Almost every time someone tells us about a beautiful person, the first thing we think of is an attractive face and a harmoniously built body. We associate beauty with the body almost reflexively. Though, if the body were the representation of human beauty, beauty wouldn’t be what we think and hope it is, but it would basically be ageing, decay, sickness and eventually death. All this is due to the fact that no matter how beautiful it used to be, the body eventually starts to decay, to get sick and dies and death remains ugly no matter how artistically it is buried.
Still, why do we have this image that beauty is defined by the body since we are aware of its ugly finality? Since beauty is by definition the opposite of decay and death, why do we indirectly – through the body – associate it with these features of the ugliness? There is however an explanation…
We have this image because most of us are humans with our senses inclined mainly to the body, with perceptions rather carnal than spiritual. In Eden man could see God and all his senses were attracted and fulfilled by the grace of the Holy Spirit. But after man’s falling into sin, God took his grace away and the bodies of the first people were stripped of the divine glory with which they had been adorned, so that instincts led to bodily lust being overcome by spiritual lust. And man lost his gift to see and feel divine beauty. Nevertheless his terrible thirst to quench his senses with beauty remained. And because he no longer seeks divine beauty which requires ascetic effort, man struggles to quench his thirst for beauty by a means more accessible which is the body. This is why we instinctively think of the body when it comes to beauty.
Nevertheless spiritual beauty can be easily told apart from bodily beauty. Carnal beauty, once contemplated, stirs our bodily desire, irritating us and giving us discomfort until we satisfy the desire which was stirred up. When you look at a person with an attractive body and face, you unknowingly lose your freedom of will which is enslaved by sexual instinct which doesn’t allow you to have peace. On the contrary, when we look at a person with spiritual beauty, our freedom of will remains untouched no matter how long we contemplate that person’s appearance and what’s most important is the inner feeling we are left with afterwards because spiritual beauty is comforting, calming, it brings peace and touches man’s heart making him love more.
For these reasons, the only beauty whose seeing and feeling makes us feel accomplished and truly fulfilled has been, is and will only be the spiritual beauty. Therefore, although it also reflects in the body, beauty is defined through spirit, through man’s inner life, through the part of him that is made in the image of God. This is the key to understanding beauty. And a man can only be beautiful if he resembles God. And it is only by love that we can resemble God. So beautiful people are those with virtues, those who love God and their neighbors. That is why the most beautiful man in the world is our Saviour Jesus Christ and the most beautiful woman in the world is the Most Holy Mother of God.
Translated by Claudia
My name is Milioara Avarvarei and God arranged for me to be the wife of a priest. In this article I want to share with everybody how much good Saint Nektarios can do in any problem no matter how insignificant. So far, Saint Nektarios has performed two miracles in our family:
My husband and I wanted very badly to have at least one more child (we already have two wonderful children aged 15 and 12 named Maria and Ciprian) because God gives us a gift through every child.
Due to God’s economy, our godsons from Alba who are very devout gave us a small part of the holy relics of Saint Nektarios. This is how we came to know him. We read the book about his life and we began to pray to him together with our two children, who have this wonderful saint as their wonderful friend and grandfather who understands them in all of their problems.
We also decided to visit the Monastery of the Holy Trinity on the island of Aegina and pray by the coffin with the holy relics. With his holy relics. We arrived in Aegina on the 2nd of February 2011. There we prayed to the saint with faith so that he would offer us a child and we promised to name the child Nectarie / Nectaria. The main reason we went to Aegina was to ask the Saint to heal my husband (Father Dumitru) of his hepatitis C which we had learned of 6 months before – in July 2010.
I cannot describe in words what we felt at the Saint’s monastery. The first miracle the Saint performed with us occurred right there in Aegina. When we left the monastery it was raining heavily and we had to call two taxis to drive us to the ferryboat (we were 6 people, 3 priests with their wives). We knew that the ferryboat was not supposed to leave for another hour because that is what we had read on the schedule posted in the harbour and we had enough time to get there. Talking about this and that, my husband who speaks English talked to the taxi driver and told him we were going to catch the ferryboat which was leaving in an hour. When he heard, the driver grabbed his phone and called a friend of his on the ferryboat and asked him to wait for us for 5 minutes until we got there. We concluded that the schedule was wrong and due to Saint Nektarios’ arrangement we arrived in time, otherwise we would have waited in the rain and cold for another 4-5 hours, until the next ferryboat.
During the first month after the Great Lent, the Lord arranged for me to get pregnant through the intercession of Saint Nektarios. I am now nine months pregnant and about to deliver my baby Nectarie (according to the ultrasound it is a boy). As for my husband’s illness, I can confess that his treatment with interferon was approved and after 3 months of treatment, his viremia tests came back undetectable. God and His saints work through people. Trust that you will be given whatever you ask of Saint Nektarios with faith. We are aware that we are unworthy of all the gifts that God has bestowed upon us through the intercession of His Most Pure Mother and of Saint Nektarios.
Praise to You, Lord, praise to You!
Translated by Claudia
If God’s kindness left me, I would remain an old man, completely sinful; the sins that had began in my youth and a part of them still exist in me, and I would be all in darkness, impurity and rottenness. But the goodness of God cleans me, blesses me, lights me, embalms me and adorns me ceaselessly. Thanks God for this!
(St. John of Kronstadt – Latest notes)
I see in my imagination, with eyes of the heart, how my heart breathes Christ Himself in, how He enters into it, bringing, suddenly, peace and sweetness. I will not miss you, Lover of people, You are my breathing and my joy! I am sick without you.
(St. John of Kronstadt – My life in Christ)
When the devil is in our heart, we feel something like a deadly weight, unusual, a flame in chest and heart; our soul feels that something crushes and darkens him; everything annoys us; we feel disgusted against every good deed, misinterpret every word and every gesture of others towards us. We see bad actions against us, made with evil intentions, we see an injury of honour and thus we cherish that deep deadly hatred and thought of anger and revenge. “By their fruits ye shall know them”. There are days when the evil spirit troubles me too.
(St. John of Kronstadt – My life in Christ)
Que est veritas? What is truth? Hmm…I think if you go into a city and put a big poster with this question on a building, it will come lot of scientists, psychologists, physicists, archeologists, biologists, anthropologists, paranormal activities researchers, UFO-logiest, spiritualists, wizards and, finally, Christians.
All of them have something to say about their own version of truth, the biologists with Darwin’s theory, the physicists with their Big Bang, UFO-logiest with their intelligent alien, the spiritualists with their pagan gods that may go hand in hand with the “aliens” and Darwin’s theory of evolution. And finally, Christians come with Christ.
I, personally, can’t say that I have true faith; it would be a lie if I said I believe in Christ and God with all my heart. But, can you blame me? When our world is full of nonsense and when my mind has been poisoned since kindergarten with such “theories” certified by some researchers from some labs in some “evolved” countries like England, Germany or the US?
When I turn on the TV on Discovery (usually Science), Animal Planet, and National Geographic or on other similar channels, which should give me real facts about the universe around me, all I can find is ash. This bunch of theories has made me feel grieved and strange in a way, lately.
Why should I be interested in what happened 100 million years ago at the time of dinosaurs if this doesn’t help me at all in my later life? Why should I be fascinated with the Big-Bang theory which supposedly formed the whole universe from a giant cloud of gas that has always existed (notice the sarcasm) and which suddenly exploded, forming galaxies, solar systems and stuff like that.
Why should I be delighted that the Human Being comes from a species of monkey, with sharp ears and short tails? Maybe I’m selfish, but all these theories of the “bright ones” make me feel as if I had no personality, like a worm, like an insect without conscience, which should accept its tragic faith, the faith that all things from this universe will go through extinction someday.
I sit sometimes and thought on how scientists don’t go crazy when they think about this destiny, about this cosmic sentence to which all the humanity is heading to. Aren’t they desperate when they think they’ll never see their loved ones again?
And then, all of a sudden, Christianity comes to make sense to this life, to give people a noble purpose. It clarifies completely everything in the universe; it shows us that we don’t have to carry the burden of this life alone, that we don’t have to freak out when we face a problem, that we shouldn’t fear death. Christianity gives us a Father (God), a brother (Christ) and a mother (the Holy Virgin), who take us away from the darkness and the wilderness of this world. Everything seems so wonderful, so fantastic to have God by your side; it’s similar to a fairytale, like the ones I used to read when I was a child. I somehow fear this is an illusion…I’m fed up with illusions. I want to be down on earth. I can be accused of believing in fairytales when I pray to God, when I don’t submit to this life, of being absent minded and weak.
When I start praying, always I have to tell myself that God is listening to me, that Christ is by my side. Always there’s “something” that stops me from believing with all my heart, just like Peter who started sinking when he walked on water. I convince myself with the words of the Church Fathers, of the Holy Apostles, with the ones who were cured of severe illnesses and of the ones who witnessed miracles, with the faith fathers Cleopa, Arsenie Boca, Papacioc, Sofian, Elefterie had (my grandpa, God rest his soul, went to the last one while he was alive and he met there people who told him, the father could tell your name and your deadly sins, even though he had never seen you before).
I think this last testimony, of my grandpa, is probably the closest to my micro cosmos, to my life. Should I believe in this, or the theories of the others? Could my grandpa have lied? Or, was he laid by a bunch of people hired by father Elefterie to tell the pilgrims that he performs miracles? Yes, I have these questions…horrible, right?
Could all those fathers have lied? Could the Apostles have been some fanatics who sacrificed their lives preaching the Gospel, knowing Christ hasn’t resurrected? Who dies for a lie? Did the Apostles really exist? All sort of questions that build up an immense concrete wall between me and believing in Jesus Christ with all my heart.
Maybe I don’t have enough information, maybe I should make more research before judging, I don’t know…
All I know for sure is that this modern civilization, the scientists’ theories, everything we are thought in school about the supreme truth of this life is against the ones who want to believe in Christ. I know this for sure because I felt it.
This… This is the world we live in! A world full of turmoil, stress, vain pursuits… And the soul, the poor host of our feelings, obeys us, as it obeys to a master, being assaulted by the falseness and vanities of this venomous world and not being able to follow God’s Law any longer…
“Beware, therefore, my soul, lest thou be weighed down with sleep; lest thou be given up to death, and be shut out from the Kingdom!” (Psalms), but, man, be enlightened, be wise as Saint John the Chrysostom says: “The wise man is like a lit candle from which other candles can be lit as well”.
A happy childhood, with sour cherries hung over my ears, with the scent of field flowers, with the air gilded by the rays of the joyous sun, with the shadow of recently blossomed lime tree, with glitters of light, with sparkles of smiles, with beloved faces of old people waiting for you on the threshold… This is the season of my childhood! A season when I burst into buds and when I blossomed, so that I can now achieve the gift to pour out healing perfume over all those who need it…
But the entire world is cruel, it is mean, it is merciless… As many others, I also like to compare it to a foamy sea whose waves hit violently against the cold rocks… But let us not forget that, as we come closer to the smooth sand of the beach, the sea becomes calmer and it slips playfully through your wandering legs.
We are the captain of the boat, a “boat” we make a living in… But let us be careful not to forget our paddles at home, lest our soul sinks, lest it gets lost on this earth, in this telluric world…
Time passes… time elapses… Some while ago, I myself was saying that life gets closer to its end with each moment we live!
But NO! I was wrong! On this incognito earth, where we struggle to live, we have a life… a life which we simply pass through; through the century-old world… we are a moment’s passengers!
Therefore, we should learn how short the span of this life is and how endless eternity is! Where is our Faith? Where are our Hope and Love? These three maidens clothed in light teach us that we shall always be thirsty today, but in the eternal life we shall drink deep from the “spring of life”, the “living water”, from which all of His creatures will quench their thirst.
The greeting of the light must be done with love, for “if there is no love, there is nothing” and “love never falls in ruins!” (Galatians 13, 8)
So let us be “sons of the Light, and not of the darkness”, “sons of the day”, as Saint Paul the Apostle says…
Salvation of the soul… Such a relevant subject… I am glad that as early as “from my youth” (the Paraklesis to the Theotokos) such important things were revealed to me, for, if we believe, if we hope and love with our entire being, we shall take care of the salvation of our soul and we shall not drown in the cold deep waves of the sea…
“I called upon You” (Psalms) and I was freed from the whale’s belly, just like Jonas…
“THE SPIRIT IS WILLING,BUT THE FLESH…IS WEAK. “
Translated by Claudia
Reading the life of Father Arsenie Boca, who is very dear to me, I find out that in his childhood was beaten by his father because he was wasting time in laziness. He promised with tears not to do that again and that lesson was usefull for the rest of his life.
The time used for nothing in our life is an irrecoverable loss. I remember that when I was younger and I had plenty of free time and when I had something to be solved, no matter how simple, all the time I found something more important to do. I put every activity off to another time, because…I was busy wasting the time: on TV, on computer, listening to music, or even a spontaneous meeting with friends, anything rather than what I had really to do.
But things changed and I had a job, a family, responsabilities and time began to compress. I didn’t find the time to make my duties without too much effort. When I realized that I had not enough time, I learned to appreciate it, to weigh it, thinking how I could waste it on nothing so far.
“For every thing there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Ec. 3:1)
There is nothing more true. There is time for school, for work, helping, and rest, walk or meeting with loved–ones.
But what if we cease a bit watching TV, staying on the computer, playing internet games without measure, looking in the mirror all day to cover up our face with make-up and many other daily activities with an “major” character. Perhaps then we will find 15 minutes a day to read a book, and a 5 minutes for evening prayer without haste or 10 minutes to listen to a piece of advice. Then maybe we would not regret losing our time . Maybe we would not say “if I could turn back the time…”
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. (Ephesians 5:15)
About 1982 years ago (2012 after Christ minus the 30 years of hidden life, when He was a child and then a carpenter in Nazareth), the Holy Face of the Only Son of God was revealed to the whole world by his Forerunner, Saint John the Baptist. That auto-revelation of God had an effect so big on the world that all the scientific discoveries, revolutions, inventions, philosophies from all eras pale in comparison, even if they were madly worshipped by man.
After thousands of years, the celebration of Epiphany (epiphany= appearance, manifestation; the Baptism of God is also called Epiphany or the manifestation of the Holy Trinity : the Son in the Jordan river, the Holy Spirit in the body of a dove and the Father speaking from the skies) and it remains a curiosity and many once-Christian countries, including orthodox Romania and secular Great Britain. Few people, including so-called Christians really understand the meaning of the holiday.
Outside the Christian world (composed of the Original Orthodox Church, as well as other heterodox beliefs), people still continue to hate and mock Christ, as Irod did when He was born or the Judeans when they put Him on the cross. If there were only not-believers (agnostics), maybe their sin would be smaller (and forgivable), but by calling themselves atheists (in war with their Creator), they also mock the Holy Spirit, not to mention the fact that they are in a completely unscientific position- nobody has ever proved, scientifically the inexistence of God.
They want Him out of all His things, without seeing that, the more they fight with the inexistent God, the more they actually prove the contrary- His existence. And that is because all the demons that inspire atheists ideologies know that He exists.
But these things happen outside the continuously reducing Christian world. Inside it, there are other demonic traps whose purpose is to dilute faith. The devilry of the enemies of our salvation has existed ever since the time of the apostles, have lead to the separation of Christianity from 1054 to the present. In a world full of hedonism, Christ appears as ‘relative-Christians’ ( heterodox people, but also non-ascetic orthodox people) want Him to be, as they ‘draw’ caricatures of Him in the most strange circumstances. The world is disfigured, living under the spell of ‘I do what I want to do’, thus disfiguring Christ.
People today, very little resembling of the man-angel John the Baptist, state they have seen the Son of God, and these appearances are thought worthy of holding the web or printed pages of journals such as They Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. Sometimes this kind of news rapidly reaches places throughout the world.
A girl from Great Britain saw Jesus in her chewing gum, a banker states that he was saved through a divine intervention, after Jesus appeared in a frying pan, a so-called church advertises through the Face of God drawn with the foam from a glass of beer,
A man from Southampton is sure that an image took by Google Earth from a field in Hungary shows Jesus, while a woman and her paramour say they saw Him in an ecography, near their baby who was sucking his finger.
Members of a (probably wacky) community from America saw Him crucified on a telephone pole, a couple would be ready to swear that He was on the door of a toilet in an IKEA store from Glasgow, while a family from Hertfordshire recognized Him on a flaming log in their fireplace. And the list of appearances (surrealist, psychotic ?!) can go on and on. Thus, the relative-Christians of all names believe they are refreshing their faith, while atheists are laughing out loud at the stupidity of the so-called Christians. Both parties are satisfied. 😦
According to the teachings of the Orthodox Church, hardly the saints that try to live by the model of John the Baptist see Christ for once in a lifetime, so how would regular people, especially those coming from a desacralised society like that in the Great Britain suddenly manage to see Him?
Then, is it really true that all these appearances change somehow clearly the existence of these people, such as in the rare cases when the future saints have seen the Saviour or His Sacred Mother and changed completely their lives after that moment? Maybe not more than one man or woman from a half-million people is drawn to the monastic life. God knows how many of those called are really chosen – not by blind faith, but by their own need to be ascetic.
Those whose hearts are purified, so that they are worthy to see His Face are few, very few. It’s very probable that there are as few as one from a billion (from all the billions that lived in the world) that have seen Him during their lives on Earth.
However, in the present world, so disfigured by sin, so far away from Him and separated by His commandments, seeing Him has become a cheap curiosity. We’re not far from believing that seeing him is something common, such as going to the supermarket or turning on the TV.
Actually, things are not at all like this. Seeing God is something for which John the Baptist would have lived even a hundred years in the desert and would have accepted to be decapitated for a hundred time. And still, a price for a such priceless gift would not have been discovered.
So full of the emptiness inside us, a lot of us can’t understand the words full of humility of the Forerunner: “So this joy of mine has come true. He must grow greater, but I must grow less.” May those, very few, who still are humble be blessed! It is for them that the Lord keeps the world alive.
(Bogdan Munteanu – MunteanUK)