“Love bears all things, it has faith for all things, it hopes in all things, it endures in all things. Love never falls in ruins.” (1 Corinthians 13 – Saint Paul the Apostle)
That is indeed true. What a great sacrament the Lord has given us, He Who is Love has endowed us with love. What beauty, what joy as Paul the Apostle says in the same epistle: “and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” Whoever has never known love? That feeling when your heart bursts with joy and happiness.
By God’s design, the man and the woman become one flesh, they are drawn to each other, they live together in harmony and their hearts are full of spiritual love, of true love, that is Christ lives within us.
By God’s perfect work, we are meant to be a couple, to live in love and docility.
Nothing simpler, we might say. Yes, if we knew how to give. We should give each other love the same way God has given us life. Our Savior said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Saint John Chrysostom said: “Giving to others seems a difficult thing but love makes it easy. Receiving from others seems enjoyable but love makes it infamous.”
The same saint says: “Anger gives a wild satisfaction but not to the man of love because he knows no anger. If his neighbor upsets him, he doesn’t get angry, instead he bursts into tears, prayer and beseeching… The peace and comfort felt by those who cry for the ones they love are not felt by those who laugh.”
Thusly we can see that when a beloved person makes a mistake, we bear with them, we indulge them, we put up with them and cry because we love them, that is what sacrifice means. Suffering for the other is the path to salvation. “Those who plant in tears shall harvest with shouts of joy.” (Psalm 125)
In order to see love, we must be obedient like the man born blind and have faith and hope in God because only this way our spiritual eyes will open through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The whole work of love must be blessed by the Lord, interceded by the presence of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit that indwells our hearts when we are free of passions, when we observe the commandments by doing God’s will.
Father Arsenie Boca said: “Whom have you brought to Jesus?… You have nobody to bring to Jesus, maybe you intend to bring yourself because unless you bring yourself, you can’t bring someone else.”
The battle between our two natures takes place inside each one of us, the spirit of self-love on the one hand and the spirit of love and sacrifice for our neighbor on the other. Thusly, we must have the awareness of God’s presence, we must feel and live His presence in our lives for He is everywhere, we must turn our eyes to our Heavenly Father.
When both the man and the woman find Christ, when Christ has resurrected in the hearts of each of us, the Lord works in a mysterious way within each of us, He co-operates with us and everything is blessed by the One Who gives us everything: “Thine own of Thine own.”
Love is so beautiful, it follows us everywhere but we often ignore it. In the same manner, Jesus follows us everywhere but we ignore and neglect Him.
Saint John Chrysostom beautifully says: “Perhaps you will ask me: Doesn’t any kind of love even abstract bring joy? No, it doesn’t. It is only true love that brings pure and healthy joy. And true love is not worldly infamous love, which contains malice and vice, but Christian spiritual love, the one Saint Paul the Apostle requires of us, the one that looks after the neighbor’s interest. It was this kind of love that the apostle had when he said: Who is weak without my feeling that weakness? Who is made to stumble and I do not burn with indignation?” (2 Corinthians)
In this manner, through love we can assume our neighbor’s weaknesses and God will soothe our wounds and strengthen our weaknesses.
That is why we must pray to the Lord that our hearts are cleansed of passions and hatred and due to faith and sincerity the Lord will bestow his blessing upon the two, the man and the woman.
Translated by Claudia
Saints are not fairy tales, they are not made up characters, they are not from a different planet, they are simple people just like us. I essentially realized this when I saw photos of Saint John of Kronstadt. I found him so interesting and at the same time strange. How come you can see photos of a saint? You can see icons of a saint or you can see him painted on the walls of a church, but how can you see photos from the life of that saint?
In my mind, saints are people who lived a long time ago, hundreds of years ago, whose lives I can read in the synaxaria, far from being simple people. Imagine my surprise when I saw those photos from the life of Saint John of Kronstadt, when I saw that he was a simple man just like us, when I read about his life and learnt that he was ill as a child, that he was a weak student and he did not stand out in any way, it was only then that I realized that saints are common people.
What a man he was and what a saint he became! Sought after by tens of thousands of people just like people used to seek after the Saviour Christ. They would come to Saint John of Kronstadt just like they were going to a healing spring in order to receive healing, thousands and thousands of people would come every day to confess their sins, to receive advice, to receive Holy Communion and listen to his sermons.
Anyone can become a saint, someone who lives in a block or a taxi driver or a teacher or a beggar… I, too, can become a saint. But do I want to become one?
What if one day I put my mind to becoming a saint, to asking God to help me so that I commit no sins. First I would make a plan and then ask the Lord Christ all throughout the day to give me the strength to keep to my plan.
Even if I will make mistakes that day, I will ask for forgiveness and start over again. A Christian is not someone who doesn’t fall, but someone who gets back up. What is important is for me to realize that the Lord is by my side, in my fall as well as in my joy. What is important is for me to learn how to always relate to Him, to always ask for His advice and His help, to learn not to be selfish because I can do nothing without Him.
Being a saint doesn’t mean not to make mistakes, but to always see your own sins and try to abandon them because he who sees his own sins is greater than he who raises the dead.
What would it be like if we were saints for a day?
‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
Translated by Claudia
Our Lord Jesus Christ said to us: “Come to Me you all who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
It is clear what use humility is, as the humble and meek man finds rest for his soul, he escapes from the torment of all the passions and worries that burden and tire him. Due to humility and meekness the heavy burden of this world is left aside and the yoke and burden of the Lord are taken upon, the yoke being good and easy to bear.
But what can all this mean in practice? What are this yoke and this burden? How are we supposed to take them upon us? The Lord tells us: “Learn from Me”. Let us learn from Him, Who bore all our crosses, all our burdens before us. He bore them with humility and meekness, always doing the will of the Heavenly Father, always speaking and working only what He would see and receive from the Father. This is the yoke which is easy to bear and gives rest to the souls, doing the will of the Heavenly Father.
The first commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart and all your strength. And how do we better show our love for Him, if not by working what is pleasing to Him? The same way the Lord Christ did all His life? Humility is doing what is pleasing to God, giving up what we like if we know that He does not like that. Do we do this? Do we ask ourselves every step of the way: “Is what I am doing right now pleasing to God?” And if we feel that it is not, do we have the strength to give up our will in order to bring a little joy to God?
Is God truly alive and present in our lives through what we do out of love for Him or do we constantly push Him aside from our lives telling Him that we know better what to do for our own good? This is where humility steps in… We do our own will so often, but how often do we give it up in order to bring a joy to the Lord, to show Him that we love Him more than we love ourselves? We say it, but do we also show it through our deeds? Well, it is not that easy to show it through deeds because it requires humility and meekness, which are hard to achieve by those who love themselves more than anything else. And unfortunately this is where I often stand, as well, through my deeds, though I say something different… But look what the reward is for this assay: “you will find rest for your souls” and whoever tried at least once to renounce their own will out of love for God, know that this is true, they receive great comfort, peace and rest…
And the question remains: how do we achieve humility if, as we can see, we are a bunch of stubborn heads and we keep on doing what we usually do, we are a bunch of cowards and we keep on doing what we usually do, we are unworthy and we keep on doing what we usually do. How do we exit this vicious cycle?
The answer always comes from the Lord: “Ask and you shall receive”… prayer… we ask for humility and we shall achieve it! How? That is something that only God knows for each person individually, He knows how to work with each heart, He arranges everything that is necessary in one’s life so as to achieve humility, all they have to do is ask for it… Let us ask for humility unceasingly, let us ask for the strength to renounce our own will in order to be able to love, for the love for God makes His yoke easy and His burden so light… Love gives us wings! Let us ask from God to teach us how to love Him, to give us love for Him, because we can do nothing apart from Him… This is humility…
Praised be the Lord!
Translated by Claudia
Lord, I have taken a long journey which I should have taken long time ago. I have passed through tortuous and painful worlds, everything was a labyrinth. I had been there for a long time, but I couldn’t manage to get out, I have tripped many times, monsters (sufferings) have surrounded me from all around, they have drowned me in my own feelings, O, Lord, how have I entangled myself!
Yes! I was terribly haunted by Pain and Fear on my path. Both of them would whisper to me: you won’t get out of here! But I cried out to You, but what kind of an echo could my words have? For I could hear them as sufferings coming back to me constraining me in my own shroud, which had actually been my mechanism of saying to Christ: I can do without You, but that shroud squeezed me so hard that I humbled myself and cried out to You and You heard me quicker than ever! You came gently, but You haven’t unburdened me from that shroud. There were many black stains on it that needed cleaning. Those stains were keeping me away from you. But You came and saw me terribly shackled and You freed my wrists and then I cried out: Freedom! But it wasn’t like that, there were a lot of stains left! Some that I wasn’t even aware of, others that I wasn’t thinking about.
You were there with me constantly, but the suffering I hadn’t lived with You by my side have created a great labyrinth around me, which I named the labyrinth of darkness. But You, the Light of the world, came and took me from the little pain I was feeling to a greater pain? How is it that You, Who give joy, brought me more pain? It wasn’t You, Christ, that were giving me more pain, but it was the pain that I had lived without You! They were sufferings as great as monsters, but I encountered much comfort as well.
After each suffering I would receive great comfort! Who can understand this? It was something special! After living terror, pain and anger, I, the unworthy, would receive comfort! So much comfort! There have been so many sufferings, there still are! But they no longer have power over me! For You have offered me the strength to overcome them! What would I have done without You, during my painful long journey to the center of my heart; where the hell was greater, that is where I could feel You more than ever! You have given me strength to go on, in the labyrinth of my heart…
Thank You, Lord, for the labyrinth has turned into everlasting joy…!
Translated by Claudia
You ask: ‘O, Lord, our Lord, is it really easy to be persecuted? Is it really easy to go through the narrow door and down the stony path?’ You ask with confusion, perhaps doubt sneaks into your hearts: ‘Is Christ’s yoke really easy?‘ And I am telling you: Yes, yes! It is easy, extremely easy. But why easy? Why is it easy to follow Him upon the thorny path? Because you will not be alone, exhausted, but Christ Himself will be accompanying you; because His endless Grace will strengthen your force when you struggle under His yoke, under His burden, because He Himself will support you, will help you to carry this burden, this cross.
I am speaking to you not only out of reason, but of my own experience – for I have to confess that when I was treading a very difficult path, when I was carrying Christ’s heavy burden, it was not at all heavy and that path was a path filled with joy, because I could really feel that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself was walking by my side and supported my burden and my cross. It was a heavy burden that one, but I recall it as a bright joy, as a great mercy from God – because God’s Grace pours down richly on anyone carrying Christ’s burden. This is because Christ’s burden is inseparable from Christ’s Grace, because Christ does not let alone those who have lifted up the cross and follow Him, He does not leave them without His support, but He walks by their side, He bears their cross, He strengthens them with His Grace.
Remember His holy words, for great truth lies within: My yoke is easy and My burden is light. All of you who have believed in Him are called by Christ to follow Him by lifting up His burden, His yoke. Therefore, do not be afraid, do follow Him, follow Him boldly. Do not be afraid of the terrors the devil threatens you with, which strives to turn you away from walking this path. Spit at the devil, chase him away with Christ’s Cross, with His Name. Lift up your eyes to the heavens and you will see the Lord Jesus Christ Himself walking by your side, relieving your yoke and your burden. Amen.
Homily of January 28, 1951 of Saint Hierarch Luke of Crimea
The Holy Hierarch Luke of Crimea (1877 – 1961) was ordained a priest at mature age in full Bolshevik terror, having been already highly esteemed as a surgeon for his discoveries. A widower with four children, despite communist threats, he insists on appearing at conferences and in the operating theatre with his cassock on. He is marginalized and exiled to the Soviet gulag for his unwavering faithfulness. He becomes a bishop, remaining at the same time one of the greatest surgeons of his time. For his spirit of self-sacrifice in caring for the suffering, for his confessing of the true faith in times of persecution and for the wonders he worked even during his earthly life, Saint Luke was canonized by The Russian Orthodox Church.
Translated by Claudia
A year ago I received from my godmother the book “My Life in Christ” by St. John of Kronstadt. It’s a great book, a book that should not miss. St. John had a divine life and faced many things during, and he talks so easily and honestly about all aspects of life. Last night I found something nice in his book:
“There is, Christian brother, a true life, real, and another one apparent, false. To live to drink and eat, to dress, walk, to get rich, generally, to live for pleasure and earthly concerns, or devises intrigues, to judge and gossip about others… this is an apparent life.
To live to please God and to serve others, to pray for the salvation of their souls, helping them in every way to be saved, this is what it means a real life. The first way of life is a continued spiritual death, the second one is a relentless spirit alive. “
I believe that a life in pleasures is an apparent one because pleasures are passing. We want to satisfy this desire of eternal happiness with our evanescent things, with temporal things. Only man is eternal.
Staniloaie Father says: “The joy comes only from the relationship with people and with God”, the rest are not true joys, tangible and imperishable, but are inconsistent, melt quickly, quickly disappear. So are apparent.
A fellow from work, a graduate of the Faculty of Philosophy taught me that true is only what never changes, never goes away. Neither laws of physics are not true because they happen in 99% of cases in everyday life, but there were times when did not happen, there were miracles. So there were times when they were not checked so they were untrue.
So the truth is what stands forever, which never fails.
Jesus said: I am the Way, Truth and Life. (In, 14.6)
The truth is personal. Truth is God.
In today’s world there is no more talk of hell because hell implies punishment, and punishment implies sin, and sin implies the existence of God Who does not want the sin to be committed, but only good instead.
But if God does exist then there is Someone Who created us, Someone Who governs the world, Someone Who loves us all, Someone Who wants us to be happy and not to suffer. And for all of us not to suffer and to be happy all together, we should obey some rules of behaviour, a system in which we should all be equal (equally loved), although we are so different. The perfect system hasn’t proved to be neither communism, nor socialism, nor even democracy, but common-sense, love, forgiveness, peace, tranquility, beauty… God’s commands actually.
If for one day all people on Earth ceased forgiving, if that one day they ceased loving, ceased showing respect to one another, what would happen? There would only be quarrels, yelling, beatings, ugliness, wars… it would be hell on Earth. What or Who keeps this harmony among us? The laws and the national constitutions? Human rights? Obviously not, for most of us have never read our country’s constitution or all the laws.
Why are we tortured by remorse when we start to do evil and especially after we have done it? What is this voice within me which tells me it is not right to curse someone, that it is not right to hurt someone, that it is not nice to brag to everyone? It is God’s voice inside the human being, just like for a child the basic upbringing is always the ‘voice’ which tells him what is right and what is wrong.
God the One Who whispers to us the good thoughts and reprimands us through our conscience for our bad thoughts and deeds, is the One Who keeps the harmony and peace between us. He gives us peace and tranquility, He gives us the power to respect, to forgive and to love.
‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’
He guides our world from outside but especially from inside us. However, He never infringes upon our free will. He always suggests to us the good thought, he always suggests the way we can be joyful and lets us analyze, judge and make decisions.
If God referees the world why there are so many wars, thefts, murdering, injustice?
Because man’s greatest gift is freedom. Because God can override everything but not our free will. Why?
Because He loves us!
Translated by Claudia
“I’m so thirsty … But no, I cannot leave you alone. I’m so thirsty that a full glass of water would be too small for the thirst that is in me. But why am I talking about a glass of water? … now it’s fashionable to buy a refreshing drink from the Coca-Cola Company, we do live in the XXI century …
Well, unfortunately no such drink would quench my thirst. I try to lay my thoughts on paper. I try to tell other young people, how deep it is … this thirst nested in a corner of my desecrated heart …
But let’s get over the introduction. “I am thirsty! Give me to something to drink … “- Sounds familiar? Though not many young people recognize it, everyone is thirsty.
Our questionable attitude, our un-spiritual, unlit, wild, untransformed nature, scattered everywhere and stuck in the place, form and images of our sins and the sins of this world cause this thirst, this “lack” born in us. “I am thirsty! Give me something to drink … “does not refer to a natural cry, a cry for help, but refers to an endless cry, a relentless cry of the heart.
Today young people want to be the best, to get to the top; they get thirsty through their little or big rebellions, always trying to create something of their own, something completely new and independent. But then, this “something “ often causes a worldly craving, so if “anyone drinks this water will thirst again” …
The thirst born in us since childhood, symbolizes the lack of love and communion, symbolizes the lack of the highest level, namely: love. This thirst of the young man, reflects the alienation from the holy; alienation and also the escape in a world of sin, in a vicious circle of lust, a circle based on thoughts, feelings caught in a fabulous mirage of time.
The void created in us by this spiritual emptiness brings us to seek out the deepest meanings of our lives. We wonder who could quench our thirst. Who could fill this void in the depths of our being?
To our question, Christ comes and says: “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! “.
There is only one way we can come to Christ, one way we can approach Him, and we can receive love. This path refers to the relentless training, the relentless pursuit to become stronger, more able to receive the grace of the Holy Spirit and more worthy to drink from the Cup of Eternity. Only through Christ we can share the original depths of His love. Only through Christ the thirst that dwells in us, will cease:”whoever drinks the water I give them, will never thirst. “
The youngster who thirsts for Christ, the young man who wants light, truth and life, will remove the unnatural thoughts. Christ actually helps in the permanently discovery of thoughts, He alone enlightens us to identify those foreign thoughts, conceived in us.
The thirst of the contemporary young explains in a paradoxical way, the normal anxiety, the search state, the spiritual anxiety that always keeps you awake and aware that everything that is out of Life, is doomed to absurdity. Those who say they are living and do not have Christ, they are not living. The Cup of Eternity, about which I wrote in the previous lines, is the water of the everlasting life that only Christ can give. It frees us all from darkness, sin, fear and hesitation, it gives us the strength and power, brings us unending joy, immeasurable understanding and love for others. Water leads to eternity, as our Savior says “the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life. “
In the 5th Sunday after Easter Gospel the unlimited meets the limited; the woman’s thirst proves the insufficiency and the powerlessness of the existence by itself. This failure and helplessness we find even in ourselves, because we cannot return to the ways of God, without Him raising us up, giving us strength. He helps us get out of any deadlock of our journey, help us get through all the ups and downs of this life.
Christ urges us all to get closer to Him and drink the water of life. The Lord listens to your heart cry and pours over it rivers of healing and redemption. Christ sees the soul which yearns for the true and overwhelming mercy and His love for mankind.
Like the woman of Samaria, let us dare to approach the Savior and Giver of all heavenly and eternal things.
Let us ask Him for the water of life, water that makes us regardless of age … eternal, insurmountable, immortal. Water that makes us wish for Him, the Lord, to be more and more present in our souls …
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”
Translated by Irina Holospin
Adam, the forefather of the whole world, experienced, in the paradise, the sweetness of God’s love and that’s why, when he was driven out from paradise and he lost God’s love (because he sinned), he deeply suffered and with loud moan he was sobbing in the wilderness. His soul was tormented by a thought: “I sadden God, Who I love”. He didn’t feel so much regret for having lost the heaven and its beauty, but for loosing the love of God, that, in every moment and insatiably attracts our souls to God.
Every soul that met God through The Holy Spirit and, after that, he lost the grace, is passing trough the torments of Adam. The soul is ill and he experiences a painful repent when he upsets His Lord.
Adam was sorrowful and he was painfully sobbing and he didn’t like anymore the earth. He was longing for God, saying:
“My soul desires the Lord and I’m searching for Him with tears. How can I not search for Him? When I was with Him, my soul was happy and serene and the enemy didn’t approach me; but now, the evil spirit took over me and he disturbs and torments my soul, so my soul desires my Lord to the last and my spirit pines after God and nothing on this earth can bring me happiness. My soul doesn’t want to comfort itself with anything, but to see again the Lord. I can’t forget Him either for a minute and my soul is tormented; because of my of sadness I cry with sobs: “Lord, have mercy on me, Your fallen creature”.
In this way Adam was sobbing and his tears were falling from his face to his chest and then on the earth; his sighs were ringing out in the entire wilderness.
Animals were silent and grieved and they were crying. Adam was sobbing because of his sin the entire creation had lost the peace and the love.
Big was the Adam’s pain after his expulsion from the paradise, but when he saw his son, Abel, killed by his brother, Cain, his pain grew up and, with his tormented soul, he was sobbing and thinking: “Nations will rise and will breed after me and all the creation will suffer and live in enmity and the men will kill each other”. And his pain was deep as the ocean and it can be understood only by those humans whose souls experienced the Lord and know how much He loves us.
I’ve lost the grace too and now I scream with Adam: “Have mercy on me, Lord! Give me a humble and a loving spirit”.
Oh, love of the Lord! Who knows You is searching for You ceaselessly, day and night, screaming: “I yearn after You, Lord, and I’m searching for You with tears. You made me know You through The Holy Spirit and this awareness of God attracts my soul to search for You with tears”.
Adam had lost the mundane paradise and he was searching and crying: “My paradise, my wonderful paradise!” But, through His love, the Lord gave him, on the cross, another paradise, better than the first one, where is the Light of The Holy Trinity. What will you offer in return to our Lord for His love for us?
Silouan the Athonite – Between the hell of hopelessness and the hell of humility
Translated by Lazar Ioana
There are moments when we say we can no longer bear the cross Good Lord gave us, and most of the times we come to this conclusion because of the despair caused by the presence of sin in our lives and of the disbelief in the Savior’s words.
Lately I have forgot about prayer and the joys it brings, my heart has become petrified, and my mind has darken… and all these because of my estrangement from God.
Many times I feel my shoulders heavy… heavy with the burden of sins. Although I know that only through repentance that I will be healed, thoughts of shame and despair overwhelm me… I am afraid of myself because I know I will always fall, I will always crucify the Lord Jesus and I will always turn my back on Him and I will love myself more.
Every time that God enlightens me and shows me my sins, thousands of thoughts of pride invade my mind… for a few moments I am aware of them… only for a few moments, and then I carry on with my sinful life. I wish this would not happen any longer, but because human nature is so weak and helpless, it is as if we said to ourselves that there is no use in fighting. It is exactly for this reason that the Christ , Our Savior urges us not to fall into despair, because that the Kingdom of Heaven it’s available only for those who persevere , through the burning love inspired by the Holy Spirit and through unseen struggle with sin and passions.
No matter how many soul-strengthening teachings we receive, it is as if in our hearts we are not yet convinced that we can still achieve salvation in our days as well.
We should ask ourselves the question mentioned in the title but addressed to God… what would I be without You, Lord? I am certain that if we asked ourselves every moment, we wouldn’t forget our sins and, as beloved Father Cleopa Ilie used to say, we would constantly sleep in sins. Unfortunately, many of us do this… we forget that we are mere creatures and we are in God’s hands.
I started asking myself this question more often since the day I was at the subway and I caught sight of a billboard advertising a book with this title ‘What would be without you?’ written by Guillaume Musso. I haven’t read the book, but I heard it is about a woman’s two kinds of love: the love for her father and for the first man she fell in love with. She is forced to choose between the two beloved ones, because they are both caught in a deadly race, and their destinies cannot be separated.
I would have liked it very much if this question were addressed to the Lord Christ, and if the book had a Christian Orthodox topic. But I am glad because starting that day God has been helping me think more often about who I actually am.
Do not ever give up the spiritual struggle. Go to your confessor and confess your sins with repentance and sincerity.
I am anxious as well to go to my confessor because he is the person closest to me, who always awaits me with his arms open and wipes my tears. It is the Lord Jesus Himself through the confessor’s caressing and soul-strengthening words… and after receiving the absolution from sins and with the sincere desire not to sin anymore, the long expected joy comes along… the joy that lifts you to heaven and gives you wings to fly, the joy that cannot be compared to anything in this transient world.
Pray incessantly and struggle against sin… no matter how little it may be. It is because of sins that we are miserable and we cannot enjoy the gifts that God pours forth upon us out of His great love for mankind. Love your neighbor as yourselves and rejoice even together with the most humble beggar on the street corner… it is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself within that man’s soul who calls us and awaits for us to respond to Him with love.
Translated by Claudia