Saint Paisios on the Arena of Great Lent

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St. Paisios: “A layman once went to a monastery in the beginning of Lent and a certain monk there was abrupt and rough to him. However, the poor man had good thoughts and justified him. He later came to me and said:
 
‘I do not blame him, Father. After all, he had just completed the Three Day Fast!’ (1)
 
If this monk had done the Three Day Fast in a spiritual way, he would have had a spiritual sweetness and would have spoken to the layman with kindness. But he pushed himself egotistically to do the Three Day Fast, and so he blamed everybody for everything.”
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A nun: Elder, what should I reflect on during Great Lent?

St. Paisios: You should reflect on the Passion, the Sacrifice of Christ.
 
During Great Lent, we are given a greater opportunity  to struggle and participate more intensely in the Saving Passion of Christ: 
with our repentance and prostrations;
with the cutting off of our passions;
with a reduction of our food intake.
For the love of Christ.
Another nun: Elder, how can I struggle more with temperance during Lent?
 St. Paisios: Now, during Lent, those in the world take greater care to cultivate temperance, but we monks must always be careful. What is more important, though, is to be careful with the passions of the soul and then the body’s. Because if one prioritizes bodily asceticism over them and does not struggle to eradicate the passions of the soul, he will accomplish  nothing.
 
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We must make use, as much as we can, of all the opportunities this spiritual arena offers to us, in order to approach closer to the Crucified Christ. Then, we will helped by Him and rejoice spiritually at His Holy Resurrection , since we would have experienced more spiritually Great Lent.
 
Ι pray that God gives you strength during Great Lent, so that you may climb Golgotha and be near Christ there, together with the Theotokos and your patron Saint, John the Theologian, and that you may be granted worthy to participate in the awesome Passion of our Lord. Amen.
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(1) The Three Day Fast (Ιερὸ Τριήμερο)With Clean Monday begins Great Lent in the Orthodox Church and marks the end of feasting. Clean Monday is called as such because Christians are called to cleanse themselves spiritually and bodily. It is also a day of strict fasting with no work. The holy fast has a duration of 40 days in imitation of our Lord’s fast in the desert. Strictly observant Orthodox hold this day (and also Clean Tuesday and Wednesday) as a strict fast day, on which no solid food at all is eaten. Others will eat only in the evening, and then only ‘xerophagy’ (lit. “dry eating”; i.e. eating uncooked foodstuffs such as fruit, nuts, halva, bread and honey, etc). For those who are able and willing, and always with the blessing of their spiritual father, it is encouraged by the Orthodox Church to keep a three day strict fast where neither food or water (if possible) is consumed until Clean Wednesday when one partakes of Holy Communion at the Pre-Sanctified Liturgy. Some of the strictest faithful even go so far as to do this for the entire Clean Week, accepting only Holy Communion during the week. This is an excellent way to mark the beginning of a holy struggle against one’s passions and weaknesses.

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From the sixth volume of the series ‘Spiritual Counsels of the Elder Paisios of Mount Athos’: About Prayer.
Γέροντος Παϊσίου Αγιορείτου Λόγοι ΣΤ΄ «Περί Προσευχής», εκδόσεις Ιερόν Ησυχαστήριον «Ευαγγελιστής Ιωάννης ο Θεολόγος» Σουρωτή Θεσσαλονίκης 2012, σελ. 199-200. 
Transl. by the little city hermit
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Saint Paisios and the Boiled Milk during Great Lent

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Have a good Lent everyone!

Kαλή Σαρακοστή!

At Panagouda, the Cell of Elder Paisios.
An instructive story about fasting.
There are two visitors from Thessaloniki. They stand, leaning on the chestnut tree. Both in their fifties, pale and cantankerous. They seem to be from a ‘quasi/pseudo-ecclesiastical’ (1) organisation, because they are looking reproachfully at the Elder, and are making comments to each other quietly.
The children are playing, making noise – at which Paisios turns and says quietly:
“Do not make noise, because beside here, beneath the earth (2), Americans are hidden and we will wake them, and they will come to interrupt our silence.”
The children stop, and instantly become silent, puzzled.
At the opposite end, John is leaning sideways against the rock, atop his sack. He is lighting a cigarette. The two visitors, who appear to be harsh pietists, continue to look at the Elder with disapproval as he is boiling milk and is taking care not to spill it over. One of them can’t stand it anymore and turns to the monk:
“Elder Paisios, we are in the first days of Great Lent, we have a strict fast, and you are boiling milk to drink?”
The Elder is silent. He does not respond. He grabs the pot and lowers it, since the milk is boiled. He then goes into his Cell, brings six small, old china cups, puts them next to each other, and carefully pours the milk into each one. He waits a bit for it to cool off, while everyone looks at him with amazement and silence. The two pietists observe this with disgust, thinking that since there are six visitors and six cups, perhaps the monk will dare to offer even to them milk, during these strict days of the fast.
Elder Paisios takes the full cups one by one, places them on a wooden tray, and carries them seven meters away, where he places them down on the dirt, at the edge of a bush.
He places them there in order, then he comes, sits next to us, and begins to do something with his mouth silently, an eery whistling, while looking towards the bushes. Not a few moments pass, and over there, from the bushes, comes out a viper, very carefully, with five small snakes  – her children. I hold my breath.
The snakes are coming, all of them approaching, one by one, slithering, passing right next to us, and they go slowly to the cups, and begin drinking calmly, slurping their morning milk …
By George Skambardonis 
Πηγή: ΓΙΩΡΓΟΥ ΣΚΑΜΠΑΡΔΩΝΗ, Επί ψύλλου κρεμάμενος (Κέδρος 2003)
(1) For more information about such organisations in Greece and the charges against their “Westernizing” of Orthodox Christianity and their “Pietisticism” go here and/or study Kallistos Ware ‘s (Bishop of Diokleia) analysis in his book The Orthodox Church, here 
(2) A reference in jest to the two hemispheres of the Earth, where Greece is apprarently “upside-down” to the United States, so that when Greek people are awake and at work, Americans are fast asleep, and our noise might wake them up 🙂
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