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Between priest and psychologist

As we Romanians have as habit, we accept almost everything that’s “new” from outside the country, without filtering things with our own mind, and so gains roots in our country the trend to go to a psychologist, or to family planning, or somewhere else.

The doubt that makes us swing between going to a psychologist or going to a priest is powered by faith and awareness of the existence of the sin. If you have them, you incline to go to a priest; if you don’t, you will go to a psychologist, because the latter will never bother your from the convenience of making sins; the psychologist won’t make any reference to them, as they even don’t exist. And after all, isn’t it easier to sit on an armchair to a conversation than in your knees in front of the priest….?

Apparently, the priest and the psychologist have many common points, serving the same cause towards us: bringing the human soul to a state of equilibrium, harmony or counsel in life situations. In reality, I consider (without diminishing the utility of psychology as a science) that there is a huge gap between the two for several reasons.

The relationship between the priest and their spiritual son is very intimate, more intimate than someone with his best friend, and this intimacy is given by the Holy Mistery of Confession and because this relationship projects towards eternity, opposite to the relationship between the psychologist and the patient that is, after all, a commercial one… I pay to get better and it only helps until the you die, in the best case.

The relation with the my spiritual father is permanent, because of his prayer towards God for me, that protects me as an umbrella from the rains of deceiving, and for my prayers towards God for him, but with the psychologist all the interaction is resumed to the time spent in a session at his office.

The priest, through God’s grace, treats the effects but also the causes of the sufferance, the causes of the commotion, and all kind of unbalances, which come sins, while in psychology doesn’t exist the term “sin” and the treating the causes of this problems becomes relative.

The priest treats the human as the image of God, while the psychologist treats the human as biological being , as an animal. In psychology works the human but in the priest works God, because the priest is a mediator of God and from Him we receive the real treatment for getting cured, while the treatment of the psychologist is of material (medicine) and human nature. And, as a human, the psychologist can’t help himself sometimes so he can less help others.

And maybe the most overwhelming difference is that the psychologist doesn’t mediate the descent of God’s grace in order to clean all my sins and to receive power to be free of the old me.

Every time I leave my priest after confession I’m “flying like a butterfly” of joy, full of hope and spiritual relief, feeling reborn. I want to hear someone that leaves like this after at least one of ten sessions at the psychologist.

All these things that we receive from God through our priest can’t be found anywhere else, we can’t buy them, we don’t receive them on social reasons or anything else, but they are the love of the Shepherd for the lost sheep, the love of Christ toward the fallen humanity.

(Dan)

God’s grace and the electrical current

Ever since I’m going to Church, I often hear that God is in us, or that He is our life. Long time I did not understand what does this mean. Our Savior explains us in His Gospel:

 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing ”   (John 15, 5)

 St. Paul reinforces this truth by saying: “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil His good purpose.”  (Philippians 2, 13)

What seems hard to understand is how Christ may live in me, how can God be in my body and soul? Here’s how St. Paul explains this: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me”. (Galatians 2, 20) The Scripture says it very clear: God is within us and without Him we cannot do anything.

St. Gregory Palama said we carry in our soul Gods uncreated energies, and that these energies cannot be separated from Him; therefore God is there, where the energies that come from Him are. The Orthodox Dogmatic Theology tells us the same thing: God is in us and we do everything through Him.
In theory I understand this, but practically, much too little.

Let’s think about how electricity works! Today in the super-tech society we live in, everything needs electricity. Big cities consume huge amounts of energy. Factories, offices, shops, stores and our homes are all built to be able to make use of electric power. Today we drink bottled water, produced with the help of electricity, just like food, the heat in our homes, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the hospitals; everything is produced by industrial machines powered by electricity.

Think about it: Any electrical device has everything it needs to operate, all the physical components are present; it’s not missing any parts, everything is in its place, yet without being connected to a power source, it does not work. But when electrical current passes through the device, then, suddenly, it starts working. Something not visible to the human eye must bring the “visible” parts in this device to move.

An external energy is required in order for any electrical device to function properly. Even though it’s the same electrical current, which passes through all kinds of devices, the effects are quite different: when passing through a light bulb, it creates electricity, when passing through a monitor, it displays an image, when passing through an electric heater, it provides heat, when passing through an electric car, it sets the car in motion, etc. It’s the same power, but with totally different results.

Electricity is converted into heat, light, motion, etc. Each electrical device gives the electric current, by the way it was built, a new form. The device absorbs the energy and transforms it into a specific and unique result.

God’s grace works in a similar way in us. We have all the organs to be able to live, we are not lacking anything, but still, a man without his spirit (his soul), when he dies, he is “disconnected” from the power source and stops “functioning”.

We all receive the same grace from God, we all receive the same energy, but the result of our actions is unique, is different from man to man. Each of us is different and, through God’s grace, shows his love differently, lives differently.

God is in us and works within us, not without our will, not automatically but just like electricity that passes through a device. The result depends only on the characteristics of the device and how it handles that current.

God is in us through His grace and gives us life, but the result of our actions depends only on our will, on how we live our life, on the way we co-operate with His grace.

Whether we realize it or not, God is in us, He is our life.

The devices that function with electricity are called electrical devices; they were built to use this kind of energy and only by using it, they will achieve the purpose for which they were created.

The same goes for us, we were created in the image and likeness of God, because we live only by His grace and only through Him we will fulfill the purpose for which we were created: deification.

(Claudiu)

The role of evening prayer

It happens often that we make our evening prayer in a sleepy mood when our thoughts are scattered in the little things of the day and also in the worryes of tomorrow. Thus, our prayer is difficult, without strength, without depth, with the sense of obligation to God, that is  with “a typical prayer not involving the heart”, as was saying father Arsenie Papacioc.

All these feelings are the effects of neglecting the evening prayer. But from all this negligence of prayer we suffer during the night temptations of all kind: dirty dreams, nightmares, thoughts of blasfemy, vain imaginations and others.

The sleep that brings temptation during the night is a sleep that wearies the soul in its spiritual struggle, a sleep that tires the mind instead of clearing it, a sleep that irritates and creates discomfort for the next day; but a clean sleep, free from temptations, is always a good night’s sleep for the body and especially for the soul. By sleeping, the body restores its reserves of energy necessary for daily activities (work, school, home and children care) and the soul restores its will to resist the temptations of the day. From these points of view the evening prayer is extremely important for our life and and especially for our spiritual growth.

But which are the causes of neglecting the evening prayer? They are the same as those that got us sick of a lukewarm Cristianity, when we are in times of peace and plenty: convenience and life’s pleasures. And life’s pleasures that suppres the evening prayer are as follows:

a) computer and television in excess

b) excess of food (glottony), especially at late hours

c) night outs with our friends until (too) late hours.

All these excesses consume stealthily the resourses needed for our spiritual life so that with the end of the day we also end the vigil of our senses, although senses are tempted including at night.  Not for nothing divine Paul urged us to pray whitout ceasing because, among other things, continuously prayer is the constant guard of the senses, so the extemption from falls.

But there are also other kind of temptations from Satan to trick us and to neglect the evening prayer such as reading spiritual books util our exhaustion, to the detriment of prayer. This is a temptation from the right side because when our tempter sees that he cannot overcome us with the life’s pleasures, he overcomes us with the intemperate zeal for the holy things.

Saint Barsanuphius, “Is it well to insist in the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ have pity on me” or is better to read the Holy Scripture and to say Psalms? It must be both done, a liitle bit from the first and a little bit from the second because it is written: “You must make this and not let the other one”.”

There are also other reasons for which the evening prayer is neglected such as hard work or the care for the children, but these reasons, if they are substantiated, are not harmful to the soul, with the condition that the work and the children care to be accompanied by prayer, with all our effort. However, even if we are tired, an evening prayer how small means very much to God.

Here are some tips that can avoid neglecting the evening prayer:

a) an orderly life program, with a sleep hour that doesn’t vary much from day to day;

b) the last meal of the day must not be taken very late, but earlier, so that our thougths will not stop in the stomach and that the body’s drowsiness will not banish the spiritual desire;

c) moderation in household things;

d) beginning the evening prayer before the installation of the first signs of fatigue.

Finally, the evening prayer is the best opportunity to learn the self-examination, by thinking of all the thoughts, the words and the deeds during the day. So we are better aware of what we have done right and wrong, but also what we could have done right and we didn’t done it. As a consequence of this research, the evening prayer is a mean of reconciliation with God for all the evil things of the day, for which we became aware as a result of our research, and also to leave ourselves in the care of God during the night.

Then, the evening prayer is a mean “to counter” to God all men with which we had to do during the day: praying for the lightning and forgivness of those that we have seen in sin, pray for the deliverness of those that we have seen in the need, and pray for the perseverence in good of those who are rightneouss to God. So the evening prayer is also a way of secret communion with all people.

Saint Barsanuphius tells us that: “Who prays for other wins for himself because he makes an act of love and increses within it rising to a higher state. Then he also prays for himself because for the very fact that he prays, he connects with God from Whom come the goodness and the power. So praying continuously for other you are also praying continously for you, and how many are capable to do this? Then who can have them always in mind all continuously? But the accomplished one can have virtually everyone in his mind. In any case the prayer of someone for another unites him with the other in his mind. Thus the prayer is a way of union between the people because it is a mean of union between them.”

It is necessary to realize that by neglecting the evening prayer we are putting a big obstacle in the acquisition of ceaseless prayer. And who feels that is not increasing spiritually , must examine carefully and see if he made a habit from neglecting the prayer and especially the evening prayer.

But who is accustomed with the evening prayer, gets to know in time also the sweetness of the midnight prayer and becomes worthy also of the lightning of its mind through meditation on holy things during the night vigil.

   

Each Christian shall stay piously before the Saints

As distant is the sky from the earth, as much we, the sinners, are competed by the Saints that are pleasant to God; they are celestial beings – we are earthly ones; they are saints – we are full of our many sins; they loved God from all their heart, with all their strength, hating themselves and the world – we love ourselves and the world with an extreme passion; we love all its things that loose the souls and are adversary with God; they acquired a celestial mind, a celestial heart, a celestial will, catching love for God’s will and defeating their own will, bodily, broken, damaging – we were earthly and trashed our mind, heart and will, all our impulses and inclinations from our souls.

For these reasons, each Christian must stay piously before the Saints, to honor them with the honor that they deserve and with which God Himself glorified them as worthy and try to follow their life and faith; because remembering their ardent love for God and for the neighbor, his heart to fill with ardent love and living hope, to aspire always for there where it is the eternal Love, that loves all, where is the eternal Truth and the Holiness, there where it is eternal life and eternal doxology and eternal joy of the saints.

In the church the saints named in the Liturgy are painted on the icons; the ones that were the messengers and prophets of our faith; the ones that sealed the truth and the saving gift of our faith with their blood, with countless tortures and death, with great labors, with fasting and prayer and which pray boldly to God for us – eternal witnesses of the faith’s truth and of its power to give life in the greatest tortures and under the threat of death, forever steadfast pillars of the Church around which they fly walls of prayers, the glory and the ornaments of the Church.

Why do people yell at each other especially when they argue?

One day, an elder put this question to his disciples:

– Why do people yell when they argue?

– We are yelling because we are losing our temper, said one of them.

– But why scream when the other person is right next to you? – Ask the wiseman again.

Well, we yell to make sure that we hear each other, tried the other disciple.

He asked again:

-However, couldn’t we talk more slowly, with a more quite voice?

None of the responses received did not satisfy the elder. Then he gave them the answer:

– Do you know why we yell at each other when we are angry? The truth is that when two people argue, their hearts distances greatly. To cover this distance, they have to shout, to be able to hear each other. The more angry, the bigger the distance -they need to speak much lauder .

On the other hand, what happens when two beings are in love? They do not scream at all.They speak slowly, gently. Why? Because their hearts are very close.The distance between them is very small. Sometimes, their hearts are so close that they don’t  even speak, only whisper.

And when love is even more intense, there is no need to even whisper, it takes only a look and their hearts know. This is what  happens when two beings love each other, their hearts are close.

If God exists, why does nobody have seen Him ?

This question is a trap but it is meant to begin a timeless debate: if God exists, why does nobody have seen Him? Why can I not see Him right now? Although I know He helps me and He is always besides me, although I feel how He often interferes in my life many times a day, anyway I cannot see Him. There were times when many peoples had seen God and spoke with Him.

In the beginning, Adam and Eve talked with God face to face in the way we speak with our loved ones, and they were always enjoying His presence. But being tempted by the devil, they fell in the proud, thinking that they would be like God if they would eat from the tree of good and evil. God had warned them before, if they taste from that tree, they would die. Once they sinned, the following happened:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” ” (Ge 3, 6-11)

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Why does God work in mysterious ways?

Saint Apostle Paul said: “Who has known the mind of Lord or who has been his counselor?” and folk wisdom reinforces this statement by saying: “God works in mysterious ways.” His “ways” refers to his thoughts on us, in fact his plans about our future; they are “mysterious” because they are confusing and very difficult for our minds to comprehend.

We all have asked God, at one time or another, to give us something and He, although we really wanted it, gave us something else instead. There are cases when we don’t get what we want because we desire wrong things. But how can you know if what you ask for is good or bad?

One of the conditions is that what we ask for us to have positive effects for those around us. Our demands should be beneficial for our family, our friends and the society in which we live.

God has a plan with each of us, but God’s plan for me is very much connected to his plan for the people around me. That is the reason we sometimes wonder why we get into certain situations, near certain people in certain places … It happens because God is taking us in a certain place to be useful to others more than to ourselves.

Everything happens for a reason. The Saints say that all people who come into our lives are sent by God to change us, help us love God more.

But there is one more very important thing to mention: God does all these things taking our choices into consideration. Our freedom does not hinder God’s freedom. That is, our freedom to choose does not prevent God from fulfilling His plan. How is this possible? Because God has the solution for every problem, and no matter how many bad choices we make, He will always try to give us a way out of trouble. His solutions come to us often through the people that He sends into our lives.

I strongly believe in the fact that everything happens for a reason, nothing is random! The person who passed me by on the street at 09.45 in the morning, the car waiting at the traffic lights, the roommate I had in college, the math teacher … they are all part of a plan, the great plan of salvation.

I must confess that, at this point in my life, I do not understand God’s plan with me and my family. I’ve seen so much, I had so many plans and so many thoughts about the future but often life took another turn. I am telling you honestly that I do not understand His plan for me.

When God makes a decision, He makes it in such a way that He may reconcile everyone at once. I ask Him for something, you ask Him for something else…. Think about it, there are tens and hundreds of thousands of people who ask God for something. Certainly some of the demands and desires overlap; on the other hand, there are demands and wishes that damage or hurt the wishes of others. Thus God acts as a mediator between our thoughts and our future plans.

Think about the fact that God’s decisions for us are connected not only to the decisions of the members of our present society but also to the lives of people who died and the lives of the people who are yet to be born. Why? Because our choices affect the future of our descendants and our prayers help the people who passed away and are in hell.

That being told, God’s plan for me is related to the plan He had for my ancestors and to the plan He has for my children and my grandchildren, who are yet to be born. Everything is thought through by God, so that all men have the chance to know the truth and be saved.

The conclusion is as simple as this: when you are angry and do not understand why God does not help, or why He will not change your life like you asked Him, remember that your life is closely linked to that of those around you. An earlier article states that the decisions that each of us makes, affect the world at a greater or lesser extent.

Why does God work in mysterious ways? His ways are mysterious and confusing to us, to our minds, because our understanding is limited, but they are perfectly designed, fully optimized to help people as much as possible, according to their choices. Lord’s thoughts seem confusing because they are too complex; millions of lives are affected by each of His decision.

Often we understand God’s intentions with our lives long after the events occurred. In the short run, the reason why some things happen seems to be a mystery for the most of us.

Not a single hair moves without the will of God, as He himself says in the Gospel. By this we mean that the slightest movement in the universe does not happen outside of God’s plan for humanity. God does not intervene sometimes or sporadically but continuously, moment by moment. Nothing is unknown to Him; He is always connected to our lives.

Father Stephen said that the secular world today sees the creation as a two-story universe. On the first floor humanity and on the second floor God. Each floor exists independently; there is not much interaction and influence between them. By thinking in such a way, we exclude God from our lives, from our consciousness, mostly because His presence shows us our sins and mistakes.

Either way people think or imagine the reality is only one: God created the world and will take permanent care of it until the end of time. Nothing is accidental and everything goes according to a plan, but not a fixed plan, but one that always adapts to our decisions.

The life we live is a result of decisions we have taken, sometimes in cooperation with God, sometimes alone.

(Claudiu)

Kissy Orthodox people

I’ve heard talk of people seemingly upset, on hearing that the priest uses the same spoon when giving the holy communion, or because people take turns in kissing an icon, and they’re not cleaning it afterwards, or because thousands of people kiss the relics of a saint and might orally contract diseases

I believe those people are not part of the church, because in these six years I’ve been attending services, worshiping icons, holy relics, and receiving the holy communion, nothing has ever happened to me, I never contracted any form of herpes, or contagious disease, and moreover, I have never heard any of the christians coming to churc saying otherwise.

It’s easy to notice how thousands of people kiss the relics of Saint Parascheva, one after another, day and night, and nothing happens, and everyone is happy to receive her help and Gods blessing. If something would have happened, the TV reporters are always participating in religious events, and believe me they would had speculated any kind of evil that could be broadcasted as sensational, so they would have heard something.

Why are some people mocking those lined up, waiting for hours to worship the relics of a saint, to ask for help, to feel the joy of closeness, to feel closer to God? Are they doing something wrong? Is anyone living in that city or country disturbed by the fact that those people stand quietly, peacefully waiting for their turn? I believe not.

Yet, why is no one laughing at those people who line up in endless traffic queues instead of taking the tram or the subway?

Have you ever heard of anyone getting sick because they have communed with the Holy Body and Blood of Christ in Liturgy? I haven’t. How can God, the source of holiness, spread disease? He, who is always inviting us in Church to transmit His holiness through priests, so as to heal us, forgive us, give us power, do you think He would pass illness down on us?

I guarantee you that if ten people drank water from the same bottle, one of them would surely have herpes the following day. I know this from experience.

Yet, how many thousands of people have been given the Eucharist with the same spoon, in a church, over one year, and there are no bad rumors, on the contrary, people are leaving with great joy, they are empowered, they change, become better, emanate happiness, because they are receiving God.

How can the Holy Body and Blood of Christ be contaminated by the abomination of disease? How can the source of joy, become a source of disease? How can bodies of saints full of the Holy Spirit (relics) be outbreaks of infection?

Just as the transfer of temperature is made, according to the laws of physics, from hot to cold (and never vice versa), the Body and Blood of Christ transfers holiness upon disease (healing it, eliminating it) and never the other way around.

It’s as if you threw a cup of cold water into a lake full of hot water and expected the lake to get cooler. The same happens with God’s holiness. The holiness and power of God are infinitely greater than our sins and diseases.

Bălan Claudiu

Icons and advertising banners

You all noticed that, in every store that you enter, you see on the walls all kinds of posters, paintings, banners, one prettier than the other, more colorful, more vivid, all having as purpose to send a message, to change an opinion, to promote a brand. Besides, the banners in the hypermarkets, in the salons, in shopping malls or in different stores, we see them also at the TV, on the streets or in the newspapers. Their aim is to create in us the idea of familiarity, to enter in our consciousness as a brand that actually belongs to the entire community. The commercial that we see for “Dodo” pate that we see on TV every night makes us believe, or have the feeling, that a lot of people eat “Dodo” pate and that it is a good product.

The finality in promoting a product is that the brand of the product will find a place in your mind. Thus, when you first get to the supermarket and see 10 types of pate from 10 brands, among them you will discover amazed the “Dodo” pate, that you think you heard of, and you will think it is better than the others and you will buy it. The advertisement fulfilled its duty.

Advertising images are meant to enter the consciousness of the community, to make a certain product familiar to everybody, even if the product has a low quality or if it is expensive or less necessary.

The same is in churches, there are icons everywhere, paintings of Saints, with their lives, with Jesus Christ’s activity when He was on Earth, with the miracles, with His life, His death and His resurrection. Icons do the same thing, they promote in people’s consciousness the heaven, the relationship with God and the Saints, the kingdom of God, hell, good, evil etc.

Exactly how the images with those pretty girls from the posters hanging in the salons have as aim to induce to the girls and women the idea that they can look as good as the models on the walls, so the saints’ faces in icons, on the walls of the churches have as aim to make us want the eternal life and the joy that we cannot even imagine.

The problem is that icons have a great disadvantage: they are not advertised in the society. We don’t see icons on TV, we don’t see icons in big banners on buildings or in supermarkets, we don’t see icons in magazines etc. This being considered, think of what would have happened if the “Dodo” pate had been advertised only in the supermarket and not also on TV or in the media: it would have remained anonymous, “Dodo” wouldn’t have been as interesting and the consumer wouldn’t have been attracted to buy it.

The same is with icons, they are publicized only in church and rarely in museums and nowhere else. This is why the lack of interest towards the Church and God is very big. The image of the church inside doesn’t have an echo in society anymore.

How would it be if tomorrow appeared in the media advertisements like: “Would you like to be as Saint John Chrysostom, would you like to be as one of the greatest orators of the world? Then sign up at the History, Theology and Philosophy Faculty at Bucharest University…” and in the clip would appear icons with St. John, paintings from churches with his life, his icon among the 2 other great theologians of the world and so on. If that happened, then those who watch TV could immediately connect with what they saw in the church, they would understand that church is not just a non-profit organization, where everybody comes and volunteers, but they would see the Church as a great family of the world, and all of us as God’s children.

We Christians should be the advertising clips that promote the Church and the love that God gives to people, we should be the “walking” banners, showing God’s existence from our actions.

More aggressive advertising images invade our brain and consciousness and they eliminate, step by step, the image of the Saints, God’s and Virgin Mary’s face from our heads. That’s why a lot of people say that the Church is outdated, that it doesn’t adapt to the society. The Church is not promoted in the society, the Church does not have a place in the consciousness of today’s modern society. And modern doesn’t necessarily mean good, but just de-sanctified, lacking the sacred character, only physical, without soul.

I remembered that walking on the corridors of the Paris metro I saw a poster that promoted an exhibition of Byzantine icons at a certain museum. That poster was everywhere, I saw it several times, it had on it the face of an angel, I think Archangel Gabriel. Every time that I saw the ad I had a great joy, I was calming and I actually started praying immediately after seeing it.

If icons would be promoted in the same way as products or services then churches would be too small for the people. The Orthodox Church doesn’t advertise, doesn’t look for adepts, but waits as a kind and patient mother for her children in order to show them the love and affection of the Father. But just like Cristi Chivu* is the image for Bergenbier, Razvan Lucescu* for Audi, Gheorghe Hagi* for Mercedes and Andreea Marin* for UNICEF, the same we are the image of the Church everyday, through all that we do, in front of everyone.

(Claudiu)

*Note: they are famous people in Romania, advertising for big brands.