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
Yes, the greatest sin in the world is the sin which dominates you every day.
It is kind of inappropriate to make a classification of sins, although we must admit that there are severe and less severe sins, but they all have the same effect: they alienate us from God and leave us without His help and indirectly affect the others.
It is pointless for me to judge the others for committing fornication, murder, for remaining in severe sins while I am just like them, except for the fact that I remain in other kinds of sins. Overeating is for me just as fornication is for others. For me it is as hard to restrain from eating as it is for somebody else to abstain from physical relations. It is often easy for me not to get mad but I find it hard to keep quiet, it is hard for me not to brag, not to judge…
The greatest sin in the world is actually my greatest sin. And if God helps me get rid of it, a different very severe sin will arise out of the load of sins left which keep me chained down to earth and to my body.
The same way that God’s command is one: ‚Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself’, sin is also one, it is actually the breach of this command. Thus sins are not more or less severe but they are all breaches of commands.
For whoever will observe the whole law but will have offended in one, has become guilty of all. For He who said: ‘You shall not commit adultery’ also said: ‘You shall not murder’. And if you don’t commit adultery but you do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. And mercy triumphs over judgement.
Translated by Claudia
We entered the Great Lent. As we know, the Lent is a time of inner cleansing, of purification. I would even call the Lent a time of forgiveness, a time of return, of retrieval. Through fast, we return to God (2nd Chron. 20:3, Isaiah 58:6, Joel 2:12) and through the Sacrament of Holy Confession we receive forgiveness of our sins. But we often mistake the fast for a diet or for the healthiest nutrition possible.
We are not aware of the actual signification of fasting and nor do we think about its consequences.
‘Old people fast, well, why should we do the same? Isn’t youth too beautiful? So many dainties…’ Indeed, when we are young we are tempted by the worldly dainties – and not by the spiritual ones. Can the fast be a path to the heavenly dainties? Yes, it can. When we fast, first of all we fast for Him. He feeds us, we accept his consummate nourishment. The nourishment being God’s Will itself and not our own. Secondly, the fast can also be an act of praise, that is a deed of worship to the Lord, because it is a sacrifice – cause ‘Love is a sacrament that God planted in the human soul, which is based on sacrifice. There is no sacrifice without love and there is no love without sacrifice.’ At the same time it is a voluntary relinquishment of something that is permitted to us – sprung from our love and respect for God – as Father Cleopa used to say.
Why ‘flight of the soul’? Here is what Saint John Chrysostom says: ‘Fasting holds the body under restraint, checks its unruly movements, renders the soul transparent, gives it wings, raises it on high and makes it light.’ What does giving wings to the soul means? For the prayer be able to raise to Heavens, it needs two wings: fasting and alms deeds. Fasting gives our souls wings crowning them with the Real and Eternal Joy. Fasting cannot lack prayer. Likewise, nor prayer without fasting can fly to God.
‘It raises it on high and makes it light’. How wonderful these words are… Just by reading them, we should discover within ourselves the desire to search, to meditate and to prepare unceasingly for fasting. For the ‘raising of our souls’. But for this we need to fast not only with our body, but we also must confess Christ through our deeds, let the work of God be shown through them. How can our deeds be pleasant to God?
Saint John Chrysostom tells us: ‘Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your good deeds. How? If you see a poor man, take pity on him; an enemy, be reconciled to him; a friend receiving honor, don’t envy him; an alluring woman, pass her by. Don’t just fast with your mouth and stomach, but also with your eyes, and your ears, and your feet, and your hands, and all the members of your body. Let the hands fast by being cleansed of plunder and greed. Let the feet fast by ceasing to run to immoral shows. Let the eyes fast by refusing to stare lewdly at lovely faces. The mouth must fast from disgraceful speech and other shameful words.’ Our Saviour says: ‘When you fast, do not look somber like the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting’ (Matthew 6:16). In the Saviour’s time, there were the teachers of the law and the Pharisees and other people that wanted to be praised for fasting. They used to paint themselves with pitch, to appear thin, sad or miserable. But what do we gain if we follow their example? Shall we receive the unwithering crown if people appreciate us or praise us for fasting? Shall we gain anything if we look sad in front of the others? ‘But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face’; appear joyful to others, so that they can’t know you are fasting.
Therefore, let us rejoice of the Lord’s things serving and thanking Him for the Heavenly Nourishment. Let us give our souls wings through fasting and let the prayer be ‘mother’ to us upon the ladder of salvation.
Translated by Claudia
Many Christians do not give much importance to fasting. They fast without conscience or are not doing it at all. Yet, we have to receive fasting with joy, not with fear and sorrow, because it’s not scary for us, but for the devils. In the case of a possessed person, fasting really does a lot, especially when is accompanied by his good sister, the prayer. Therefore, Christ sad: “But this kind does not go out except by fasting and by prayer.” (Mat 17, 21)
So, it is certain that fasting sends away our salvation enemies; we should love it and not be feared by it. We should rather be afraid of eating a lot, especially when it is accompanied by drunkenness, because too much food and drink subdue us to passions, while fasting, on the contrary, gives us spiritual freedom. What kind of proof for fasting benefits do we need more, when we know that it fights against devil and it delivers us from the sins slavery?
Not only monks with angelic life are accompanied by the fasting power, but also laymen, who are flying on the wings of fasting till the heights of holy contemplation.
I recall that the two great prophets of the Old Testament, Moses and Elijah, although they had great daring towards God, by their virtues, they often fasted, and fasting brought them closer to God.
Even long before them, in the beginning of creation, when God created man, He immediately gave the command to fast. If Adam fulfilled this commandment, he would be saved. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.(Genesis 2, 16-17).
This was no other than the command to fast. If in Paradise was a need for fasting, there is a bigger need outside it. Before man was spiritually hurt, fasting had been a medicine for him; now more than ever when his soul is hit by sin, fasting is a medicine. Before the war of pleasures begun, there had been a need for fasting; the need is grater now, when we wage wars against devil. If Adam had obeyed this commandment, he would not have heard the words: for you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3, 19). Because Adam didn’t obey, there subsequently came death, worries, sufferings, and a life worse than any death.
Do you see how God becomes angry when fasting is despised? And you cannot imagine how much He rejoices at our fasting. Death touched man because he despised fasting and also through fasting death can not have power on man.
(St. John Chrysostom)
Translated by Ioniţă Radu
Is the beginning of fasting. Mother of God watches me in tears, and my heart broken by so many sins and helplessness, cries when meets the purity that springs from the holy icon. I have been worried lately that my life is the same, that I fail to change something, that I lay in the same helplessness. And I often ask myself: “What do you do to change something in your spiritual life?” The first step is to recognize your helplessness and sins, but you can not simply remain at the awareness stage, because it means to stay in mud.
The confession should remove the dirt, as so beautiful someone on the site quoted Father Sofronie Sakharov, to whom a young desperate girl asked painfully an advice: “Father, pray for me because I am … in mud, ” and he answered: ” There is nothing, sister, water lilies are growing in mud. “
So it should happen with us after our sins are confessed, so we can say as the prophet David said: ” Thou shalt sprinkle me with hyssop, and I shall be cleansed: thou shalt wash me, and I shall be made whiter than snow.” But this is not always happening so either from weak faith, or the so-called inability to fight against our own sins, for it is written in Holy Scripture: “In your struggle with sin, you have not yet resisted unto blood”(Hebrew, 12.4).
Some time ago, I found at the religious objects store, a book entitled “As your thoughts are, so is your life,” of Elder Tadei from Vitovnita Monastery, which made me realize how little importance we give to our thoughts, how easily we get every thought in our mind, than, being so easy, in our hearts will spread feelings of hatred, of despair, pride, envy, etc.. How easily do we speak in vain, useless words, and especially slander words against our neighbor.
We confess all these to Holy Confession, without too much further penance, because, that is, we are sinners and powerless, and then we approach the Holy Chalice, to receive the One Who sacrificed for the forgiveness of our sins. And if we remember the words spoken by the priest after Holy Communion: “Behold your lips touched, wipe your sins and your sins will be cleaned,” we can not think how our lips should be clean when we receive Christ.
In a spiritual book called „Pateric” is written that someone went to Saint Pimen and asked: “Father, how to reward evil with evil?” To which Saint Pimen replied: “Brother, it rewards evil with evil in mind first, and then in the eyes, and then in word and in deed after all.” Firstly in our mind, because all human rights are based on thoughts. And Saint Pimen said something important: “But if you remove evil from your mind and your thoughts, the next steps will not take place.”
Also in Pateric is written that someone asked a Father: “What shall I do because all sorts of evil thoughts are coming to my mind?” And Father said “Stop the wind.” But brother asked: “How to stop the wind? I can not stop the wind.” Then the father answered: “As you can not stop the wind, so you just can not stop bad thoughts to come, but there is something else we can do, with a good thought to remove the evil thought.”
Father Theophilus Paraian said in one of his sermons: “If you want to fix something in your life, you must arrange well your thoughts, and not to get evil thougts. In the Philokalia is written that in the loving diligent heart, the evil thought vanishes as the fire burns out in water. From this we can see our cheer – if the bad thoughts remain in mind, then we don’t have a loving diligent heart, we are not used to banish the evil thoughts with the good ones.
Do not deceive ourselves that we cannot sin by thinking, because Jesus Christ himself blamed the rich who wanted to broaden his barns, and collect his riches, not because he did something bad, but because he thought something bad, calling – him crazy – “Crazy, tonight I will ask after your soul. And whose will be all those you have prepared?”
Also, Father Arsenios Boca tells: “As you know, one of the part of a prayer the priest says at the Divine Liturgy is: “Holy are You, God, and between saints you are resting.” Therefore, beware that God, One as a being and triple in person, is resting between saints! What is this? This means that He is struggling between sinners! How much is God struggling in heart of wretched man! How much humility are people subjecting the image and likeness of God.”
We can not get to the measure of Saints, but we can try to avoid evil thoughts as Abbot Tadei said, “let us consider the mind” as Father Theophilus said, removing any bad thought, and in our attempt to clean our mind and soul, we can give God the opportunity to rest even an eyelash inside of our heart.
Mother of God be our help during this fasting for the change of our thoughts!
I’ve thought that if we like to stay in sins, being so stuborn to listen to God’s word, we should change our vices in our favour so that we will get spiritual benefit and a chance of salvation… if we lose so much time making sins.
That being said, here is what I suggest to you:
Therefore, as the Holy Fathers of the Church teach us, every negative impulse from our souls can be changed into a source of christian virtues. According to Fathers’ sayings, the irascible part of the soul, which we use it when we commit the sin of rage, has been given to us by God to practice the virtue of courage. Also, all the powers of the soul, which God offered to us, can be use in a positive way (with the purpose to fulfill the divine will), or contrary to our nature (to commit evil) depending on the free will of each of us.
Yes, the greatest sin in the world is the sin that master you day by day.
It is somehow improper to clasify the sins, although we must admit that there exist bigger and smaller sins, but all have the same effect: they separate us from God and then we remain without His help and. Also our sins influence people around us.
In vain I judge others for adultery, murder or other sins, because I am in the same situation commiting different sins. For me eating in excess is like adultery for the others. For me to abstain from eating to excess is as hard as when someone wants to abstain from adultery. It is easy for me not to get angry but it is hard to shut up, not to brag, not to judge…
The greatest sin in the world is, actually mine… my greatest sin. And if God will help me to get rid of it, there will appear another great sin that will keep me bound to the earth and to the body.
As the commandament of God is only one : „And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. And to love your neighbor as yourself.” So the sin is in fact only one. It is actually a violation of this commandament.
„For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, “You must not commit adultery,” also said, “You must not murder.”So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law. So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free. There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.”