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)
Archim. Efrem: Orthodox spouses must be aware of the fact that both of them share with one another their sins and faults. Nevertheless, a family must be grounded on a Communion with Christ throughout the Sacred Mystery of Church- it’s very important! „What God united no man shall tear apart„. I don’t think any marriage can be created without God’s consent.
If God does not want the union of two young people, the marriage won’t take place: either one of fiancée dies, or they split, or remain unmarried and so they never get to the holy matrimony. However, if they get there, it means that God has accepted it- the union is either on God’s will, or simply accepted. This is the reason why, knowing this, the spouses must tolerate each other and care for one another. In the evening they must talk about what happened during the day, offering explanations to avoid misunderstandings.
The husband must, by all means, prove his love to his wife in any practical way. The woman’s nature is so weak, that when she sees her husband showing any kind of amiability to another woman, her workmate, her girlfriend, envy lights up her soul. The reason is not a lustful tendency, but the love the wife has for her husband and the desire she has to have him completely. Furthermore, the woman can be jealous even on the love the husband displays towards his mother.
If you tell her: „Well, she’ s his mother, she gave birth to him, she raised him, been there for him all these years! ” she’ll answer: „Yes, he loves her more than he loves me
! ” All women answer likewise. That’ s why the husband, using tenderness, must find the button to tame the wife. Due to our lifestyle, us, the monks, do not have experience with women. But our role given by the holy Confession revealed to us many mysteries of women’s soul. Another thing which appeals to us is that, after having the first child, women want more the tender and caring side of their spouse rather than the sex related one. That’ s why the husband must be aware of this and be gentle to his wife.
The husband must never scold his wife in front of other people, because, often, out of selfishness, husbands criticize their wives especially around relatives.
Or, when the wife calls her husband while at work, he must not blow up at her saying: ”Leave me alone, I don’t have time now”, talking to her roughly. He must answer: „Honey, I’m busy right now, but I’ll call you later”. The wife must always know her husband loves her and thinks about her every second, she must feel that in his heart she comes first. When she’ll understand and will be convinced that her husband loves her, she will willingly became the sweet ground of his feet, ready for any kind of sacrifice.
Seldom, a wife displays to her husband a childish behaviour. Many times she is capricious as a child. As her husband, you must „lower down to her level”, not despise her requests and try to satisfy them in order to keep the balance of the family. Within the family all the attention must go to the weakest limb, the woman.
If the woman does not feel her husband’s tenderness, the hole in her heart cannot be replaced neither by the love of her parents, nor of her own children. The Holy Matrimony is so important, that the lack of attention of the husband towards his wife cannot be filled not even by the love of her own children. You don’t have to keep anything apart from your wife, because it will come a time when she’ll find out about it. Tell and consult her in everything. It is not good to have your wife find out about your hidden business from relatives, co-workers or friends. Be aware that women’s nature is always suspicious, doubtful. She always doubts and asks herself: „Does my husband love me? ” and if she’ll find reasons to suspect, she’ll turn into a beast. That’s why you have to know that the only thing which can conquest her and unite the family is tenderness. The ideal husband never calls her wife by her name. After getting married, the real name of the wife has to be only „honey”. Only then the two will be really committed body and soul.
If your wife does something wrong to you, don’t reply her instantly, when you are dominated by rage, rather at night, in the bedroom, when you are alone, tell her gently: „You know, honey, today made me sad that thing you did”. And if you show her tenderness she’ll be sorry, cry and apologize.
If the husband goes somewhere and forgets to tell his wife, and she finds out from his co-workers, for instance, she will suffer such a spiritual wound that she will hardly recover from it. That’ s why, a great deal of attention is needed. If the wife feels her husband is by her side, she is capable of any kind of sacrifice. Women need a manly figure. You see, even in convents, nuns cannot better themselves without a good confessor. Women always need male support.
So, as much as you can, pray together at home. The prayer said together unites the family. If it’s possible, in the morning pray together and in the evening attend the Compline.
It is advised for spouses to confess to the same confessor and attend the Sacred Mystery of Eucharist during the same Holy Liturgy and go to the same Church. These elements bring the couple very close together.
Recently came to me, in Vatopedi, a young man who said to me: „I met a girl and soon we will get married. ” „Do you get along well? ” I asked him. „Gheronda, we get along perfectly”, he replied. „Is she religious, does she go to Church, is she orthodox? „ Gheronda, let me tell you that this is the only subject we didn’t talk about. ” „ Son”, I told him, „this is the first thing you have to clear out. If you don’t have the same spiritual ground, the same faith, then your marriage is already bound not to last!” There can be no other way. The foundation of a marriage is the road towards faith. Otherwise, everything is in vain. At Vatopedi, there’s a monk who has been married, but wasn’t going to church neither him, nor his wife. However, he once visited us and, the Holy Spirit paid him a visit, which changed him and started confessing and going to church. His wife was against it. One day she told him: „I don’t want you to go to church! Stay away from me! ” They have been married for three years. Fortunately they didn’t have children, so he packed his bags and came to the monastery. So, I want to tell you that to have a good marriage, an united family, the preliminary condition is the spiritual life.
Question: During the conference you said the monks have a different level of submission compared to laymen; so how are we to discover the right path if we don’t listen to our confessor?
Archim. Efrem: Certainly, a layman won’t have the same level of obedience as a monk must have towards his abbot, but listen to your confessor as much as you can. It’s essential the following: if a layman wants to listen to his confessor as if it were an abbot, he can do it, especially if he wishes to. The confessor, on the other hand, mustn’t claim such submission from those who confess to him. So, if anyone asks us for advice, us, the confessors, give it joyfully, but is not correct for a confessor to consider a layman to sin if not asking for his advice. Only the monk sins if he doesn’t ask for his abbot advice.
Question: I want to ask you if a layman who gets troubled at work can participate to the Holy Eucharist during Feasts.
Archim. Efrem: You have to ask your confessor for advice. It depends on whether he absolves you, on your internal state of mind, your sins. All these must be taken into consideration by your confessor and he will give you the answer.
Translated by Ursu Oana
1. In the days of the Saviour two disasters occurred that killed people and which Savior Himself explained to them as signs. Pilate had killed some Galileans, and “mixed the blood with their sacrifices.” When this fact was made known to Jesus, he said: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. “(Luke 13) That is: They were sinners, and therefore have suffered. But they were not worse sinners than all of you. This is for you a sign from God to repent quickly. If you will not understand and you will not receive the sign, so too will all perish.
2. The second evil had not come through hands, but through the collapse of the tower of Siloam. On that occasion perished eighteen people of Jerusalem. According to Christ, would be a mistake to believe that “they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem. I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”(Luke 13) So, again a sign to people. According to Theophylact of Ohrid, “They’re put to death for us to change ourselves, if we change, will on us an even greater tragedy.”
3. A sign similar for those free of law is the death of Herod. Uploaded evil, Herod, instead of humble his pride, more conceited with pride. And once, when he sat on the throne and the people began to speak great things, “Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.” (Acts 12:23) Here it is the sign of God for all haughty and unbelievers. Woe to you, haughty people who do not give God what is God’s all likewise perish unless you repent!
4. A sign was the sudden death of Ananias and Sapphira, who have lied the apostle Peter. By this signal, the Most High wanted to remind young Christian Churches that they have to walk the path of pure truth. (Acts 5)
5. Sending the Apostles into the world for preaching, Christ said: “And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”(Mark 16:17-18) All this happened during church history until today, through the holy and righteous followers of Christ. And these signs – these signs – gave witness that the awaited Messiah really came into the world and other should not be expected.
6. When the Jews demanded a sign from heaven, the Lord gave answer: “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’ and in the morning: ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”(Matt. 16:2-3) This means that hardened sinners knew to guess the signs of nature, but signs of God – Christ’s miracles, did not know.
7. The Jews spoke against Christ that He banishes demons from people, apparently, with the help of Beelzebul, the prince of demons. When he answered properly, the Lord said: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matt. 12:28) And because the Lord banish demons with the spirit of God, His works have served as a strong indication that indeed the Kingdom of Heaven came to people.
8. All Christ’s miracles were signs that He came, so long predicted and expected, and that the kingdom of God came with Him and through Him. Christ relied on His miracles as on signs faithful enough to reveal messianic personality when John, in prison of Herod sent his disciples to him to ask him: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?” Jesus replied, “Go back and say to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”(Matt. 11:5)
9. And animals can serve as a sign to man. When the rooster crowed, Peter wept. The rooster song was a sign of his sin. And a donkey served as a sign for Balaam, who had started to speak against God, the One, the True One.
10. Star of the East was a sign that a new king was born.
11. We often meet in a lucky hour a man who, even unwittingly, chases away the clouds from our soul, solving a problem of our intimate. We often hear in society a useful word, we often suddenly utter a word that is useful to those who listen us. Or we received a letter from someone, just when we needed. Or, trapped in the fabric of life, desperate meditate with our small mind how to unravel all these, until, suddenly, something happens and solves our impasse. So, the meeting, and the word, and letter, and chance – all are signs of punishment, or a sign to become wiser, or a sign of encouragement, or an exhortation to repentance.
(St. Nikolai Velimirovic – Symbols and signs)
Christians, as well as other people who don’t go to church very often, know very well that a good deed is always rewarded. Even children know from small ages that bringing joy to their parents by their deeds, they will be rewarded.
Christ has promised that for every good deed, no matter how small it is, we won’t lose our reward, neither here, nor in His Reign.
“For whosoever shall give you a cup of water to drink in My name, because ye belong to Christ, verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Mark 9, 41)
From my experience I can tell you, as many others, that the Lord is very good and He really gives rewards one hundred times bigger here on earth. About the reward in Heaven I can only hope, because I don’t know exactly what it’ll be. I hope, through His mercy, that I won’t go to Hell.
I don’t know how others are, but when I heard the words:
”And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.” (Matthew 19,29)
I thought about this mathematically: I give a bread, I receive 10. I give 10 dollars to somebody poor, I shall receive 1000 lei.
Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, says:
” Will receive a hundred times ” means the richness of Christ’s grace, which is present in the souls of those who love Him “with all their heart, all their soul and all their mind” (Matthew 22,39)
Mathematical calculation doesn’t really make any sense, because there are a lot of times when we can give non-material things: forgiveness, understanding, encouragement and love. And all these can’t be measured materially, thus neither the reward can’t be estimated in a material way.
When I entered the Church, a few years, a friend of mine asked me:
“Why do you fast? Why do you help the poor? Why do you do good deeds?”
I responded sincerely: “so that I can get a reward from God and be able to go to Heaven.” This friend, who then declared herself an atheist, today having changed her opinions a lot, told me that I’m a double-faced because I do my good deeds because I have an interest, when I should be doing them out of love, without expecting a reward.
To me that answer was a cold shower, and since then I thought a lot about the motivation I have whenever I help somebody. The reward for good deeds is actually an intelligent bait to attract people to God. If you tell somebody who does not believe in God, that coming to the Church and closer to Christ, he shall be filled with God’s grace and he will go to His Kingdom, he won’t be very glad. But if you tell him that Jesus can solve his material problems, that Christ gives a reward even for a cold water glass given to the poor, then he will surely become interested.
The reward for good deeds is only a momentary motivation, to help you to go to another level: to do good deeds without any interest.
The conclusion is simple: God wants us to get to love Him. To be able to love Him, we need to listen to his commandments. And His commandments tell us to love those around us. The motivation of maintaining relations between us must be love.
At the beginning, you will only do good for the reward which God gives you. And he will give it to you! But then you will notice that the reward can’t motivate you to do bigger things. The reward limits you in your doing of good deeds.
Who forgives to whom has made a mistake for the reward in the Kingdom of God? Who gives up his good to the good of those around him, waiting for a reward? Who gives his life for his friend, having as a motivation only the reward? Very few or basically nobody. These things are done from unconditional love.
Love will motivate you to do even more that you ever imagined. Every good deed done for a reward will give you the impression that you did enough, and that you deserve a big reward. Every good deed done out of love will give you the impression that you can give even more, that you could have done more.
The verse from “The First Epistle to the Corinthians”, where Saint Paul the Apostle says that whatever you give and whatever you have, if you don’t have love, you are nothing. You might think that giving all your riches to the poor you will receive a reward in Heaven. Paul says it isn’t enough if you don’t also have love. You might think that being the most intelligent person and giving advice to others you shall be rewarded, but Paul reminds us that without love you can’t do anything good.
Love is the biggest gift you can give to somebody. Your love showed to another gives birth to love in his heart. Your love towards those around you is greeted by God’s love to both of you.
Yes, God does give hundredfold, but not the way we think. Not anytime and not anywhere. Christ will give you back more when you don’t expect the reward.
Who has hope in Christ only for this life is absolutely wrong.
God watches the heart of the person when he does a good deed, he sees his motivation.
Saint Basil the Great used to say that man can be characterized in three ways, depending on the good deed that he does:
1. if he does it out of fear of hell, it enslaves him
2. if he does it in order to be re-paid here, he will be enslaved in this life
3. if he does the good deed without wanting anything, but because of love of God, that will make the man a son of God.
Saint Isaac the Syrian says that: “wisdom has two heads: at one head, the fear of God and at the other the love of God. The good deed starts with the fear of God and ends with the love of God.” Also, Saint Isaac the Syrian: “happy is the man who knows his helplessness, because this knowledge will become the foundation, root and starting point of all good deeds.”
Saint Efrem the Syrian: “God doesn’t look at how big is the gift you give, but at the will with which you bring it.”
Saint Isidor, the apprentice of Saint John Chrysostom, who has written thousands of epistles to the Church of Christ, says: “when in man the word and good deed shall become one, they will make man the icon of all philosophy.”
Translated by Costin Matei
In our youth we wonder often what is the will of God with us, what is His plan with ourselves. Why do we say “May Your will be done” and not mine in Our Father prayer? Why do we have to ask the will of God first in order to receive what we want? Within us occur thousands and thousands of desires; some are good, and some less than good. Sometimes we are willing to do anything to make our dream come true, and once accomplished, we realize that the result is just not the one we thought it would be. The, we easily ask ourselves: “why is this not to my benefit?” We ask for reasons, clues even, “signs” from God; we continue to pray and yet wishing that our will may be done.
As a parenthesis, I would like to share with you a bit from my own experience. For two years I’ve been asking in my prayers for something that in the end turned out to be not to my benefit but against me. I was constantly asking for that dream to come true, with prayers, akathists and bidding prayers. I thought that God wanted the same thing for me. But still, time passed and my prayer didn’t receive an answer. I was living under the impression that God disregarded my call. That He wasn’t answering my prayers anymore, and so I fell…I couldn’t understand what was wrong. I couldn’t understand what His will was, regarding me. I tried to force things, but still no change. Thousands and thousands of thoughts were filling my mind…Thoughts that managed to transform my “small” fallen into a profound and dark fallen.
All this until one day when…A dear soul sent to me by God brought me back to reality telling me that “God is not a jukebox which fulfills desires and we get mad at him after that”. Then a second person came that told me that God has something better in His mind for me. At that moment I didn’t understand much, but now I do, very clearly. I hope you will understand too, not from me but from our heavenly Father who knows what is best for us.
So, why do we have to ask for His will to be done and not ours? For only He knows what is best for us. He knows what is useful for us, and He will work in our hearts only if we allow Him to. And how do we do that? With: “May your will be done, not mine!” It is one of the shortest prayers and at the same time, one of the hardest prayers to say. “May your will be done” is one of the hardest thing to say in my opinion because it means self-denial.
Those who are seeking to do the will of God are called by Christ Himself his relatives, as it is said in the Holy Scripture: “For anyone who will do the will of God, this is my brother and my sister and my mother” (Mark 3:35). How great this can be; through His holy will, Jesus Christ unites us with Himself, making us His brothers, and His sisters. Doing God’s will doesn’t consist in just asking Him constantly in our prayer so that His will be done, it also means that we have to fulfill his commandments. Fulfilling his commandments helps us to find the way; it helps us to understand that what God has planned for us is better than what we’ve planned for ourselves. We must not rely only on our own desires because without Him we can not do anything. Without His will we wouldn’t have existed in this world, without His will, the scripture wouldn’t have been fulfilled. That is why it is important for us to say in our prayers “May Your will be done!” Through these words we hand over our life in God’s hands, because like our Savior says: “the world passes and it’s lust, but who does God’s will, will remain for all eternity”.
God’s will may be our will when we don’t ask for things from this passing world, when we don’t ask for a selfish wish to come true but we let God do how he knows best. When you say “May your will be done” now, in the present, you actually say for later “This is what I actually wanted from You, but I didn’t know from the beginning how good it actually is what You had given to me!” In that way you let Him be in your life and you live as He wants you to live, and not the way you wanted to. Usually, what we think we need in this world and for this world, it is not what we need for our salvation. Let the Giver of all live inside of us asking him constantly to let His will be done with us, for only then we will understand what His plan with us is, and how we really feel in His loving arms. We will have that incredible feeling of safety, that unexpected joy, that immeasurable love of the One who said in the Gethsemane garden before He gave Himself for us: “Not My will, but Yours be done…!”
Translated by Closcaru Georgiana
In these troubled times, the devil passes by us every day, in different ways. Summer is the season of holidays, of fun which passes all bounds. Many of us go to the seaside, to participate to various music festivals (that serve them only as a reason to consume alcohol in industrial quantities) or simply to scour discos about and thus to go astray.
If we do a survey among the teenagers described above, questioning them: “Do you think you conform to the motto: live each day as it were your last? the overwhelming majority of the responses will be positive. You might say: “Yes it is normal to give such answers,” thinking that fun is a priority for teenagers.
But let’s see the things from another point of view. This motto applies to a good Christian? I think so. Unfortunately few apply it . We make medium and long term plans and we see them as accomplished, but we don’t realize that tomorrow may never come for us.
And yet God sends us signals. We bear some of them in mind a few days, as in situations when a car was to hit us , or we see a young person’s funeral. Other warning signs are downright painful, as the situations when one of our beloved ones leaves this world, and what’s more is that person dies young.
Only then we can truly think at our death. Or not even then. I personally went through such a situation and I think about how things will look like if I lose the other parent, but rarely do I think of what will happen if I die myself.
It would be such a good thing if each of us saw today as if it was our last. Certainly we would try and succeed to be better in hope that we will have a place in heaven. Unfortunately, too often we do this and we amuse God, making long term plans for periods of years or falling into the devil’s stretched net, that urge us to entertain us a little, (you know that the original meaning of the word: ”fun, diversion”- is distracting from an important action) now while we are young and then we will have time to redeem our sins.
Being young orthodox doesn’t mean not listening to music, but listening to good music. Good for the soul, the young orthodox is the one who by nature is thirsty of peace, of inner clarity, of purity of the heart, things he needs to be able to love purely.
Being young orthodox doesn’t mean not having fun, but not to throw yourself in the mud of sin on behalf of entertainment…
Being young orthodox doesn’t mean not having friends, but not friends who make you sin…
Being young orthodox doesn’t mean not doing the will of the parents, but refuse it with a humble firmness when it is sinful…
In a word the young orthodox does anything, but without sin…
He doesn’t refuse his parents or his friends, but the sin… Because the sin separates you from Christ… And the separation from Christ it’s in fact separation from truth and light… And what kind of life is that without truth and light?
I know, reader, that the concept of sin bores you, because it was stuffed for centuries, with vain morality…What diversion!
Scripture calls the sin ,,the sting of death’’; the sin is, in fact, the needle of the syringe of death, the death that flows in us.
And, ironically, today’s youth’s parents who are returning to the Church, are disgusted that Christ took away from the hearts of their children the sting of death! And that they don’t live that ,,life’’ which is only the subtle effect of destruction that is creeping, through sin, in their whole being.
The parents who separate their children from Christ, kill their souls.
May it not be so!
From my life experience I saw that people love you immediately if you are honest with them. When they see you for the first time, they are a little reluctant and behave and speak officially, but noticing that you are honest and you open your heart to them, talking about you and your life, then they will feel in debt to be honest to you.
One day a colleague meets me and asks me “How are you today?” She was expecting me to say “Fine, how are you?” but I said exactly what I was doing at that moment (I think I was going to photocopy something). She was surprised and happy, saying that she liked a lot that I haven’t answered in a political and cold manner, but I said exactly what I was doing.
I liked much what she said and I realized that very often we are superficial in discussions with others.
Orthodox Metropolitan Anthony Bloom said in a conference that when we meet with a person we tend sometimes to say “Hi!” and then ask in hurry “how are you?” but we don’t actually care how she or he is, because we don’t want to charge ourselves with somebody’s else problems and worries. Anthony Bloom said that once that one person tells you his problems, in a small way those problems become your problems too, his concerns and worries become your cross also, feeling them like a little burden on your soul.
That’s why we want to salute fast and then pass away from that person, because we don’t want to charge our mind and soul with somebody’s else problems., because we don’t really care about that person.
But Saint Paul the Apostle says: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Ga.6, 2)
So thinking, it seems that we are not so honest when talking with others, because we don’t really want to bear their burdens, we don’t really want to help them, even only with an advice. But if we bear other’s burdens then God will arrange things in our life in such a manner that others will bear our own burdens.
Someone said that the shame of truth is much easier to bear than the consequences of the lie. Honesty conquers everybody, making others to forgive, approaching people, and more than all it increases trust between each other.
When I say the truth, I confess the existence of God and ask Him for help, because He really is the Truth. When I lie, I don’t believe that God can help me if I’ll be honest, no matter in what situations I’m in. When I lie I receive help from the devil, becoming as he is, a liar and the father of lies “exactly as Christ said.
God always helps me when I say the truth. The devil tricks me always when I lie leaving the impression that is better so, but he will get back against me and he will harm me later.