Perhaps in the era of information and shortcuts the internet language conventions appear to be something absolutely necessary, while the attention given to the choice of words falls into the background. It’s a shame that we ignore or even despise the delicacy of shades that the Romanian language is capable of, the language about which the poet Grigore Vieru poetizes ‘In the treasure of languages / There always will remain / The language of golden doinas / Our Romanian language’.
And the Romanian language is not rich by itself, but because it has sprung from the heart of the Romanian people, that heart which is Orthodoxy. And it is due to Orthodoxy that we can express godly things so clearly and brightly in comparison to the worldly ones.
Thus, when we discuss the human being, we speak of conception and not of fertilization, we speak of infant and not of product of conception, we speak of the people’s visage and not of their faces, we speak of the dormition of a dear person and not of their decease.
And when we bring into discussion the Mysteries of the Church, we speak of communion with the Holy Gifts and not of their administration, we speak of participating in the Holy Unction and not of assisting to it, we speak of absolution of sins and not of effacement of vices.
And finally when we learn about inward feelings we don’t speak of achievements but of fulfillments, we don’t speak of sadness but of despair, we don’t speak of apologizing but of asking for forgiveness.
All these special words are of crucial importance to our spiritual life because they express the profound meanings of persons, actions and inward feelings. Without these carefully chosen words, everything would gain a superficial strictly materialistic meaning. The very essence of the message would be lost and we’d be left only with the form. That is why the Tradition of the Church abounds with words which faithfully express the complete reality of the world, interlacing the natural meaning with the spiritual one.
That is why we the Orthodox call the Mother of God ‘Fecioara’ – ‘pure’ and not a virgin as She is called by the desecrated West. The term ‘virgo’ has a bodily meaning, as first of all it makes one think of the body and barely of the soul. Whereas ‘fecioara’ is a word which makes one think not only of a state of bodily integrity but firstly of spiritual integrity, a lack of any evil thought. That is why we Christians keep our chastity until we get married, not only our virginity, as we may as well be virgins and have a heart full of lust.
And we make these spiritual efforts in order to raise a family and therefore in order to be a family constantly, not a couple. Because a couple can also be made up of two lovers inflamed with the passion of fornication, but a family is only made up of a man and a woman before the altar and the society.
Furthermore, as I said above, we Christians don’t apologize one to another but we ask for forgiveness. Apologies are used for insignificant involuntary mistakes, such as stepping over one’s foot by accident or slamming a door in haste. But when it comes to mistakes which result from our passions and our lack of love, we ask for forgiveness. We don’t apologize to someone for having lied to them, for having cursed them or having disappointed them, but we ask for forgiveness as through this word we show our very humility and deep regret, depending on the gravity of the mistake made.
Likewise, we Christians don’t have fun but we rejoice. Fun is a state of exaltation, an euphoria which results from a noisy atmosphere of agitation, typical for clubs and entourages where speaking in vain and telling vulgar jokes is common. Whilst joy is a state that comes from sincere and emotional communion with the people near us. The Scripture itself bears witness with tens of confirmations that God speaks to us about eternal joy, not in the least about endless fun.
And the truth is that the church language, which many laicized Christians accuse of being archaic, out of fashion, but is not behind the times, is the only one that stands above all times. Because this language springs from the relationship with the Eternal God and it expresses spiritual finesses which the brazen-faced and the ‘stiff-necked’ are incapable of sensing and perceiving, in the same way that broken or old radios can’t pick up high frequencies. The very uttering of words specific to liturgical language have a sanctifying power, in the same way that vulgar words have the power to lead us into temptation and to besmear our souls, even when we utter them for didactic or informative purposes.
That is why the more we dwell on the secularized language, the more our soul will deplete, will roughen and eventually will become presumptuous. And on the contrary when we get accustomed to using spiritual words, the more delicate, careful and profound we shall be towards everyone, towards everything.
Sorin, one of the writers on our site asked me the following:
“I’d like to ask you a dogmatic question: if Christ’s Sacrifice erased the ancestral sin, how do the Church Fathers explain the fact that the woman still gives birth to children in pain, the man still gains his bread in the sweat of his face and the nature is still decayed?”
Because I didn’t have a good answer, I asked father Dorin Picioruş to help us. Here is the aswer of his holiness, very conclusive and precise:
“Christology, the talk about God, about His Person and work, is not an isolated chapter, but a entirety itself, integrated in an even bigger entirety, meaning a holistic and complete theological understanding.
Theologically speaking, the question is wrong from the very beginning, because it asks about the Sacrifice and not about Lord’s person, about the Sacrificed, as if this fact could be separated of His person. Or can’t see it alive, direct and complex, that the one Who is sacrificing is Christ Himself, Who not only is sacrificing Himself for us, but He also deified His assumed humanly kind, through every single moment of His life, continuously.
My dear ones, not the Cross itself or His death on the cross have abolished sin in the sinless humanly nature of Christ, but every single moment of His life was a denial of the sin, therefore a victory over sin in His humanity.
Yes, His sacrifice was a crucial and dramatic moment, but it defeated sin. But this moment must not be individualized or separated from His life in its wholeness before and after His death and resurrection.
Because absolutizing the Cross, like the protestants did, only idealizes His death for us, making it the only moment of the redemption of the humanity and hiding the hypostatical truth, that each step of His life, from His conception to His Ascension to the Heavens are victorious steps over sin and, therefore, over death and the devil.
So, any sin has been abolished in Lord’s person through the continuous and the most divine deification of His human kind, which was a constant denial and victory over sin. And the deification of His human kind is the new being, it’s the pattern for how it looks and how it should look the divine-human man, the god by grace, the Saint.
But the Saint’s holiness is not a moral issue, but an ontological one. Just as it was for Lord. For Lord not only because He obeyed Father and died on the Cross for us, has saved and redeemed us, but because He was continuously, moment by moment obedient to Father and in a constant intimacy with the Father and the Holy Spirit, both in human and divine nature.
The holiness is ontological for it’s an ascesis in which you live constantly and consciously the joy of life in the grace of the Holy Trinity. It is also an inside reality, the holiness, that means the grace of The Holy Trinity, which outflows from the soul and you can see it onto the body as well. The body deifies, it transforms…but in the end it still dies.
And the Christian woman, although baptized, still faces the pains of labour, but she is helped and full of grace, the grace that makes her strong and fills her with the Holy Spirit. The man, as well, who wearies himself, both working but also in his ascension, because God’s life, that means His grace, springs into him.
Also the nature is sanctified by the prayers and the services of the Church. It is prepared, like a dough, to yeast. And when the Groom of the Church will come everything will be ready for the great wedding, the disclosure of His glory, of His power, of His love, of His omniscience and of His almighty beauty.
Although now we live in the body, which, apparently, has only the post-lapsarian (lapsarian=the fall of man at the beginning) attributes and it needs food, drink, sleep, making love, creation, work, if we are Christ’s mystic members, deified and which constantly deify, deep inside our persons, who look the same with the ones who are outside the Church, in these persons the greatness of deification happens.
That’s why some people stink after their death, but others smell like high-priced chrism. If you put the Saint next to others, while they are still alive, to many people, they don’t seem to be very different. But if you look at them deep inside they are fundamentally different, for their lives are hidden in the life of God, in the uninterrupted relationship with God and, when He will come, we will show our true person.
We can also feel in the holy and honourable relics of the Saints, who they really are and what will they be, they who keep raising in holiness into His Kingdom, when Lord will come, in His glory, irradiating His glory and He will be with all His Saints.
Therefore, to conclude, Christ has abolished sin in His human nature, because sin never had a place in His human kind, the human kind which obeyed, chose and loved the ones His deified nature wanted. But even if apparently both, the sons of God and the sons of man look the same, only in the sons of God the new deified being is shaped and them, together with the whole universe prepare all the time, becoming more and more beautiful.
The beauty of the being, which is its deification. And without it we have only a philosophical, sterile theology, a continuous fuss which shows you don’t take part of the talking, living with and loving God.
Thank you for your question, but consider this a rule: don’t ever study or ask yourself fragmentary things, but study them in their completeness, for only in this way orthodox theology makes any sense!”
Translated by Sinziana Moldovan
1. Going to church on Sundays and Celebrations
“I cannot conceive a Christian not going to church, particularly and Orthodox Christian not going to church on Sundays and Celebrations, especially to attend the Holy Liturgy on Sundays. Two hours for God, if I believe in Him, isn’t too much. And if you can’t find two hours for God once a week, it means you don’t have a God. Don’t consider yourself a Christian anymore, because you aren’t.
2. Praying in the morning, in the evening and at meal time
“If somebody can start and end a day without God, then they don’t realise their relation with God. If you believe in God, then you should know that He cannot be neglected. If you neglect Him, you don’t have Him.”
3. Read two chapters of the New Testament everyday
“For your mind to be filled with good thoughts, because the mind is said (by the holy fathers) to be like a mill and it grinds what you give it. Therefore, if you give it good thoughts, it grinds good thoughts, but if you give it bad thoughts, it will grind bad thoughts. In order to multiply your positive thoughts, it’s necessary to have a positive thoughts fountainhead, for Our Lord Jesus Christ says: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Mt. 12, 34) or “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts” (Mt. 15, 19). So, the mean thoughts come first. But the positive thoughts have to be placed in our minds and we can find them in the New Testament, in the Bible, in the Services the Church performs, in the spiritual books such as the Philokalia, the Sayings of the Desert Fathers or others like The Unseen War, The guarding of the five senses.
4. Keeping your mind away from bad thoughts by praying without ceasing
“The mind is guarded by praying without ceasing, by repeating the prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!”. You can say other prayers as well: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on us and on Your world!”; “Glory to You, O Lord, glory to You”; “Great are You, O Lord, and wondrous are Your works, and no word will suffice to hymn Your wonders.”; “My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit: 0 Holy Trinity, glory to Thee.”; “O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the heavens.”(Ps. 8, 1); “Lord, make your belief stronger!”. We could formulate our own prayers to repeat, the important thing is to have our mind busy praying, so that the thought that aren’t suitable with the prayer disappear, the bad thoughts, for everything a man does starts first with the thought, therefore, multiplying the good thoughts will lead to nice talking and good behaviour. If we discipline our mind, we discipline our life.
5. Fast in the fasting days
In the Orthodox Church everything is equal. Fasting is compulsory, but not everybody can fast and those who can’t must know this a duty they aren’t accomplishing and they have to find other ways to compensate. Fasting is more than a diet, but it’s based on an alimentary diet. You cannot fast without fasting food. Of course fasting means restraining yourself from delights, especially the ones which do not go together with what we know God wants from us. But mainly, it’s about our everyday food. Fasting helps us discipline our bodies, restraining our fornication wills, calming physical energy and, at the same time, to get in a Church discipline. He who fasts may hope he will do other good works, but he who doesn’t fast, is very unlikely to be able to accomplish other Church commands.
The recommendations of father Arsenie Boca:
Along with this schedule, which is the base of a Christian’s life, father Teofil has added other five recommendations, made by father Arsenie Boca:
The Holy Scripture’s role and its place in the orthodox spirituality is different from the western spirituality, may it be the roman-catholic tradition, or the protestant and evangelical denominations. Here are a few findings :
a. In the orthodox space, the Scripture is being less read. Above the negative aspect of this finding, there is also a positive view concerning our relationship to the Holy Scripture. There is a certain shyness of the orthodox believer when it comes to reading the Scripture. This would be one motivation. The others will follow.
b. The Holy Scripture is not the first and immediate mark, and most of all not the only one, when looking for answers to our problems .To explain this thought, I will say that the orthodox believers don’t go running to the Scripture when they have a problem or a question, they go to the church and to the priest. This doesn’t minimize the Scripture’s role, but comes from a difference in the perception of what the Holy Scripture means to us.
c. The Holy Scripture is not being read in order to satisfy our thirst for theoretical knowledge, but to learn and to find out things about God, or answers to our questions. To read the Scripture is a way to communicate with God, to fill yourself with God’s words, just like it happens when you read a letter from a dear one. Even if reading it once would be enough for you to understand the information this letter brings, you will read it again and again because it is like meeting the person who wrote it. By reading it, it will not be your thirst for knowledge that will be satisfied, but your longing for this loved one, it will not teach you new things, but it will warm your heart and it will strengthen your relationship with this person.
d. The above things also apply to the liturgical life of the Church. The Holy Scripture is present and has a very important place in the Church, the Holy Gospel always reigning on the Holy Table and being solemnly read during the Holy Mass. But, referring only to the Holy Liturgy, the central moment is not the reading from the Bible, the central moment is the turning of the bread and wine into to Body and the Holy Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and the communion of the believers. The same goes for all the other Sacred Mysteries and all the services in the Church, where the reading from the Holy Scripture is a part of a more complex work, centered in the end on the communion of the believers with the Holy Spirit of God and His work.
See baptism, ordination, wedding etc. In all of these cases, the believers come to Church to get baptized, ordinated, married, healed and not to read or study what is being said in the Holy Scripture .The reading of the Scripture, present in all of these services, is part of the work that is being done by the priest, through the power of God’s Spirit in each and every one of the above services.
e. The same phenomenon can be observed in the monastic spirituality, another main landmark when considering the orthodox space. Of course within the rules and the struggles of the orthodox monk is the persistent reading of the Holy Scripture (also the reading of the Psalms), but the monk’s life is more complex than that. Obey, restraint, fast and prayer, repentance seem to have a higher priority in the monks life. The monks talk about the power of the Psalter to defeat the temptations and to chase away the demons, to clear the mind in order to find solutions to our problems, not by offering information by which to better discern between multiple logical reasoning, but by enlightening the mind or the sympathetic understanding, like the monks would say.
f. When it comes to the popular spirituality, so in the way the average believer relates to the Scripture, the things seem to be even more different .Our believers, we must admit it, read the Scripture less. This is true also for the most devoted among them. This is how the things are, and we will try to search for a positive evaluation of it. Anybody can notice that for an orthodox is more important to baptize his child, to get married and to bury his beloved ones in the church, to confess, to have memorial services, than to read the Scriptures. An orthodox can forgive himself for not reading the Scripture, even though he criticizes himself for that, but he cannot forgive himself if his child dies unbaptized or his parents died unconfessed.
Also it is a very big sin if a man and a woman live together but aren’t married, and a big mistake not to have a priest inaugurate your house for example. This hierarchy of things may be scandalous for our fellow protestants or even for some orthodox theologians, but I think it can be positively evaluated from the perspective of the orthodox hermeneutics.
There were long periods of time when the orthodox believers had no access to the Holy Scripture because it wasn’t translated in their language or because very few copies were available. This was a vital loss. The reading of the Scripture should not be excluded, but encouraged in every possible way, but now we are talking about a hierarchy of things, like it appears in the everyday life.
g. We can mark a similar attitude of the patristic theology and spirituality of the Philokalia. The most basic reading of them forces us to recognize on one hand, the vital role of the Holy Scripture in the written works of our Holy Fathers, and on the other hand, the direct and much more complex reference to the continual history of the presence and work of God in history.
h. The academic theology strikes a false note. It places the Holy Scripture on the first place among the sources it bases its theological presumptions. It can be easily remarked that the majority of the savant theology works from the modern period, base their arguments on quotes from the Scripture and from the patristic theology and less or none on the evidence and facts of everyday life or the life in the church, may it be in its manifestation in the community or in private.
Nor the Holy Liturgy and the Sacraments, nor other sanctifying works of the Church, nor the life and experiences or feelings of spiritual people are sources for the academic theology. The exclusion of the hymnodist treasure of the Church, just like the literature from Philokalia, the Patera, the lives of the saints and spiritual literature in general, from the works of advanced academic theology literature is an argument hard to contest in support of the above. If we consider the place of spiritual literature in the life of monks and ordinary believers, – and these especially in recent years – we have to point out once again the dissonant position of the academic theology towards them.
We must recognize an inappropriate reflex for the Orthodox space, where life and work as such have priority over recorded or written comments on life itself, as authorized and authentic as they are. Certainly there is a precedence, not absolute but complementary of the Holy Scriptures, but not on the written word level but on the spirit.
i. The Orthodox space does not operate with the absolute precedence of Scripture, limited to that of Sacred Scripture (see the Protestant and evangelical space) or extended to the writings of the Fathers – the Holy Tradition (see also some academic work in space Orthodox Theology) or a precedence of the authority of the institutionalized church (see Roman Catholic tradition area), but operates, as we have seen, with the precedence of God’s Spirit, manifested in Holy Scripture and in the ecclesiastical authority to the extent that they are part of the living organism, and the unity of the Church as such. It is the spirit which gives life and life is manifested in all churches, as in the life of every member of the community or ecclesial body, to the understanding of which the Scripture and other monuments of the Church’s life function as fundamental guidelines.
j. I shall now invoke to support what was said above, a typical attitude of the orthodox space: in crisis situations, from what I consider a healthy reflex, it will not be resorted to the theologian authority, that may well have vast knowledge of the Holy Scripture, nor to the ecclesiastical authority, not matter how high in rank, but – and this makes theologians and ecclesiastical authority itself – to a spiritual man, a great father. He can be a simple monk or a high bishop, and they both may possess great knowledge, but it is not for this quality, but for the authority conferred by the direct experience of the divine things or their knowledge through spiritual vision, that they were chosen.
k. This perspective doesn’t exclude or marginalizes the Scripture, quite the opposite; it recovers its place and role in the Church’s life together with God. It is a perspective that avoids the exclusivism of the Bible, this theological monstrosity, like a known orthodox theologian used to call it.
l. We must not be afraid to admit a very obvious thing in the community and personal life of the orthodox: that the Bible and the reading of the Bible are not the center of their lives, the life itself, with God is the center – The Holy Liturgy and the other sanctifying works of the Church, the prayer etc. – and the Bible is a part of all that. In a very concrete way to live with God in a specific historical social context, the Bible, reading and explaining it, has its place, a very important but not exclusive. If we may again use the example of the letter from a dear person, nobody will limit himself to this letter – even though he will keep it as a treasured thing and reread it many times – if he would have the possibility to meet and live next to this dear person who sent him the letter, being happy and hoping to spend time with this person and enjoy the beauty of her soul and to share all her personal gifts.
I will now quote from Saint John Chrysostom who expresses the absolute priority for a person, in spite all other exterior realities: „Deliverance from hell! The Kingdom’s delight! Above all this, much more important is to love Jesus Christ and to be loved by Him!” This reality, clear in the life of the eastern Church, brings us to an understanding of the Scripture, her place and role in the life and theology of the Church.
A positive evaluation of the above – and not persistently remaining with the critical and negative evaluations, especially under the pressure of our fellow believers from the west or because of some inferiority complex that some orthodox theologians have – brings us to the conclusion that the eastern Church, in her liturgical life, in the monastic and popular spirituality, referring to the Holy Scripture has its own hermeneutic, in line with their belief about the possibility of intelligible communication between God and man and her own theological epistemology.
(Pr. Prof. Constantin Coman – Through the church’s window – a theological reading of the reality, Editura Bizantină, pag.36)
Translated by Irina Holospin
We entered the Great Lent. As we know, the Lent is a time of inner cleansing, of purification. I would even call the Lent a time of forgiveness, a time of return, of retrieval. Through fast, we return to God (2nd Chron. 20:3, Isaiah 58:6, Joel 2:12) and through the Sacrament of Holy Confession we receive forgiveness of our sins. But we often mistake the fast for a diet or for the healthiest nutrition possible.
We are not aware of the actual signification of fasting and nor do we think about its consequences.
‘Old people fast, well, why should we do the same? Isn’t youth too beautiful? So many dainties…’ Indeed, when we are young we are tempted by the worldly dainties – and not by the spiritual ones. Can the fast be a path to the heavenly dainties? Yes, it can. When we fast, first of all we fast for Him. He feeds us, we accept his consummate nourishment. The nourishment being God’s Will itself and not our own. Secondly, the fast can also be an act of praise, that is a deed of worship to the Lord, because it is a sacrifice – cause ‘Love is a sacrament that God planted in the human soul, which is based on sacrifice. There is no sacrifice without love and there is no love without sacrifice.’ At the same time it is a voluntary relinquishment of something that is permitted to us – sprung from our love and respect for God – as Father Cleopa used to say.
Why ‘flight of the soul’? Here is what Saint John Chrysostom says: ‘Fasting holds the body under restraint, checks its unruly movements, renders the soul transparent, gives it wings, raises it on high and makes it light.’ What does giving wings to the soul means? For the prayer be able to raise to Heavens, it needs two wings: fasting and alms deeds. Fasting gives our souls wings crowning them with the Real and Eternal Joy. Fasting cannot lack prayer. Likewise, nor prayer without fasting can fly to God.
‘It raises it on high and makes it light’. How wonderful these words are… Just by reading them, we should discover within ourselves the desire to search, to meditate and to prepare unceasingly for fasting. For the ‘raising of our souls’. But for this we need to fast not only with our body, but we also must confess Christ through our deeds, let the work of God be shown through them. How can our deeds be pleasant to God?
Saint John Chrysostom tells us: ‘Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your good deeds. How? If you see a poor man, take pity on him; an enemy, be reconciled to him; a friend receiving honor, don’t envy him; an alluring woman, pass her by. Don’t just fast with your mouth and stomach, but also with your eyes, and your ears, and your feet, and your hands, and all the members of your body. Let the hands fast by being cleansed of plunder and greed. Let the feet fast by ceasing to run to immoral shows. Let the eyes fast by refusing to stare lewdly at lovely faces. The mouth must fast from disgraceful speech and other shameful words.’ Our Saviour says: ‘When you fast, do not look somber like the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting’ (Matthew 6:16). In the Saviour’s time, there were the teachers of the law and the Pharisees and other people that wanted to be praised for fasting. They used to paint themselves with pitch, to appear thin, sad or miserable. But what do we gain if we follow their example? Shall we receive the unwithering crown if people appreciate us or praise us for fasting? Shall we gain anything if we look sad in front of the others? ‘But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face’; appear joyful to others, so that they can’t know you are fasting.
Therefore, let us rejoice of the Lord’s things serving and thanking Him for the Heavenly Nourishment. Let us give our souls wings through fasting and let the prayer be ‘mother’ to us upon the ladder of salvation.
Translated by Claudia
The title of this article does certainly not thrill anyone and that is only for a single reason: because of the exhortation:”Repent!”. After the 1990’s there have been many Christian groups (churches) in our country, that had one purpose in corrupting of a large number of followers. Those who had been in these churches discovered a very strict regime of life: no drinking, no secular music, no TV, no radio, with head-kerchiefs, no jokes, no laughter, no parties, no restaurants, no bars, as humble and quiet as possible etc.
People have noticed their behavior in society and have called them “penitents”. Rooted in the everyday language, the term “penitent” means a strange man who lives out of time. In the Romanian consciousness is a person who doesn’t want to integrate in society, a man who show faith by extreme behavior and gestures, actually a well indoctrinated man. The “penitent” appellation means in the first place: a man of another religion than the Orthodox faith, and hence all the prejudices that accompany that status, in our people consciousness.
To cut a long story short, if someone told you that you are a penitent then well, you’re already in a strange area in his mind and he will try to avoid you. This is the first great obstacle over which we, Romanians, should pass to understand what exactly the repentance is. Other Orthodox people do not have this problem.
In the Orthodox Church repentance means changing your mind, changing the way of perceiving things at sensory, rational and spiritual level. Perhaps you’ve wondered: “Why as soon as we go into fasting we talk about repentance? Why do not talk about it throughout the year? Why should I repent once the fasting begins? Actually, what does it means to repent?”
Maybe some of us believe that repentance means lamenting ourselves before God and telling Him what sinners we are, although sometimes we don’t feel it. Maybe sometimes we must think like Saint Paul the Apostle did; He said: “I am the chief of sinners”, but do we really belive that?
That is not repentance. The man must remember his sins not only in fasting but day by day, hour by hour, asking God’s forgiveness second by second: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” What does repentance means for us, Christians?
To repent is to acknowledge that the vision that I have about the world it’s not true and complete, but it is a subjectively perception in my limited and fragile mind. Although I think I know the truth (the reality) and everything that happens around me, yet the decisions that I take which are based on my perception, are really built on untruth, lack of information, on lies. Therefore I perceive the reality around me in a distorted manner, often wrong, based on my life experience and on what others have said, not knowing what really happened and which were the motivations of each event.
Wrongly perceiving reality (at least distorted), as being free, I still take wrong decisions and I make those around me suffer. So, wrong perceptions will influence me and I will form a wrong perception about the world and people around. So my actions will have negative and more significant consequences to my neighbor and to me. When I see that actions and choices in my life bring suffering around me, I notice that that is the first warning of conscience:
What happens? Why do I suffer? Why doesn’t anything good ever happen to me? Why don’t I do things right?Where am I going wrong here?
All these questions can help you realize your limitations and infirmities. Looking at yourself , you will see many passionate habits and sins into your soul that have mastered you for so long.
The Holy Fathers say that only God and His saints perceive the world as it actually is, without any prejudice.
To repent means to ask God to illuminate your mind to perceive the world truely as it is. To repent means to have greater confidence in the words of God than in your own thoughts when you need to make a decision, and that it is because He has all the information and you only have a very small part of it.
To repent means a humble confession that you are sinful man and that only God through His grace can rise you above your sins in order to see the world as it really is. Seeing reality as it is, the decisions you will take will be without sin, having positive effects on others.
Mantzaridis Georgios said:
“Repentance is necessary not only to receive the divine grace, but also to keep it or to regain it, because man sins every day, he is bound to repent daily. No matter how spiritually advanced he is, it requires repentance. This is not exhausted in certain facts, not limited to certain periods of time. Its work never ends. Repentance is the work of Christian life, and its exercise is the only way to keep himself member of the Body of Christ.
The more man repents, the fuller knowns himself, he is aware of his nothingness, he deplores his affliction and trust in God’s mercy. So the repentance becomes the path of self knowledge, but the knowledge of God too, because it approaches man to God and makes him more receptive to His grace. Moreover, this process of repentance already is not only something human, but also the fruit of the gift of God’s work.
Located in the state of spiritual death, man dosn’t feel his sin, nor can’t see inside of him. Feeling or, more precisely, “seeing” the sin is an important gift from God. Christian life is a life of repentance, that it means awareness of sin and God’s grace full custody. Therefore it is accompanied by crying and tears. This crying is not a sterile or negative condition , but creative and it brings joy. And this tears do not express emotional sensitivity, but deep existential changes, caused by human repentance and the grace of God. Crying rises joy .
Insisting on repentance is not a tacit acceptance or tolerance of the sinful life, but it is the awareness of the sinful state we are in.
Repentance is not a moral act, but existential. It belongs not to the psychology level or to the social behavior, but to the spiritual life. As the sin does not lay in breaking of moral commandments, but in removing from the source of life, of God, so the repentance lays not so easy in straighten morals, but in returning to God and inside of your spiritual life. Repentance breaks the mind of sin and it sticks on the remembrance of God, it takes it to the grace and to the union with God, which it is accomplished mysteriously in the human heart, on the “throne of grace”, and it unifies God and man.”
Translated by Blendea Elena
“I have been crucified with Christ;and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life 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)
We have become so cold regarding the words of Scripture, the teachings of the Fathers, regarding spirituality; there are questions over questions… not that the questions would be something bad, but one can only ‘taste’ the grace through faith, through altruism, through prayer or fasting; living and not theory, philosophy, or subjective critique.
The biblical verse from the beginning is given as a motto of what the faith, the living, and the spiritualization really mean; without applying this urge it is hard for us to understand it, to know Him, to receive His Grace.
We live in a secularized world, irrational, in my opinion, because it is irrational as the human beings are, a nothing when compared with the universe to believe that only that which fits their own rationality is true and good to be followed; a society like a graveyard of dead ideas, lacking spirituality and being exclusively processed by a biological organ called brain, stifling the inner longing after spirituality; all these determine us to become more and more alienated from the true sense, from the calling that we have been called to, and to become gods, without knowing from our own ideas and concepts which govern us, and that we worship, without being aware of it.
But despite all these Christ is present; He waits for us to become conscious of our own state and to unite with Him! So much stress, so many needs, problems, troubles and questions; only Christ can offer us the answer, the tranquility, the spiritual peace… and these words are not philosophy, are not theory, they are… findings of life experiences lived by people who searched for peace, tranquility, in a word – for the meaning of life.
There are too many conjunctions between Christ and peace so that one could consider them the product of hazard.
In the fight of your faith you can find support in St. Paul’s encouragement: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” (Romans 8:35); abide in the first love, in the love of Christ, and with it take courage, you will conquer the world (its sins) as He conquered it; abide in His peace, abide in His Body and you will taste the true joy, one that, as the saints affirmed, the world cannot offer.
I will conclude with the biblical exhortation: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15).
Translated by Radu Iacob
In this chaotic, foreign and quite stiff world, every day I see how sadness is born easily in our inner blanket. Blanket covered by states and noble feelings, by infected memories and melancholy. In reality, we can’t be otherwise than sad. Someone once told me with great conviction that we cannot be happy all the time because when we will be elated, we’ll find out that everything was just in our imagination, an ephemeral illusion. This statement rose many thoughts in me. Thirsty thoughts that still haunt me.
Let’s start from the previous premise, that we can’t be happy in this society. Let’s see… what things, facts or events had generated this sadness in our hearts?
It’s been a long time since the crisis became an exhaustible topic, so there’s no point to exhaust it once more with my idle words. Otherwise, the same daily dish is consisting of rapes, murders, thefts, accidents, losses, kidnappings…all are known. Why are you sad? Teenagers are increasingly sad because of the poor results obtained at school-leaving exam, prospective students because of the failure, teachers because of the exams, unemployed due to lack of jobs, elders because of incapacities and diseases and the list goes on.
But Christians… wait, what does this have in common with our sadness? Are not Christians those mentioned above? Or, to be “a Christian” has become, recently, a job?
At the very beginning, when I entered in the Church, I asked a single question: “why do people smile?”. Well, don’t imagine that everyone was laughing, on no account. On the most of the faces around me could be read a single word: happiness. I didn’t understand too much at that time. I thought it is fashionable to be happy in the House of the Lord and to show this to everybody.
But the truth wasn’t in my dull thinking. To be Christian means to smile no matter the difficulties of life that gradually push us, no matter the amount of sorrow, bitterness and anguish. In the Church, the Holy Spirit is the one who gladdens the heart and lights the faces, so smile is a result of the state of calm and peace.
“I am Christian so I smile”. Christ loves me, I smile! The essence of Orthodoxy is love, and love spreads happiness. How can we be so sad when we have all this? We should rather grieve because of our sins, crimes and because of the darkness in which our souls stay even by now, from early life. But in no case because of the events we encounter in life.
If we grieve for our own mistakes and sins, the grief will turn later in happiness and rivers of relief. As the Apostle says: “You will grieve, but your sorrow will be turned into joy”( John 16: 20)
Nobody says it’s easy, on the contrary, the struggle with ourselves is the hardest fight, the hardest possible war. But if we win, the results will be as we had expected. In fact, there is no measure, because Kingdom of Heaven has no measure and no limits. Some say that to overcome your fear is a mighty thing; I think that to defeat your sadness and to put off this dirty clothes forever is something unbeatable.
To sum up, I remind you a phrase full of wisdom of Ecclesiastes; by reading this, I hope that God will flow into your souls, His immeasurable grace, His unsurpassed joy, His infinite and eternal love. Amen.
„Don’t grieve your heart, remove the sadness from it. Because from sadness comes death and sorrow of the heart weakens the virtue”.
In Philokalia, Taisie the Libyan and African says: „Lack of pleasure arises sorrow and the pleasure is bond with passion”.
Translated by Badea Patricia Elena
When I first heard saying “What kind of God is the one who says believe and do not question ? That is blind faith! That means constraint”, I tell you frankly that I did not feel well. I felt between hammer and anvil because in my mind a bitter struggle started. On one hand I was saying that if Lord said that it means that He knew better why He had said so, but still I felt that the liberty of thought and knowledge was taken away from me. I felt this situation as a noose around the neck. On the other hand I wanted to know why God had said so. But from the reason to investigate everything, I still thought to look in the Bible where it is written that statement and especially in what context the word had been given.
After looking through the Holy Scripture, I found the expression “believe and do not question” nowhere. I was puzzled and eager to find out the cause of the dispute that the atheists and those lazy by nature find as an excuse for their unbelief, but also as a charge against faith of believers. Thus, I prayed the Lord to show me the truth about it and to know what to do. One day I found the answer to my unrest by buying Faith World magazine where I finally found an article that delt the matter “believe and don’t question”.
Atheists and Free-thinkers assert that the quatation “believe and do not question” would be found in Holy Scripture. Of course if we ask them to show us the passage they will not find it anywhere, because this term does not exist in the Bible, but this expression had been deeply rooted among ignorant people at Marxist courses against religion. However, we find a passage in Scripture with this urge, but given in another spirit than the one raised by atheists and free-thinkers:
“Seek not what is too difficult for you, nor investigate what is beyond your power. Reflect upon what has been assigned to you, for you do not need what is hidden. Do not meddle in what is beyond your tasks,
for matters too great for human understanding have been shown you. For their hasty judgment has led many astray, and wrong opinion has caused their thoughts to slip. “(Wisdom of Jesus Sirach, III, 20-23)
Because we didn’t respect these human limitations shown by Jesus Sirach, today exist a lot of atheists, heretics and philosophers which don’t distinguish truth from lies and speculation from reality. They believed that human reason is unfailing and self-sufficient, when only true knowledge about the world comes when you connect your will to the absolute truth of things: God, the omnipresent rational being, timeless and incorruptible.
Even St. John Chrysostom reminds us that there is a limited extent in human capacity for knowledge, beyond which there is only failure:
“It is with much gratitude we receive words of Scripture, not to exceed our measure, nor pry into those above us, as enemies of truth experienced and wanted to explore everything with their own thought. They did not thought that for a human is impossible to know completely the creation of God…”
This is the reason why Hellenes were lost, they allowed all their mind and did not want to know that the human mind is weak, they thought of things beyond their powers, exceeded their own measures abroad and fell from their proper dignity … And once they strayed from the right path, went to the cliff and they rolled in the depths of evil …”
Moreover, knowing that we are limited in knowledge and naive, St. John the Theologian tells us to test the spirits, the essence of all things, putting them in the light of truth: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1)
So, the urge “Believe and do not question” does not belong to the Church, but on the contrary, Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition together contain many exhortations designed to draw us closer to God and to increase faith, thorough research and real knowledge.
Even saints gave the example of researching not only the Holy Scripture, but also human sciences. St. Gregory Palamas tells us so: “It is better to deal less with the study of languages, rhetoric, history, the secrets of nature, the science of logic and geometric figures. And this, not only to use the knowledge gained for something, but for training the eye of the soul to discern things. But to remain attached them all the time is bad “.
Now I ask myself … how could I doubt in all that time, for even the faith comes through knowledge.
Did God put in us the thirst for knowledge to torment us or to reveal to us with all his works?
Is it from thirst for knowledge that is not observed human desire to seek the origin and sense of his existence?
God didn’t make man passive, apathetic, uninterested, but left this thirst for knowledge in his nature to investigate, to search, always to want to know more about him and everything that surrounds him, to know where he comes from and where he goes, to polish himself, but not in cold knowledge, without help, but to increase in faith and love.
A man without knowledge and research would be totally blind but their expression often saves even from unbelief. One of the most striking examples is the Apostle Thomas, who after so many wonders which were seen in the presence of the Savior, also doubted the testimony of the other ten apostles that Saviour resurrected, and says:
“Unless I see in His hands, the nails, and do not put my finger where the nails were, and if I don’t put my hand into His rib, I will not believe.”
So he wanted to investigate to make sure that so is. To his disbelief was scold, but at least he got rid of it.
But we know that Christ the Lord said:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you, for everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened .” (Heb. Matthew 7:7-8)
So let’s not hesitate, and get out of the darkness of ignorance into the light of faith, following the advice of our Saviour to investigate things, but with right count:
“Search the Scriptures; in them ye think ye have eternal life. And those are which testify of me.”
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.