a red beard, a tranquil look about him, kindly eyes and a bright smile, just at the moment when Panayiotis was pointing to me, ready to make introductions. We chatted for a while and I was impressed by his interest in the new books and also by how well he was up in theological matters. He was following the current theological situation, which was hardly common among priests dedicated to their pastoral work.

I saw Fr. Symeon shortly afterwards at the headquarters of the Metropolis. He’d been appointed a member of the Supervisory Committee of the Seminary, where he’d been Director. The Chairman of the Supervisory Committee, a highly placed cleric, with all the exuberance he could command behaved towards Fr. Symeon with excessive familiarity, with his teasing and slightly ironic and disdainful manner, which made me, at least, feel awkward.  But Fr. Symeon was undisturbed and behaved like an ‘altar-boy’. He made an obeisance and remained silent. My discomfort then became admiration for the wonder of humility.

The Theologian and the ‘Liturgical’ Being

Fr. Symeon’s office in Saint Theodora’s was in the right wing, on the first floor. He asked me to visit him there, which I often did, most gladly. He came to my office, too, but not so often because he couldn’t leave the School much. I recall with nostalgia our long discussions on spiritual, theological and ecclesiastical matters. He was a profound anatomist of the soul and, at the same time, an erudite theologian with rare learning, which he was always trying to increase. He discussed well, had a clear mind, breadth of spirit and a particular sharpness. He would grasp a subject quickly and was comfortable even talking about secular education.

Later, he began vigils at Saint Theodora’s. At one of these he had the joy of tonsuring one of his spiritual children. Fr. Symeon was the person who introduced this new form of vigil, which did not last all night, but covered two or three hours before midnight, and about an hour after, with a half-hour homily. In this way, people who were working and couldn’t get to a liturgy in the morning and for whom an all-night vigil would have been too much had the chance to participate in liturgical life. This practice found many admirers and is now popular in many parts of Greece and abroad.

Every liturgy Fr. Symeon served was a real and literal initiation into the sacrament. It was solemn, neither drawn out nor hurried, without highlights, but not monotonous. At first, he didn’t have chanters. Anybody who could would do their bit. Even I chanted on occasion. These first impromptu chanters usually sang poorly and this created the impression that Fr. Symeon actually wanted this: low profile, no special effects. This would encourage contrition. A friend of mine told me off once when I departed from this ‘rule’.  But soon proper chanters began to appear and the cultivation of music became part of the whole training the people acquired by being close to the blessed Elder.

*

At church … twice as healed

At church, man is freed from the demonic influence

and the traps the devil sets.

At church, man is healed.

These are not just words. It’s the truth.

The sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick

is for the healing of our illnesses.

If we are not healed,

we don’t need to be healed,

that’s why we aren’t.

If you take it this way, you are already healed.

You know very well that an illness which lingers

and doesn’t go is precious.

Whatever needs to go, God will take away.

Whatever doesn’t need to stay, God will take away

be it an illness or demonic influence.

And for whatever stays on and hurts us

we pray to God.

We should pray many a time,

time and again should we beg,

not only for deliverance from soul illnesses

and the demonic influence

but also for deliverance from body illnesses, as well.

Let us pray to God for everything time and again.

Not because God needs us to pray to him again and again.

We need to do this again and again,

because, precisely, God wants to see our faith.

Man, especially today,

gets used to something by repeating it,

learns something by reapeating it.

If you pray time and again

–you need to do this–

and God doesn’t relieve you of your illness, know that:

either you have not shown

as much faith as He wants and expects from you,

or that the illness should not go

because it is necessary.

If you take your illness issue according to God,

then, by it remaining,

you feel twice healed.

If He heals you, you are healed once.

If the illness lingers,

you feel healed twice.

Because both when time comes

 will you be healed from your illness

and until the right time comes to be healed

will your soul be healed, too.

Your inner person will be healed,

this person who suffers from illness,

from the leprosis of sin.

The same goes for all mental illness

and whatever else hurts us.

If man sees all his issues

within the providence of God,

he will feel such a relief,

as if all his problems are solved.

Because in God

all is resolved!

Holy Hesychasterion “The Nativity of Theotokos” Publications.

Archimandrite Symeon Kragiopoulos

 

 (*) This tribute was written by Professor Georgios Ant. Galitis and offered to the faithful in the Holy Trinity Monastery, Panorama, at the end of the 6 months Memorial Service for Fr. Symeon. The poetry/homilies excerpts are from orthodox path.org

(To be continued)

 

Beating Christmas (and Life) Blues

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“My God, I cannot ‘stand’ your Love, because It is Immense and there is no place for It in my small heart ” (Translation of the scroll)

  1. Blessed are those who love Christ more than all the worldly things and live far from the world and near God, with heavenly joys upon the earth.

  2. Blessed are those who manage to live in obscu­rity and acquired great virtues but did not acquire even a small name for themselves.

  3. Blessed are those who manage to act the fool and, in this way, protected their spiritual wealth 

 

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4. Blessed are those who do not preach the Gospel with words, but live it and preach it with their silence, with the Grace of God, which betrays them.

  5. Blessed are those who rejoice when unjustly ac­cused, rather than when they are justly praised for their virtuous life. Here are the signs of holiness, not in the dry exertion of bodily asceticism and the great number of struggles, which, when not carried out with humility and the aim to take off the old man, create only illusions.

  6. Blessed are those who prefer to be wronged rather than to wrong others and accept serenely and silently injustices. In this way, they reveal in practice that they believe in “one God, the Father Almighty” and expect to be vindicated by Him and not by human beings who repay in this life with vanity.
 

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7. Blessed are those who have been born crippled or became so due to their own carelessness, yet do not grumble but glorify God. They will hold the best place in Paradise along with the Confessors and Martyrs, who gave their hands and feet for the love of Christ and now constantly kiss with devoutness the hands and feet of Christ in Paradise.

  8. Blessed are those who were born ugly and are de­spised here on earth, because they are entitled to the most beautiful place in Paradise, provided they glorify God and do not grumble.

  9. Blessed are those widows who wear black in this life, even unwillingly, but live a white spiritual life and glorify God without complaining, rather than the mis­erable ones who wear assorted clothes and live a spot­ted life.

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10. Blessed and thrice blessed are the orphans who have been deprived of their parents’ great affection, for they managed to have God as their Father already from this life. At the same time, they have the affection they were deprived of from their parents in God’s savings bank “with interest”.

  11. Blessed are those parents who avoid the use of the word “don’t” with their children, instead restraining them from evil through their holy life – a life which chil­dren imitate, joyfully following Christ with spiritual bravery.

  12. Blessed are those children who have been born “from their mother’s womb”(Mt. 19:12) holy, but even more blessed are those who were born with all the inherited passions of the world, struggled with sweat and up­rooted them and inherited the Kingdom of God in the sweat of their face (Cf. Gen. 3:19).

 

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13. Blessed are those children who lived from in­fancy in a spiritual environment and, thus, tirelessly ad­vanced in the spiritual life.

Thrice blessed, however, are the mistreated ones who were not helped at all (on the contrary, they were pushed towards evil), but as soon as they heard of Christ, their eyes glistened, and with a one hundred and eighty degree turn they suddenly made their soul to shine as well. They departed from the attraction of earth and moved into the spiritual sphere.

  14. Fortunate, worldly people say, are the astronauts who are able to spin in the air, orbit the moon or even walk on the moon.

Blessed, however, are the immaterial “Paradise-nauts”, who ascend often to God and travel about Paradise, their place of permanent abode, with the quickest of means and without much fuel, besides one crust of bread.

15. Blessed are those who glorify God for the moon that glimmers that they might walk at night.

More blessed, however, are those who have come to understand that neither the light of the moon is of the moon, nor the spiritual light of their soul of them­selves, but both are of God. Whether they can shine like a mirror, a pane of glass or the lid of a tin can, if the rays of the sun do not fall on them, it is impossible for them to shine.

 

 

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16. Fortunate, worldly people tell us, are those who live in crystal palaces and have all kinds of conven­iences.

Blessed, however, are those who have managed to sim­plify their life and become liberated from the web of this world’s development of numerous conveniences (i.e. many inconveniences), and were released from the frightening stress of our present age.

 

 17. Fortunate, worldly people say, are those who can enjoy the goods of the world.

Blessed, however, are those who give away every­thing for Christ and are deprived even of every hu­man consolation for Christ. Thus it is that they man­age to be found night and day near Christ and His di­vine consolation, which many times is so much that they say to God: “My God, Thy love cannot be en­dured, for it is great and cannot be fit within my small heart”.

  18. Fortunate, worldly people say, are those who have the greatest jobs and the largest mansions, since they possess all means and live comfortably.

Blessed, however, according to the divine Paul, are those who have but a nest to perch in, a little food and some coverings99• For, in this way, they’ve managed to become estranged from the vain world, using the earth as a footstool, as children of God, and their mind is con­stantly found close to God, their Good Father.

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  19. Fortunate are those who become generals and government ministers in their head by way of heavy drinking (even if just for a few hours), with the world­ly rejoicing over it.

Blessed, however, are those who have put off the old man and have become incorporeal, managing to be earthly angels with the Holy Spirit. They have found Paradise’s divine faucet and drink from it and are con­tinually inebriated from the heavenly wine.

  20. Blessed are those who were born crazy and will be judged as crazy, and, in this way, will enter Paradise without a passport.

Blessed and thrice blessed, however, are the very wise who feign foolishness for the love of Christ and mock all the vanity of the world. This foolishness for Christ’s sake is worth more than all the knowledge and wisdom of the wise of this world.

 

 

I beg all the Sisters to pray for God to give me, or rather take from me my little mind, and, in this way, se­cure Paradise for me by considering me a fool. Or, make me crazy with His love so I go out my self, outside of the earth and its pull, for, otherwise my life as a monk has no meaning. I became externally white as a monk. As I go I become internally black by being a negligent monk, but I justify myself as one unhealthy, when I hap­pen to be so; other times, I excuse myself again for be­ing ill, even though I am well, and so I deserve to be thoroughly thrashed. Pray for me.

 

May Christ and Panagia be with you,

With love of Christ, Your Brother, Monk Paisios

(“Timiou Stavrou”, December 2, 1972).

 

“Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger.
“Woe to you that laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.
“Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did
to the false prophets… (Lk. 6:24-30)
“The Beatitudes” with Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain (Taken from the Elder’ Sixth Epistle

“…

Sister Abbess Philothei, Your blessing,

Today, a kind of craziness took hold of me and I took the pencil, as does the madman who writes his outbursts on the wall with charcoal, and I sat down to write my own things on paper like one crazed, and, again, like a lunatic, to send them to you in writ­ing. I am doing this latter craziness out of much love for my Sisters, that they might be edified, even if only a little.

The reason for the initial craziness was five let­ters, one after the other, from various parts of Greece on a variety of subjects. While the events described were great blessings of Godthose who wrote to me had fallen into despair because they dealt with them in a worldly way. 

After replying accordingly to their letters, I took the pencil like a madman, as I have said, and wrote this epistle. I believe that even a fifty-cent piece from your journeying brother will be something toward a flint for each one of the Sisters so as to light a little candle in her cell and offer her doxology to our Good God.

I feel great joy when every Sister, with her particu­lar cross carries out the equivalent struggle with philo­timo. 

It is a small thing to give to Christ a heart equal in size and as luminous as the sun out of gratitude for His great gifts, and especially for the particular honour He showed us monks by conscripting us with personal sum­mons to His Angelic Order.

A great honour also belongs to the parents who were thus made worthy of becoming related to God. Unfor­tunately, however, most parents do not realize this and, instead of being grateful to God, are infuriated etc., for they see everything in a worldly way, like those people I mentioned earlier, who became the reason for me to take the pencil and write everything that follows. …”

 

 

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