It is Your Turn Now!

 Happy New Church Year! New Beginning Wishes from Cephallonia, a Story of Repentance, a Rumi Sufi poem, a robin singing and the little city hermit’s name day  ☺️

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Myrtos Beach

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Monastery of Agios Gerassimos

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Fiskardo, Kefalonia

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It Is Your Turn Now!

Transform your inner pearl.

It is your turn now,

You waited, you were patient.

The time has come,

For us to polish you.

We will transform your inner pearl

Into a house of fire.

You’re a gold mine.

Did you know that,

Hidden in the dirt of the earth?

It is your turn now,

To be placed in fire.

Let us cremate your impurities.

By Rumi

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A Story of Repentance

We knew virtually nothing…I had come to make my confession for the first time in my life. Shortly beforehand I had become a Christian by the grace of God. I had no deeper knowledge either of Christianity or of the church – who could have taught me? I and my newly-converted girl friend, both in the same position, learned what to do by imitating our old women, who zealously preserved the Orthodox faith and practices. We didn’t know anything. But we had something which in our day should perhaps be treasured more than knowledge: a boundless trust in the church, belief in all its words, in every movement and demand. Only yesterday we had rejected all authority and all norms. Today we understood the deliverance that we had experienced as a miracle. We regarded our church as the indubitable, absolute truth, in minor matters just as much as in its main concern. God has changed us and given us childhood: ‘Unless you become as children, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.’

I only knew that it was necessary to go to confession and to communion. I knew that both confession and communion were high sacraments which reconcile us with God and even unite us with him, really unite us with him in all fullness, both physical and spiritual. I was formally baptized by my unbelieving parents as a child. Whether they did that out of tradition or whether someone had persuaded them to do it, I never discovered from their explanations. Now at the age of twenty-six I had decided to renew the grace of baptism.

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Like a hardened crust

I knew that the priest himself – the well-known confessor Father Hermogen – would ask me questions and guide my confession. Then the day before I read a little booklet in order to prepare myself for confession, I discovered that I had transgressed all the commandments of the Old and New Testaments. But quite independently of that it was clear to me that the while of my life was full of sins of the most varied kind, of transgressions and unnatural forms of behavior. They now pursued me and tormented me after my conversion, and lay like a heavy burden on my soul. How could I have not seen earlier how abhorrent and stupid, how boring and sterile sin is? From my childhood my eyes had been blindfolded in some way. I longed to make my confession because I already felt with my innermost being that I would receive liberation, that the new person which I had recently discovered within myself would be completely victorious and drive out the old person. For every moment after my conversion I felt inwardly healed and renewed, but at the same time it was as though I was somehow covered with a crust of sin which had grown around me and had become hard. So I to longed for penance, as if for a wash. And I recalled the marvellous words of the Psalm which I had recently learned by heart: ‘Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me and I shall be whiter than snow.’

 

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The experience of a miracle

And so my turn came. I went up, and kissed the gospel and the cross. Of course because I felt dismay and apprehension, I was afraid to say that I was confessing for the first time. Father Hermogen began by asking,

‘When did you last fail to go to church? What festivals have you deliberately neglected?’

‘All of them,’ I replied.

Then Father Hermogen knew that he was dealing with a new convert. In recent times new converts have come into the Russian church in large numbers, and they have to be treated in a different way.

He began by asking about the most terrible, the ‘greatest’ sins in my life, and I had to tell him my whole biography: a life based on pride and a quest for praise, on arrogant contempt for other people. I told him about my drunkenness and my sexual excesses, my unhappy marriages, the abortions and my inability to love anyone. I also told him about the next period of my life, my preoccupation with yoga and my desire for ‘self-fulfillment’, for becoming God, without love and without penitence. I spoke for a long time, though I also found it difficult. My shame got in the way and tears took away my breath. At the end I said almost automatically: ‘I want to suffer for all my sins, and be purged at least a little from them. Please give me absolution.’

Father Hermogen listened to me attentively, and hardly interrupted. Then he sighed deeply and said, ‘Yes, they are grave sins.’

I was given absolution by the grace of God: very easily, it seemed to me: for the space of several years I was to say five times a day the prayer ‘Virgin and Mother of God, rejoice’, each time with a deep prostration to the ground.

This absolution was a great support to me through all the following years. Our sins (the life of my newly-converted friend was hardly different from my own) somehow seemed to us to be so enormous that we found it hard to believe that they could disappear so simply, with the wave of a priest’s hand. But we had already had a miraculous experience: from the nothingness of a meaningless existence bordering on desperation we had come into the Father’s house, into the church, which for us was paradise. We knew that with God anything is possible. That helped us to believe that confession did away with sin. And the starets also said, ‘Don’t think about it again. You have confessed and that is enough. If you keep thinking about it you are only sinning all over again.’ (Tatiana Goricheva, a member of the “intelligentsia” and a Soviet-era dissident, Talking About God Is Dangerous)

Repentance and the Orthodox Sacrament of Confession

It Is Your Turn Now! 

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“It is later than you think! Hasten, therefore, to do the work of God.”

+ Fr. Seraphim Rose, Fr. Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works

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“When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.” (The Alchemist)

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Happy New Year!

* September 1st is the start of a new liturgical in the Orthodox Church

and

the little city hermit‘s name day 😊 

 

 

 

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Simplicity, the Ultimate Sophistication

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Leonardo da Vinci. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
In Paulo Coelho’s brilliant little book, The Alchemist, the author tells of a young lad sent by his father to a wise man to discover the secret of happiness. The wise man lived in a magnificent, faraway castle complete with sweet music, beautiful artwork, delicious food, and sprawling gardens. It was a wonder of the world. After a long journey to the castle and waiting for hours to speak to the sage, the boy finally gained an audience. The wise man listened to the boy’s explanation for his visit, then answered, “I do not have time to reveal the secret of happiness to you.” Instead, he handed the boy a teaspoon with two tiny drops of oil in it, and instructed him to wander around the castle for two hours without spilling the oil.

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The lad did as instructed, carefully climbing the high stairwells and creeping down the long hallways of the palace, his eyes always fixed on the teaspoon. When he returned to the wise man, he was asked, “Did you see my Persian tapestries, my extravagant gardens, my parchments in the library?” Embarrassed, the boy replied that he had not. He had been focused solely on the drops of oil in the spoon. With this confession the boy was sent back to tour the castle, and this time he focused all his attention on the beauty that surrounded him. He returned to the wise man with excitement, thrilled at all he had seen. The wise man then asked, “And where are the two drops of oil I gave you?”

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The boy realized that he had spilt them along the way. The wise man then revealed his “secret” to happiness: “Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.” This parabolic story calls for a much needed balance: Joy is the product of being in tune with the world around us, while caring for the few precious things we have been given to carry on our journey. We cannot ignore the realities of our surroundings, and we cannot ignore our personal responsibilities.

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But the real brains of Coelho’s story is that the wise man gave the boy only two drops to carry in his spoon; not a quart of oil, not a five-gallon bucket full, and certainly not a heavy, back-breaking tank of the stuff. It was only a couple of drops, revealing that happiness is maintained by keeping our personal load as light as possible. Do you want to be happy? Lighten your load and simplify your life. The most deeply spiritual thing that some of us could do is have a garage sale. Purge our calendars. Resign from a few of our many activities. Our unhappiness isn’t related to a poor prayer life, the lack of reading the Scriptures, or going to church too little.

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We are carrying too much baggage. We are trying to manage too much stuff. We have too many possessions, too many obligations, and too many batons juggling in the air. This is an unqualified recipe for misery. Because all of these weights and concerns of life — most of which we have assumed (they haven’t been put upon us by anyone else) — are choking out any real chance at being happy, as we simply cannot carry our self-loaded burdens or lift our heads to see the beauty around us.

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None of us can live our lives, worship our God, enjoy our world, or take care of those who have been given to us to love (these are the few, priceless drops in the spoon by the way), if we are constantly looking at our own shoelaces, burdened with ourselves and our many concerns. Thus, when we simplify, we are doing much more than getting rid of physical possessions or conserving our precious time. We are sharpening our emotional focus; we are making spiritual space. We are choosing to be happy. Happiness, after all, is an intentional choice, and it is the wisest choice of all.

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“The Wisdom of Simplicity” by Ronnie McBrayer at http://www.wilsoncountynews.com/article.php?id=50850&n=keeping-faith-ronnie-mcbrayer-keeping-faith-wisdom-simplicity