“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
We often ask ourselves why we don’t get along with those around us, why we argue against them and each of us has a point in his own way. We sometimes get very upset, other times we cut the person we squabbled with out of our lives or we carry on with a long series of arguments and reproaches without asking God for help. We always fail to realize or be aware of the fact that we are His children, we are all brothers, we have such a precious soul and nobody except for God knows the weaknesses each of us has.
Whenever we quarrel with someone, whether it is a strife or that person reproaches us for something, it is important for us to humble ourselves, to get to know ourselves. When I say this, I mean we should regard ourselves as petty before God and maybe, without us realizing it, God admonishes us precisely through our friends or brothers. Secondly we must not judge the neighbour we are upset with. That is why we have to think about two aspects, the first of which is: ‘Lord, what have I done wrong that upset my brother and made him angry with me?’ or ‘Lord, what have I done wrong that caused my brother to slander me or to envy me or to speak ill of me?’ The second aspect is to take pity in the person who speaks ill of us or the one who is blind and can’t see the path. Let us pray to the Lord for them because they might have a bad temper due to the lack of love or due to certain circumstances.
Sometimes we don’t realize that some experiences in our lives leave us with trauma and we become reserved in our stance towards the world having the tendency to judge. Yet another major aspect is to have self-control, that is to renounce the egotism within us, the pride that infiltrates insidiously. Because of our ego we can’t accept advice easily, we feel like someone has something against us, but we don’t realize that we can learn something from any piece of advice. Those around us see us clearer from the outside and as you know a friend is not necessarily someone who flatters you, but also someone who lets you know when you are wrong.
Because we have a good opinion of ourselves, we often give advice to others or we try to impose our point of view, we are too haughty and we don’t accept any remark. If someone among us is less of a believer and has an erroneous view on something, we must not try to alter their opinion or impose our opinion in a barbaric manner because we would alienate them, they would become confused or judge us and consider us crazy. We must talk gently and kindly to these people, tell them our honest opinion, show them how we see good and evil. But it is even more important that we advise them to pray to the Lord, to seek Him, we could suggest going together to a church, to a monastery rather than giving useless advice in which we might not believe ourselves.
I would like to conclude with something particularly important: we should learn how to listen to people. Let us follow the example of our Saviour Who listens to each and every one of us. When somebody comes to you and wants to share a delicate matter of the soul, listen to them without saying anything and pray silently asking God to help them. We must not react on impulse, judge them or try to change them right away because they will flee. Have you seen the kind of patience confessors have? When you go to them to confess, they listen to you; if they labelled you, you would run away instantly and never confess again. We are all subjected to making mistakes, it’s better to keep silent and let God speak. Let us have patience with everybody, with the poor as well as with the weak and even with ourselves. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners!
Translated by Claudia
We are all going to die eventually and we all owe God an explanation at the end of our lives. Each of us has to account for what we have done with this life that we received as a gift. Some of us received more, others less.
Some lived very well, some had a hard life. Whoever was given a lot, a lot will be required from him and whoever was given a little, a little will be required from him. God is just and kind and He will judge everyone depending on their life contexts, on the hardships and problems they encountered and He will demand each of us the best we could do under the circumstances.
At the end of the world, when all people since the beginning of time are gathered, when everything is revealed, when there are no more lying, secrets and arrangements, then God will pronounce sentence upon each one of us according to our deeds.
“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall sit on the throne of His glory. And before Him shall be gathered all nations, and He shall separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.And He shall set the sheep on His right, but the goats on the left.
Then the King shall say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed Me,I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you visited Me, I was in prison and you came to Me.’
Then the righteous shall answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? And when did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothed You? And when did we see You sick or in prison and visit You?’ And the King shall answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,you did it to Me.’
Then He shall say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave Me no food, I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome Me, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’ Then they also shall answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He shall answer them, saying,‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25, 31-46)
The judging criteria are simple regardless of how many colleges we graduated, of the fact that some are drivers and other professors, of the fact that some were wealthy and others poor, some smart and others less smart, we all should have:
Being kind goes a long way!
Translated by Claudia
– Geronda, how do you pray about a certain matter?
– The main thing is to feel compassion. If one is not compassionate, he may sit for hours with the komboschoini and his prayer will have no result whatsoever. If there is pain in his heart about what he is praying for, even with a single sigh he will have prayed from the heart. Many, who when asked to pray have no time, will sigh for the other’s problem and that in itself is a prayer. I’m not saying prayer needn’t be done, but if there is no time, a sigh for the pain of another is a prayer from the heart; it equals hours of prayer. You read, for example, a letter, you realize there is a problem, you sigh over it and then you pray. This is very important! Before you even pick up the telephone receiver, even before you call, God hears you! And how the other person learns of this! You should see how those possessed by demons realize when I am praying for them and cry aut wherever they may be!
Real prayer begins from pain, it is not a pleasant experience, a ‚nirvana’. What kind of pain is it? One is troubled in the good sense. He feels pain, he groans, he suffers when praying for anything whatsoever. Do you know what it means to suffer? Yes, he suffers because he is participating in everyone’s pain or in the pain of one particular person. This participation, this pain is rewarded by God with divine exultation. Of course, he doesn’t ask for this exultation, but it comes as a consequence because he participates in the pain of others.
– Let’s say he learns of an accident and sighs and at that moment God gives him divine consolation for his compassionate sigh. He sees someone who is hurting and immediately feels compassion, and is thus consoled by God with divine consolation, he doesn’t remain with that initial bitterness over the accident. The other person is helped through his prayer. Or he may think to himself: ‚God has given us so many blessings, what have I done for God?’ I was impressed by what one soul said to me: ‚The angels cover their faces when the Mystery of Holy Eucharist is being celebrated, while we commune with the Body and Blood of Christ. What have I done for Christ?’ he suffers in a good sense.
– Geronda, how does one understand that someone has been helped by his prayer?
– He realizes it from the divine consolation which he feels inside after praying from the heart in pain. But first you must make the other person’s pain your own pain and then pray from the heart. Love is a divine attribute and informs the other person. Even in hospitals, when the doctors and nurses feel genuine compassion for their patients, this is the most effective medicine of all medications given to them. The patients feel they are being cared for with love, they have a sense of certainty, security and consolation. You needn’t say much to someone who is suffering, nor to instruct him. He understands that you feel his pain and care about him and he is helped by this. Feeling their pain is everything. If we feel compassion for others, we forget about ourselves and our problems.
(Excerpt from Elder Paisios, ‚Spiritual Awakening’)
In this article we reply to Daniel, one of the readers of our webpage whose comment was:
‘Because if we were to blame God for all the evil in the world and if His job description included fixing it and having no debt, I, for one, would fire Him due to poor performance. If this is all that a supreme being can do, I am not at all impressed, on the contrary, I would accuse Him of negligence in employment, abuse of position and incompetence.
It suffices to see that 6 million children die from starvation and illnesses in Africa every year, babies burnt alive in maternity hospitals (like the case of Giulesti – a maternity hospital in Bucharest, Romania), poverty, diseases, fires, earthquakes, disasters, etc. Let me remind you: 6 million children die from starvation and illnesses in Africa every year. How does He pay his debt to those people?’
You are right, millions of people die from starvation in Africa and around the world every year, but at the same time think about how much food we throw away, think about how greedy we are… about how we eat 4 or 5 times a day…
Think about the fact that we, the ones living in the ‘good’ world have a daily food basket much larger and more expensive than those living in Africa.
Remember that our main concern, the westerners, is to live in comfort and delight, always seeking large salaries, big houses, luxury cars, trips abroad, social life during weekends, ever new and trendy clothing, daily gastronomic whims, expensive hobbies and many others…
Whoever in Europe thinks about the poor in Africa?
What country in Europe gave up the grand prize in their national lottery which usually amounts to hundreds of millions of euros in order to donate it to African children?
We accuse God for keeping His hands in His pockets and letting those children starve to death… but we are the ones to blame, the selfish westerners who forgot about God, who gorge ourselves silly.
How much clothing does Europe throw away?
How many cars does Europe scrap every year although they are between 10 and 20 years old? Cars that could just as well have been used. How many new cars does Europe produce annually despite the fact that the automotive market is overloaded?
How much does Europe produce for the delight and selfishness of its own citizens without thinking about the starving people in the world?
It is we that are the great hypocrites.
The poor on street corners in your city and in mine starve to death because of you and me. When we become aware of his, there will be no more poor people.
How many European billionaires stash their money in bank accounts thinking about what funds to invest them into?
Why do the European Union and the USA that handle billions and billions of euros every year not offer help to poor African countries, selflessly, without expecting anything in return? Why is there so much money for cultural projects but there is never enough money for helping our starving brothers?
If every European citizen gave one euro per year there would be 830 million euros which can be invested in Africa in order to give the poor bread and clean water. If we, European citizens, gave at least the annual interest to our bank deposits, it still would be something extraordinary.
The list of ways to give up at least 10% of the comfort of western living is long, and the aids gathered this way would be enormous. Nobody claims we have to raise the standard of living in African countries to that of European countries, but let us at least offer them basic food and hygiene products.
God is not the problem, I am. In the same way that in a family the parents and their child have the means to live and after a few years, 4 or 5 more children are born to them and they all have enough food to eat, in the large family of our world, if we shared what we have, everyone would have the necessary nourishment.
‘You give them something to eat!’ (Matthew 14, 16) our Saviour says in His Gospel. Yes! Let us give the poor something to eat and after we all shared our bread with the one next to us and when the wheat is over, only then let us cry out to the Lord: ‘Oh, Lord, we are starving, have you forsaken us?’
God’s answer to your question ‘Why do millions of people die from starvation in Africa every year?’ is the answer that He gave to the wealthy man in the Gospel who saw what a good crop he produced and had no room to store it and torn down his barns to make them larger thinking to himself he had enough goods to enjoy himself. God then said to him: ‘Fool! This very night your soul is required of you!’
This ‘Fool!’ describes the madness of the one who cries out to his father that his brothers are starving while his pantries are full of food.
Why do we experience afflictions? Why do we experience illnesses, fires, natural disasters, accidents, etc.? For the same reason that God put an end to the wealthy man’s life. Because we can’t get enough of living just for ourselves and we cause so much suffering to those around us who wait for a little help from our side. Our larceny and greed are the voice of the suffering of the poor constantly crying out to God. ‘In what way can I set before your eyes the suffering of the poor so that you can understand from what sighs you gather your fortunes?’ Saint Basil the Great says.
How much longer should God tolerate us? We murder our babies through abortions because we fear we can’t feed them. Brothers and sisters quarrel with one another because of money and fortune. People trample on one another for the sake of worldly glory and power, no matter who their victims are.
The world experiences afflictions after years and years God has tolerated us in our meanness.
Why does it experience them? So that we don’t think we are the masters of the Earth. So that we don’t forget that the Lord is our Creator and everybody’s Judge and that it is Him that rules the world, not the higher-ups, as we often falsely think.
If the rich don’t reach down into their pockets out of their own free will in order to help the poor, after years of God tolerating them due to His love, He will punish them out of love and they will lose the money in their bank accounts due to bad business, they will spend it on doctors when they become ill, they will withdraw it from their accounts… unwillingly.
In consequence the conclusion is this: the poor starve to death because we the people don’t give them food and don’t help them and the world experiences afflictions because it is only through suffering that people are awakened to reality and stop being selfish.
The land produces enough crops for everybody every year, the barns are always full… but our greed leads to the starvation of others.
Translated by Claudia
How can we love someone who is constantly trying to hurt us?! How could we overcome that barrier which stops us from loving that last person whom we would like to see as our neighbor as well? By keeping our thought upon Christ. Everything must be done with the mind directed to Christ. Let us wonder how Christ sees this bad person in front of us? Because I see them the way I do. And how does Christ see them? We don’t know how, but He died for him. When we are tormented by evil thoughts about our neighbor, let us remember that Christ died for them as well. This is the thought that the Apostle Paul suggests when he tries to deliver us from the Judgement.‘Who are you – the Apostle says – to judge someone else’s servant?’ Or: ‘Beware not to cause your little brother to stumble, for whom Christ died!’ This thought is the deepest, because the Apostles themselves nurtured it and it lay before everything: let us keep in mind that Christ died for this sinner. The same Apostle Paul invites us to also meditate on the fact that Christ died for us when we were sinners.
Remember that there was a time when you hadn’t found Christ yet, because, although we were brought up in a family of believers, each of us can see, looking behind, how many shortcomings, how many confusions there were in our minds, on our way to the right perception of God. And despite all this, you would love God, you would come before Him, would pray to Him, would cry, would receive forgiveness, would rejoice and you thought you had everything you needed. But after a while we discover how imperfect we used to be: we would believe all sorts of weird things. ‘Oh, I thought that the Mother of God was born out of the rib…’ or ‘I used to believe this or that’. And despite all this, God would look upon you. You would do a lot of sinful deeds which you thought were righteous and God would forgive you. This is the way you should see your neighbor as well: that if they make any mistakes, they do it out of ignorance and that God judges them according to this ignorance and that He sees what you don’t. And the way you used to see yourself when you had so many shortcomings – but if you had seen yourself throughout time coming out of the labyrinths of ignorance and weakness, you would have condemned yourself – that is how you should judge your neighbor as well.
Hence, let us not forget that God loves each man in the state they are in and He knows about each of us the things that we don’t, because we judge by appearances, while God judges by the inner things, He also sees the future repentance which we don’t see. This is how we should reach to the people in front of us, to the people we don’t like, who annoy us, who upset us, who displease us: by always asking ourselves what Christ thinks about this man and by telling ourselves that Christ died for him and thus showed His perfect love He has for you and for him!
( Savatie Bastovoi – To love is to forgive)
Translated by Claudia
Father Arsenie Boca said that a sad Christian is like a car driven with the lights turned off through the darkness. Why did the father say so? Is it possible to be happy all the time? Should happiness define the Christian of our time?
I will start telling you a personal experience: During my teenage years and during college I was very introverted and I had many spiritual wounds that determined me to have little confidence. I was very busy with my inner life. I saw my flaws, I wanted more from myself, but I could not do anything to fulfill my dreams… and above all, I was sad.
My biggest wish was to serve God, but I saw that my wish is so far and I discouraged myself.
After long expectations, I received the ordination and I began my mission in the assigned parish. As a priest you are always facing cases where your help is needed even though this sometimes means only a kind or an encouraging word.
What surprised me most was the fact that by trying to help the others, I forgot my problems. I forgot that before I had been sad, pensive and apathetic for so long. I had to give to the others what I did not possess, but what God had plentifully through His amazing love towards us. Through His power people were saved and received spiritual help, and I was alive again.
Why did I tell you this? Because the best solution to get away from our problems, from the sadness which surrounds us, the best solution to lose the burden of our sufferings and failures is to give what we do not have, but what God has plentifully. Step by step we will see that by helping the others, we actually help ourselves. When we embrace and caress the ones beside us, God hold us too in His arms.
Is it hard to believe?
The human being is made for love and communion, and the sin or selfishness locks our heart. We become deaf to the sufferings of others and the depression burdens us. But is impossible to be sad or sorrowful when you are helping others, when you show kindness and compassion. You do not have where to give from? Just try! Whatever you do, do it in the name of God, and He will cover up your inability to love and will heal you.
The source of joyfulness is God, and when we ask His help for our fellows, He changes our lives too.
Try and see…
(Fr. Alexandru Nicodim)
I was talking to a cousin of ours a few days ago and I was asking her if she had a boyfriend and she told me that she used to have someone whom she lived with for a longer period of time. I asked her if she usually finds a boyfriend easily and she told me that it was pretty hard for her to find one. I told her I used to have the same problem when I was younger because I wasn’t and still am not such a good-looking person who sweeps girls off their feet.
She told me: ‘You know, being ugly too is a gift from God because you can be certain that the person who stays besides you (your boyfriend, girlfriend) likes you not only for the way you look, but for the way you really are as a person’. I liked what she said very much and I rejoiced.How can we in fact be ugly? If I am ugly, but I resemble God, that means God is ugly as well.
‘So God created mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’
I sometimes like to think that if I asked someone: What does your mother look like, is she ugly or is she beautiful? What would they answer me? I am certain they would say: ‘My mother is very beautiful and I love her’. I say the same about my mother. For each one of us our mother is beautiful and we are very fond of her. But if I see someone else’s mother in the street and she is in her fifties, what is my opinion about her then? According to the way we, the youth today think, surely I wouldn’t consider her beautiful.
For me my mother is beautiful because she loves me so much, because she always takes care of me, because she has always been besides me for a quarter of a century, because she is my mother…
These being said, we notice that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder and there is no qualitative or quantitative measure. The beauty of the other person is rendered by the way I relate to them. If I judge a person prior to at least getting to know them, I will related to them incorrectly and I won’t like them, because I have forced myself to do so, due to my prejudice. But I don’t judge them at all and I am open and sincere towards them, through this I get them to open up as well, to become known, to show their beauty.
The only ugly thing in the world is sin. And whoever commits the sin takes part of the dreadfulness of sin. But because we are all sinners, and nobody is righteous before God, I must not judge anyone for committing sin, I must not see the sin of others, but my own. By doing that, my desire will not be to see the sin of others, but their beauty.
The Lord Christ tells us that our eyes light up to our whole body when we only see the good:
‘The eye is the lamp of the body. So then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.’
The beauty of each person comes from their relationship with the others. I can’t be beautiful on my own, but I am beautiful in the eyes of my wife, of my little girl, of my friends. Likewise I can’t be ugly on my own, but only in the eyes of those who don’t love me.
‘A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.’
Translated by Claudia
I”m so afraid of suffering. I”m afraid even of the most insignificant pain. To me, being cold is the most terrifying physical pain, to others is the toothache. Loneliness itself can be often felt as a physical pain, but whatever suffering would be like, it does not comfort anyone.
We are aware of the fact that if we want the Resurrection, we have to pass over the burden of carrying the Cross as the Lord Christ Himself did. But is this indispensable for everyone? Is there a way to reach salvation without suffering?
Father Seraphim Rose said:
”We, those who call ourselves Christians, have to wait nothing but being crucified. Cause, being a Christian means being crucified now and anyother time since Christ has come for the first time. (…)And our crucifixion must be exposed, so that anyone could see it, cause the Kingdom of Christ is not from this world, and neither the world nor even only one exponent of it can receive it, not even for a moment.”
I wonder what is the meaning of this crucifixion, nowadays?
The Holy Fathers say that suffering comes from the lack of pleasure. We suffer due to our permanent need of feeling pleasure and when this phenomenon is interrupted, for different reasons, here come pain and sadness after the moments in which we were accustomed to tasting the pleasure.
Even though I am arrogant and selfish, sometimes I try, with God’s help, to give more attention to others rather than to myself. If I have something that I want to share, I offer the biggest part to others and keep the smallest to myself. If due to the circumstances some people which belong to a group have to endure inconveniences and others don’t, I place myself into the first one. If I am refused, offended or removed, I simply accept this with calm and I try to withdraw without having any reaction. If one of my superiors act unjustly with me, then I put my head down and walk away without making any scandal. I always try not to trouble with my desires neither to impose myself, even if my authority would allow this ( as a father, husband, client, beneficiary or citizen).
This attitude, which I’ve learned from the Gospel, helped me many times in getting rid of suffering, because from the ethic point of view, I placed myself into a position knowing that I am going to suffer and getting ready for it. I was in peace with it and seemed that every time it happened I was more and more brave in facing it, asking for God’s help. Placing myself into a position that did not disturb anyone, on the contrary, it favoured them, I didn’t have any competition, being not afraid of an ulterior suffering but accepting the maximum of it as a consequence of my position in that group. This was giving me the peace of getting rid of the fear of: ”what if it‘s me who….” I was getting rid of the threatening of being cut throat and this gave me so much peace.
Psychologically speaking, I could say that this kind of attitude helps you to place yourself into the position in which you will get minimum of pleasure with minimum of frustrations… consequently also a minimum of suffering, if we think that suffering is actually the pain which is derived from the unfulfilled desires (needs).
If you first propose yourself in order to get the biggest benefits within a group, then, you place yourself into the position in which you will get the maximum of pleasure but also the maximum of frustrations coming from the fear that others won’t confirm your position and eventually you will get to benefit less or not at all.
If we pay some attention to what is happening all around us, we will notice that where there is a bone, there are also the dogs. The competition is where you can get benefits from. Where money are easily made and benefits come on short term, there is where most of the people are interested in. There, where is pain, suffering, hardworking, stress, long term benefits, there are a few or none interested in. A father from Mount Athos, being asked if he has peace and if he can pray, answered that: ”When you find yourself in poverty, nobody disturbs you”. If you don’t have anything valuable that could attract others, then you won’t be disturbed.
If through the attitude you have, you want money, a superior position, political advantages, if you have persuasion over masses, or if you are able to bring benefits to others, then you will surely have competition and people will pine for a piece of your cake. Putting yourself into such a position, you can easily get suffering instead of what you first desired.
Generally speaking mankind looks for what is palpable, material and here is where the fight begins, and it is normal that after this ”fighting”, those who are involved in it, go out wounded and suffering.
The less importance you give to the material, and more to the spiritual, the least interested you’ll be for the world and you will get less wounded, out of this fight.
In conclusion, we could say that we suffer because we pine for what is material, in our efforts to obtain it.
So, the Cross that all of us have to carry in order to get to the Resurrection, is nothing but leaving everything that is material, or, the continuing attempt and effort to obtain spiritual joys, that come from your relationship with God and the others.
Supposing that there is a way to salvation with a minimum of suffering, that way is life itself, lived without cherishing the material and always relate to Christ’s commandments.
If we want to save ourselves with no suffering, we have to put us into the last position for the benefit of others.
That is why I said if we are afraid of carrying our cross, we have to crucify our selfishness!
We can run away from suffering, transforming the Christ’s Cross into renunciation of all that is material.
In the Tradition of the Orthodox Church, actually the Cross is asceticism, the lack of passion, the fight of getting rid of the sin – as the only one responsible for suffering. The sin makes us selfish and puts us into the psychological position in which we expect maximum of pleasure.
Humbleness instead, puts the man into the position in which he wants nothing, being always satisfied with everything, not wanting to disturb anyone and whose only problem is with himself and never with the others, willing at any time to endure more difficult situations or a lack of pleasure.
Translated by Lăcrămioara Ticu
When I’ve read some while ago what Our Lord Christ said: ‘Blessed are the merciful for they will be shown mercy’ (Mt. 5, 7), I haven’t understood very well what He meant. I was mainly thinking that those who would help the poor and would always be charitable would be shown mercy by God on Judgement Day, when they will enter the Heavenly Kingdom. Now I also understand something different besides this promise.
I understand that when I show mercy to someone poor and I help them, then God shows mercy to me as well and He helps me. I also understand that when I am generous to the wretched then God is also generous to me and He doesn’t punish me when I do wrong, instead He forgives me.
Just like I take pity on someone when I see them suffering and I help them, God takes pity on me when I do wrong and He doesn’t punish me. When I’ve been merciful to others, God did not delay in being merciful to me as well.
Some while ago I was thinking how great it would be to stop suffering, to stop having troubles and having a constantly happy life. It seems rather impossible, here on Earth. But I think that this is mostly possible.
Many times I was not punished by God, although I deserved it awfully. I haven’t received troubles from God although I should have. I have never suffered too deeply. I can’t say I’ve had troubles, but only sorrows. I’ve received so much from God and for that I’ve tried to help others the way I could and God has taken pity on me and hasn’t punished me too often, He hasn’t given me suffering, but He forgave me and made me realize that I’ve done wrong.
I think that those who don’t want to suffer must help others who are suffering. Whoever relieves someone’s suffering (hunger, thirst, etc.) will also be kept from suffering by God Who will always watch upon them.
‘Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.’ (Luke 6, 30-33)
We people are different one from another from a physical point of view, that of our aptitudes, our mental structure and our spiritual development. It is all right for us to be different and it is all right to learn things from each other, but what happens when we are so different that we start not to get along anymore?
In most relationships, someone dominates and someone lets himself be dominated – I am not going to start a debate on roles by gender or others, but I am only starting from an ascertained fact – someone is weaker and someone is more sensitive to the former’s vulnerability, someone is more developed and wants to contribute to the others development… From my personal and professional experience, a person cannot really change unless they are ready and determined to do it. No matter how much I’ve wanted for some of the people I’ve met until now, no matter how good the change would have been for them and for those around them, some of them were not determined to change.
During college, I was assigned to different institutions where children with disabilities were fostered. After my first visit I was very disappointed: I would have wished so many things for those children, but they simply were not feasible. These children’s disabilities were so severe that there weren’t really many things one could do in order to help them become somewhat independent. This I couldn’t do, but for a change I could offer them something to make things better for them: attention and affection. Many of the children there were not able to dress by themselves, to study and to earn their living, but at least I offered them a day when they felt better, less neglected – this aspect was also a problem, because of the small number of employees and of not accepting volunteer contracts. I personally couldn’t do much, but I made a difference, at least for one day, for one hour, in the life of some children abandoned by their own parents because they hadn’t risen up to their “level of expectations”.
We are born with a permanent desire to seek and wish for life, literally or figuratively, but as time goes by, some of us often even choose death. Life can mean the joy to live, to bring children into the world, to get closer to God, Who is Life by definition, while death is getting astray from Him, the physical and spiritual degradation. One extremely sad thing is the situation in which one of the people close to us chooses death and no matter how hard we try, he seems not to want more than that. Accepting such a person, who more or less consciously hurts himself and implicitly his family, is something extremely difficult. Accepting a stranger the way he is, is not that difficult as accepting someone dear. The dreams and expectations regarding the ideal family fall apart, as if to make things even harder. But criticizing or nagging the person who bothers us is similar to accusing ourselves of our own imperfections.
Accepting a person unconditionally, because he is human, even if we do not approve of his actions, is one of the greatest proofs of love, and love, loving one another, is one of the major commandments. Praying for each other is a proof of love, relating to one another with care is a proof of love, and authentic love touches, softens, reaches a core, sometimes faster, other times it takes longer.
Relating to someone maliciously or with anger arouses the negative side of the other person. When the approach is made with love, one has God besides him. One cannot produce a real, deep change through malice, quarrel and threats. Change comes through and from God, and by acting that way, I doubt one has Him as their ally, no matter how noble the purposes. Through personal example, through guidance with love, warmth and understanding, through prayer, you are offered more than you might gain through the use of the sword.
To return to the subject, I have met persons that I didn’t like at all, or violent children, people who used to behave very badly. I didn’t like them, but this wasn’t my personal problem. I was there in order to do something for them – I am thinking both of the personal or professional aspect of my existence until now – although in some cases I didn’t want to be where I was.
I learned in time that behind people with different addictions there is a hidden suffering. When you draw closer to that suffering, it is like breaking a wall. The addicted, most of them, try to fill in a gap: from the lack of an appropriate emotional environment, to the discontent that they are not understood, even the lack of a relationship with God. Taking into account that a relationship is built in two, the one who does not face an addiction is not exonerated of responsibility. It would be much more useful to examine themselves and find what is in their attitude and behaviour that makes their partner persist? It is important for the one who is not the slave of a substance to try to forgive their spouse, who maybe has not behaved faultlessly sometimes, pushed by alcohol, for instance.
Unfortunately, I can’t give a recipe, but, to sum up, the most important is: the personal relationship with God, to approach the addicted with love, the change at a personal level, which in time will determine, with God’s mercy, a change in the others and acceptance of the person for what they are, even if we do not approve of what they do.
Translated by Claudia