Friday, September 30, 2011

Force yourself to pray

Elder Ambrose of Optina

If you do not feel like praying, you have to force yourself. The Holy Fathers say that prayer with force is higher than prayer unforced. You do not want to, but force yourself. The Kingdom of Heaven is taken by force (cf. Matt. 11:12).

[Elder Ambrose of Optina, p. 25]

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Circumstances indicate the path beneficial to our soul

Elder Ambrose of Optina
The Path to Salvation

The mistake on our part is that we do not want to submit our will to the all-good Divine Providence, which indicates to us through circumstances the path beneficial to our soul. Instead we look for some sort of peaceful way for ourselves which exists only in our dreams, and in reality is nowhere on earth. There will be rest not for everyone, but only for a few, when they sing: With the saints give rest ...

[Living without Hypocrisy, p. 142]

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The merciful Lord does everything for our benefit

Elder Leo of Optina
The Will of God

The merciful Lord accomplishes and does everything through His will for our benefit, even though the means and results may seem to be in opposition to us. With the help of the most merciful Lord God, we will be patient, and we will see.

[Living without Hypocrisy, p. 23]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Everything happens according to the judgement of God

Elder Nikon of Optina
The Will of God

If you carefully observe the details of your life and that of others, with startling clarity you will see that no amount of caution or measure taken has ever been able to determine what will transpire, for everything happens according to the judgement of God. There is no one to blame. We must humble ourselves and endure, otherwise we sin against God.

[Living without Hypocrisy, p. 23]

Monday, September 26, 2011

O Lord, let it be according to Thy will

Elder Moses of Optina
The Will of God

We must always say: "O Lord, let it be according to Thy will," either this way or that, for we must receive all that is sent to us as from the hand of God; the sorrowful with patience, the pleasant with thanksgiving.

[Living without Hypocrisy, p. 22]

Sunday, September 25, 2011

God always watches over us

Elder Leo of Optina
The Will of God

We must be certain that the Divine Providence of God always watches over us, and arranges all circumstances for our benefit, even when they are unpleasant for us.

[Living without Hypocrisy, p. 21]

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wholeheartedly rely on the will of God

Elder Nikon of Optina
The Will of God

If we wholeheartedly rely on the will of God, then everything will be fine, and what is unpleasant will be accepted like as it should be. Everything that happens leads to the salvation of our souls, and in this is revealed great and profound wisdom. To them that love God, all things work together for good (Rom. 8:28).

[Living without Hypocrisy, p. 19]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Be gentle, kind

Venerable Seraphim of Sarov

You cannot be too gentle, too kind. Shun even to appear harsh in your treatment of each other. Joy, radiant joy, streams from the face of him who gives and kindles joy in the heart of him who receives. All condemnation is from the devil. Never condemn each other. We condemn others only because we shun knowing ourselves. When we gaze at our own failings, we see such a swamp that nothing in another can equal it. That is why we turn away, and make much of the faults of others. Instead of condemning others, strive to reach inner peace. Keep silent, refrain from judgement. This will raise you above the deadly arrows of slander, insult and outrage and will shield your glowing hearts against all evil.

Elder Tadej of Vitovnitsa

Elder Tadej of Vitovnitsa
Father Tadej (Thaddeus, Фадей) was born in Serbia in 1914. Aged 15, he was told by doctors that he had only five years to live. The young man entered the monastery of Milkovo, where he became a monk, the disciple of Russian monks who had taken refuge there. They had come to Serbia as a result of the Bolshevik coup d'etat in Russia and the neo-calendarist persecution of Orthodoxy at Valaam Monastery, then in Finland. Among the Russian monks at Milkovo was the well-known Fr. Ambrose, a disciple of St Ambrose of Optina. It was from him that Fr. Thaddeus soon learned the Jesus Prayer.

After the repose of his revered elder, the saintly Fr. Ambrose, Fr. Thaddeus moved to the monastery of Gorniak, where he was tonsured by its Russian Abbot Fr. Seraphim. Two years later Fr. Thaddeus was ordained priest. After this he was given various obediences and until the outbreak of the Second World War served at the Patriarchate in Pec.

From here he returned to Belgrade where he was arrested by the Gestapo, who had already arrested Patriarch Gabriel and the future St Nicholas (Velimirovich). They considered Fr Thaddeus to be one of the leaders of the Serbian resistance to the Nazi occupation. However, these charges were dropped, Fr. Thaddeus was released and he set off for the monastery of Vintovitsa.

Fr. Thaddeus was to remain in Vintovitsa for most of the rest of his life. He became known as an elder and every day received all who came to him for advice, support and consolation. However, he was persecuted by those jealous of him and spent the final years of his life with spiritual children. He departed this life on 13 March 2003 and was buried in the monastery of Vitovnitsa. He is venerated by his many spiritual children, especially Serbs, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Bosnians, including former Muslims whom he converted to Christ.

Sayings of Elder Tadej in English
Sayings of Elder Tadej in Serbian

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Valaam Monastery - Step to the Skies

Valaam Monastery - Step to the Skies
Mount Athos of the North, the worthy and great Lavra -- so was called this ancient monastic dwelling, which was founded by Saints Sergius and Herman, the Valaam Miracle Workers. More than once did the Valaam Monastery see destruction and devastation, more than once did its monks die by the edge of the sword more than once were its holy churches engulfed in flames. But every time, the monastery recovered from its wounds, rose and flourished again.

Official website of Valaam Monastery

Friday, September 9, 2011

Wise remembrance of death breaks the bonds of death

Elder Macarius of Optina
A Letter on the Death of His Grandmother

Dear Sir and Esteemed Uncle, Paul Joachimovich!

On the 20th of January, the letter announcing to me the sad news of the death of my esteemed grandmother, A. P., reached my hand. Thanks be to the merciful God, Who allowed her to leave this world when she had reached her declining years, in the white garments of sincere repentance and confession of her sins, bearing the seal of Holy Unction upon herself, and having Christ within her by partaking of His Holy and Life-giving Mysteries! I thank you for the details of her death, for they all give hope for her future well-being. I thank you also that you did not conceal from me the feelings of your saddened heart, because I like to share grief with the grieving. I owe you the greatest sympathy, since your love inspired you to look for me in this distant, silent and unknown corner.

Having lost a person we realize his actual value, dearest Paul Joachimovich, and maybe even overestimate him. The law of destruction was inscribed within me since my conception; on each newly developing member, death applied its menacing seal, saying: "This is mine." The links of my days are a chain of greater or lesser suffering; every new day of my life is a step that draws me closer to decay. Sicknesses come, and my trembling heart asks them: "Are you just the forerunners of my death, or have you already been given the authority to separate my soul from my body with a dread and terrible parting?" Sometimes my spiritual eye, distracted by the cares of life, abandons the contemplation of my sad destiny. Yet, as soon as an unexpected sorrowful event strikes me, I quickly come back to my favorite teaching, like a baby to its mother's breast, i.e., to a discourse on death, for in sincere grief is hidden true consolation, and the wise remembrance of death breaks the bonds of death.

Thou who by thy unspeakable goodness hast created us, why didst thou fill our lives with grief? Doth not thy mercy make thee pity our sufferings? Why dost thou grant me being and later take it away through a painful death?

I do not enjoy, says God, your illnesses, O man, but out of the seeds of your grief and sorrow, I want to bring forth for you fruits of eternal and majestic joy. I imprinted the law of death and destruction not only in your body, but also in every object of this visible world. I commanded the whole world together with your body to cry out to you that this life is not the true and real life; that there is nothing permanent here to which your hearts should become attached through justifiable love. When you do not hearken unto the threatening voice of the entire universe, then my paternal Mercy – which always wishes you unlimited good – compels me to lift the scepter of chastisement. When I torment you with temptations, wear you out with illness, with pangs of remorse, it is that you might abandon your folly, become wise, cease seeking after shadows and return to the path of salvation. My unutterable mercy and unlimited love for human beings compelled me to take your flesh upon Myself. Through My abasement I have revealed the greatness of God to the human race. By suffering on the cross for the salvation of men, whom I desire to draw to Myself, I first afflict them with grief; and with these arrows of affliction, I deaden their hearts to temporary pleasures. The scepter of punishment is an emblem of My love for men. Thus, I first afflicted the heart of My servant David, and when a torrent of temptations separated him from the world, then some unusual thought arose and took possession of his mind. He writes: I called to mind the years of ages past, and I meditated, i.e., I glimpsed the past days of my life and they appeared to me as a momentary dream, an apparition that quickly disappeared, dead to life. Then I thought about eternity and compared it with the brevity of my past life, and comparing the eternal with the short and temporary, I came to a conclusion. What is this conclusion? Man like a shadow shall pass away and disquiets himself in vain (Ps. 38:6). That is, no matter how much a man may bustle about, no matter how much he may care for acquiring different passing goods, all this has no value for he does not cease being an incidental brief apparition, a guest and wanderer in this world. Such feelings and reflections made him retreat from the world of the passions, and he began to study the law of the Lord day and night and to strive toward knowledge of himself and of God, as the thirsty hart runs toward a stream of fresh water. Being a King, David had opportunities for temporary pleasures, but after he tasted the sweetness of inner blessings, he even forgot to eat his bread.

I have written you, my dear uncle, of my feelings. If they do not correspond with worldly thinking, at least they are sincere, and this sincerity might be a consolation in this time of grief.

Your late mother, before her death, exhorted you to be a good Christian, and I wish this for you with all my heart. Then in your eyes death will lose its threatening aspect and will become a most pleasant transition from temporary affliction to unending delight. It will carry you to the chambers where, as we may almost certainly suppose, your mother now dwells. Grief for the dead, in the light of the right way of thinking, disappears, and is replaced by a good hope that consoles you and makes your soul rejoice. Fanaticism hinders man's thinking-true faith gives it freedom. This freedom reveals itself through a man's steadfastness in all possible good or unpleasant events. The sword that severs our bonds is a purified mind., which recognizes in every circumstance its true, hidden, mysterious cause. Anyone who strives toward this goal may reach it by examining his own nothingness, and reverently asking for divine protection and help.

Glory be for all things to the most merciful God, Who pours out His ineffable blessings upon us in every circumstance. For the Fount of goodness can produce no other waves but waves of goodness. Man, often not recognizing this, murmurs against the all-gracious One.

Hieromonk Macarius

[Fr. Leonid Kavelin, Elder Macarius of Optina, p. 44-47]

How We Left for the Monastery


How We Left for the Monastery
Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov)

In general, in the early 1980's, we didn't just leave for monasteries—we ran to them. I think that people thought we were a little crazy. Sometimes, not just a little crazy. Miserable parents, disconsolate fiancés, and wrathful professors from the institutes where we studied came looking for us. To one monk (he ran away to the monastery after retiring and having raised the last of his children to adulthood) came his sons and daughters, screaming for the whole monastery to hear that they had come to take their daddy home. We hid him behind some enormous baskets in the old carriage house. The children were sure that their father, an experienced miner, had gone out of his mind. But he had simply been dreaming day and night for the last thirty years of the day when he could finally begin to labor in asceticism in a monastery. We understood him perfectly, because we ourselves had left the world that had become so senseless to us, in order to seek God, Whom we had suddenly discovered.

It was the same as in earlier days, when boys would run away to work on ships, yearning for the open sea. Only, the call of God was incomparably stronger. We hadn't the strength to overcome it, or more exactly, we unmistakably felt that if we do not respond to it, we will lose ourselves irretrievably. And even if we should obtain the whole rest of the world with all its joys and successes, we wouldn't need it or enjoy it.

We felt terribly sorry for everyone, first of all for our parents, who didn't know what to do, and couldn't understand. Next, of course, we felt sorry for our friends and girlfriends, and for our beloved professors, who had spent the time and energy to come to Pechory to "save" us. Truly, we were so sorry for them that we would have given our lives for them! But not the monastery.

This all seemed wildly strange and inexplicable to them.

I remember that I had already lived for several months in the monastery when Sasha Shvedtsov arrived. He came on Sunday—the only free day there was in the monastery during the week. After a wonderful Sunday service and monastery meal, we young novices were stretched out blissfully on the cots in our large, sunny, novices' cell. Suddenly the door opened wide, and at the threshold appeared a tall, young fellow, our age— around twenty-two—in "commercial" (as we use to say) blue jeans and an expensive jacket.

"You know, I like it here! I think I'm going to stay!" he announced to us, without even saying hello.

"Tomorrow they'll put you to work in the stables or mucking the sewers and we will see whether or not you'll stay," I thought with a yawn. Probably all were thinking the same thing as they looked over the big city number who had flown into the ancient monastery.

Sasha turned out to be the son of a major trade representative, who had lived with his parents in Peking, London, and New York, and had only recently returned to Russia to study in the university. He had come to know God a half a year before. He didn't know very much, but he apparently knew the main thing, because from that time on he was tormented by the total meaninglessness of everything around him, and by an interminable, forlorn restlessness, until he found the monastery. Immediately grasping that he had found precisely what he was looking for, he didn’t even send his parents word about his new dwelling place. When we reproached him for his cruelty, he said that his parents would definitely not understand, and his dad would find him anyway. That is in fact what happened.

Sasha's dad came to Pechory in a black "Volga" and demonstratively raised Cain—with the police, the KGB, with school friends and college girlfriends he had enlisted, and with all the instruments we have gotten used to for pulling people out of monasteries. This went on for a rather long time, until his father was finally convinced to his own horror that it was all in vain, and Sasha was not going anywhere.

The treasurer, Fr. Nathaniel, tried to console the guest from Moscow as well as he could, saying to him, "Well, give your son up as sacrifice to God. He will be a Pechory hieromonk, and you'll be proud of him…"

I remember the desperate howl that filled the monastery: "Never!"

That was Sasha's father. He simply did not yet know that Fr. Nathaniel was clairvoyant; otherwise, he wouldn't have gotten so nervous. Sasha really did become a hieromonk, and is the only one of us present in that sunny novices' cell on his first day in Pechory who is still serving in the Pskov-Caves Monastery today. Sasha's dad, Alexander Mikhailovich, began working with me in the Donskoy Monastery in Moscow, and later in Sretensky Monastery, as the manager of our book warehouse. He was doing this work for the Church when he departed for the Lord, having become a most sincere man of prayer, and seeker of God.


The Last Anchorite

From Remigiusz Sowa Best Documentary Transmitter Award winner at the Crystal Palace International Film Festival; a truly remarkable story of Father Lazarus El Anthony, university lecturer, Marxist who abandoned his life in Australia and went in search of God and freedom. His pilgrimage eventually brought him to a life of a Christian Coptic monk and live in solitude on the Al-Qalzam Mountain (Egypt) in the pursuit of what the Desert Fathers called apatheia, holy stillness.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Who is a faithful and wise monk?

Venerable John Climacus ~ The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Step 1 ~ On Renunciation of the World

¶27. So who is a faithful and wise monk? He who has kept his fervour unabated, and to the end of his life has not ceased daily to add fire to fire, fervour to fervour, zeal to zeal, love to love.

This is the first step. Let him who has mounted it not turn back.

Concerning Patience
Orthodox Christianity and the World

Concerning Patience: A Sermon on the Sunday of the Paralytic
Archimandrite Kirill (Pavlov) - May 18, 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ! The Gospel which we read today tells us about the great miracle of the healing of the paralytic, which our Lord performed, and of His mercy to suffering humanity. This Gospel pertains to each of us quite specifically, and can bring us great edification and comfort.

The Gospel tells us that, not far from the temple in Jerusalem, there was a sheep’s pool. An angel of the Lord used to come down to this pool and stir up the water, thus imparting to it a healing power, and whoever first went into the water after it was stirred by the angel would receive healing of any sort of disease that might be afflicting him. This healing power drew may sick people to the water. Among them was a certain man who had born a grievous sickness for thirty-eight years; but nevertheless he did not lose hope of healing.

On the occasion of the feast-day, our Lord Jesus Christ came to Jerusalem and visited the sheep’s pool. Turning His attention to the paralytic, who had patiently awaited the mercy of God, the Lord asked him: Do you wish to be made whole? The sick man answered, “Indeed, Lord. But I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into pool. While I am still coming, someone gets there before me.” Then the Lord said, “Arise, take up your bed, and walk.” (John 5:6-8) And – O! the wonder! The Lord healed the sick man instantaneously by His Divine Power alone. The man who has born a grievous illness for thirty-eight years became well right then, picked up his bed and went his way. But this was one the Sabbath, and the Jews said that it was not permitted to carry one’s bed on the Sabbath. Then the healed man said, “The one who healed me said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’” (John 5:11) Jesus Christ was not there. He had hidden himself among the people. But then, when the Lord met the healed man in the temple, He added this saying: “Behold, you are healed. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14)

The first thing that should catch our attention is the firm faith of the sick man in the mercy of God. For thirty-eight years he suffered from a heavy sickness, but did not wane in his patience and hope. He believed and hoped to receive what he asked for, and the Lord remembered him and gave him healing. Learn, dear ones, from this example to be patient when afflictions, which are many, visit us. Strive to hope in the Lord God, and to draw strength and courage from this hope in Him, that you may bear the various afflictions and failures of life without murmuring. No matter how heavy our afflictions are, no matter how long they last — believe that the Lord can help you, and sooner or late he will ease your suffering, if only you will have firm, unwavering hope in His mercy. Everything is possible to the Lord, and He alone is able to instantly change your sorrow into joy. Truly, afflictions and sorrows and often beyond human strength to bear, and we, from our own pusillanimity and impatience, often lose hope in the mercy of God. We weep and murmur, saying “I suffer and pray, but the Lord does not see my tears.” And already we start to fall into despair. Look how often we are little of soul! May the example of the paritent paralytic who bore his illness serve to edify each of us.

Dear brothers and sisters! If we believe that God exists, that He gave His Only-begotten Son over to death for us, if we believe that no one other than the Heavenly Father is directing our entire lives, then we must also put all of our hope in Him. Cast your care up the Lord, and He will nourish you. (Psalm 54:23)

Sometimes we wish for our prayers and requests to be immediately fulfilled, not thinking about the fact that God knows better than we do what is good for us, and when to give us consolation. We weep and groan, calling ourselves unhappy, as if we have innocently suffered for our entire lives, forgetting the declaration of the Apostle Paul: “Whome the Lord loves He chastens; for He scourges every son whom He receives. (Hebrews 12:6) Through the bearing of afflictions and bodily sufferings, the Lord heals our souls, preparing them for the life to come. He teaches us humility and unhypocritical hope in His mercy. The visitation of afflictions clearly witnesses to the fact the Lord has especially turned His attention to you at this time. He wants to make you wise unto salvation, to give you the opportunity to show Him how rich you are in faith, hope and love. These are the essential Christian virtues, without which a man cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Not is vain did the saints and righteous ones consider themselves forgotten by God when they were without suffering for a long time. Apostle Paul says, “We not only boast that who have received justification and hope in things to come through faith; but we boast in afflictions, knowing that from afflictions come patience, from patience experience, from experience hope, and hope will not be made ashamed, because the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.” (Rom. 5:3-5) Afflictions are our teachers. They teach us patience, experience, and ingenuity. And experience is the main thing in life. Experience leads a man to success through faith.

And yet we do not want to nourish this wondrous power in ourselves. Even when the Lord Himself, in His love for man, decides to make this power grow in us, then when murmur at Him, weeping at our fate: Why does fate demand of us exertion, violence, worry, and work beyond our strength? We are unaware that by our pusillanimity we are hindering the grace of God from helping us. We become utterly helpless, not knowing how to receive the grace of God, which demands that we decisively give ourselves over to the will of the Lord.

The words of today’s Gospel, addressed by the Lord to the paralytic, can’t fail to catch our attention: “Behold, you are healed. Sin no more, lest a worse thing befall you.” (John 5:14). From these words it is obvious that there is the closest link between sickness and sin. Before the first human beings had sinned, they were healthy in body and soul. But afterwards, since they could not keep themselves from sin, sickness followed sin as a result. This phenomenon is repeated today, and the law of this dependence will be in effect until the end of the world. Every transgression of law – as in the bodily realm, so in the spiritual – brings with it a disordering of our nature, and is necessarily accompanied by disease. Knowing this, therefore, let us flee from sin by all means, as from the cause of the corruption of our spiritual and bodily nature.

But there is not man who can consistently protect himself from sinful deeds. According to the word of God, there is no man who lives who does not sin, even if he lives on earth for a single day. But the grace of God gives a means to be continually cleansed of sin in the Mystery of repentance. No matter how many times a man falls, he always the ability to get up. Having become conscious your sin, and regretting that you have grieved the all-good Lord, obtain a firm intention to be corrected, and the Lord will forgive you according to His mercy and will vouchsafe you His grace. But if we have fallen into misery and the fulfillment of our petitions shall be delayed, then let the thirty-eight year suffering of the paralytic serve for our comfort unto hope in the mercy of God.

Let us say, in the words of the Apostle James: Be patient, and let your hearts be strengthened (James 5:8). Give your life over to the will of God. Believe that the Lord knows better than we do when He should look upon us, and when to turn His all-pure face away from us. And no matter what happens in your life, always cry out: My hope is the Father, my refuge is the Son, my protection is the Holy Spirit. O Holy Trinity, Glory to Thee!



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The whole monastic state consists of three specific kinds of establishment

Venerable John Climacus ~ The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Step 1 ~ On Renunciation of the World

¶26. The whole monastic state consists of three specific kinds of establishment: either the retirement and solitude of a spiritual athlete, or living in stillness with one or two others, or settling patiently in a community. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left, but follow the King’s highway. Of the three ways of life stated above, the second is suitable for many people, for it is said: ‘Woe unto him who is alone when he falleth’ into despondency or lethargy or laziness or despair, ‘and has no one among men to lift him up.’ ‘For where two or three are gathered in My name, there am I in the midst of them,’ said the Lord.

The Way of the Pilgrim
Orthodox Christianity and the World

The Way of the Pilgrim
Fr. Vasile Catalin Tudora - May 12th, 2011

I just returned from a pilgrimage to Mount Athos and as much as I would like to share what one feels in such a spiritual journey, it is difficult to put into words. Everything is so impressive and so divine that you can’t choose what to say. One may tell stories about the historical buildings, the vistas, the old icons, the relics, the music, but at the end of the day the one thing that boldly comes out and makes all the other things possible is the monk’s commitment to a life in Christ, their desire to go beyond the image of Christ and achieve also His likeness.

Living for a week in a monastic republic, in a place where everyone you meet is trying to become a saint is an extraordinary experience because it reveals, in opposition your shortcomings and you start questioning the depth of your own faith and the real state of your own commitment.

Living a life that has it’s sole purpose to achieve union with God, seems a no brainer on Mount Athos because everyone there is trying the same thing, is something as common as breathing, it is natural and the pilgrim is attracted in this movement, either realizing it or not. By conforming himself to the monastic life he also starts pursuing the same goal of self edification and the grace of God changes something in him. He’s not impatient anymore and the 5-6 hours night services seem short, even though a week before an hour-long service may have seemed interminable. He get’s used with silence more than noise, he get’s to think more about spiritual food than the gastronomical rewards of the city. Without realizing it the pilgrim is aligned in this grace-attracting environment. All starts to seem natural to him, despite the fact that his usual habitat, the noisy and secular city, has disappeared. This new rhythm of life fits him like a glove because it is what he really wants, it is what he was supposed to follow all along, but did not even knew it existed.

But here comes the moment of leaving the mountain. One is initially happy to go home to the family and share the experiences, the beautiful places, the chanting, the relics, the conversations. But as the boat takes the pilgrim away from the mountain and the mountain fades in the haze of the horizon there is an unexplainable longing that starts settling in his soul. As he gets closer to the world there is something that calls him back and that call, he does not realize it now, will be with him forever. This is the gift of the mountain.

The greatest shock however is when he is back into the world and meets the first “man from the city” (Luke 8:27) as Jesus met the demoniac in Gadara. The colors of the city hurt the pilgrim’s eyes now, the loud and rhythmic music inflicts pain in his years, everything disturbs the inner peace he was able to briefly experience on the mountain. This is the moment when he realizes, in this contrasting encounter, that there is something wrong with the world he was living in. He can see clearly now that the world is corrupted and does not follow God anymore, that the world is indeed possessed by a legion of demons (Luke 8:30) that drive all the people in a spiritual desert, far from the richness and the abundance of the spirit, in a barren place where the mere existence of God is forgotten.

But he did not realize it until his eyes were open. So he desperately tries to share this with someone from the world, tries to tell them that what they do is wrong, that this is not what God wants from us to be selfish and greedy, and pursue only the needs of the flesh, that one has to take care more of the soul and what he gets in return is laughter, irony and indifference. The same happened with the Gadarenes, they saw Christ miracle, the saw the possessed coming back to normality and instead of asking Christ to stay with them and cure them also, they sent Him away as something strange and unknown that might change their self sufficient way of life (Luke 8:37).

So at this moment the pilgrim realizes that he is the cured demoniac of Gadara, and, released from his demons, he is sent now in the world to be a witness of the healing power of Jesus Christ “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” (Luke 8:39).

He is however not alone because God has His people spread around the world; they are the salt of the earth. They are not perfect, as the monks are not perfect, but they share a deeper understanding of the purpose of life, their eyes have been open to paradise and that vision will stay with them and will motivate them despite the world around.

So the pilgrim continues his way into the world and as he fades into the horizon, swallowed by the crowd, one can distinctly hear him saying loud and clear: Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner. Amin.


Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, NY

Holy Trinity Monastery is a male monastic community under the auspices of the Synod of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. We are dedicated to a life of prayer and obedience according to the pre-revoluntionary monastic tradition. We draw our origins from the Pochaev Lavra of St. Job of Pochaev in Southern Ukraine when monks fled from Pochaev in the face of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. As descendants of the Lavra of Pochaev, we continue the mission established by St. Job in the 15th century to publish books for the edification and protection of the faithful. Within the monastery is located a studio and school of Russian iconography conducted by disciples of master iconographer Fr. Cyprian (Pijoff). Also situated within the monastic community is Holy Trinity Orthodox Seminary, with young men from around the world training for the holy priesthood and ministry within our Church. Consisting of impressive buildings and an other-worldly way of life, Holy Trinity Monastery is a source of spiritual nourishment and support for the Orthodox Church.

Official website of Holy Trinity Monastery

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Each will consider what most suits his needs

Venerable John Climacus ~ The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Step 1 ~ On Renunciation of the World

¶25. Those who have really determined to serve Christ, with the help of spiritual fathers and their own self-knowledge, will strive before all else to choose a place, and a way of life, and a habitation, and exercises suitable for them. For community life is not for all, on account of covetousness; and places of solitude are not for all, on account of anger. But each will consider what most suits his needs.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Offer to Christ the labours of your youth

Venerable John Climacus ~ The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Step 1 ~ On Renunciation of the World

¶24. Offer to Christ the labours of your youth, and in your old age you will rejoice in the wealth of dispassion. What is gathered in youth nourishes and comforts those who have grown feeble in old age. In our youth let us labour ardently and let us run vigilantly, for the hour of death is unknown. We have very evil and dangerous, cunning, unscrupulous foes, who hold fire in their hands and try to burn the temple of God with the flame that is in it. These foes are strong; they never sleep; they are incorporeal and invisible. Let no one when he is young listen to his enemies, the demons, when they say to him: ‘Do not wear out your flesh lest you make it sick and weak.’ For you will scarcely find anyone, especially in the present generation, who is determined to mortify his flesh, although he might deprive himself of many pleasant dishes. The aim of this demon is to make the very entrance into the stadium lax and negligent, and then make the end correspond to the beginning.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Lord designs the contests

Venerable John Climacus ~ The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Step 1 ~ On Renunciation of the World

¶23. The Lord designedly makes easy the battles of beginners so that they should not immediately return to the world at the outset. And so rejoice in the Lord always, all ye His servants, detecting in this the first sign of the Master’s love for us, and a sign that He Himself has called us. But when God sees courageous souls, He has often been known to act in this way: He lets them have conflicts from the very beginning in order to crown them the sooner. But the Lord hides the difficulty of this contest from those in the world. For if they were to know, no one would renounce the world.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Not far from the Kingdom of Heaven

Venerable John Climacus ~ The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Step 1 ~ On Renunciation of the World

¶21. Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: 'We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?' I replied to them: 'Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate anyone; do not be absent from the divine services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man's domestic happiness, and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.'

Friday, September 2, 2011

The healthy do not go to a hospital

Venerable John Climacus ~ The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Step 1 ~ On Renunciation of the World

¶19. Let no one, by appealing to the weight and multitude of his sins, say that he is unworthy of the monastic vow, and for love of pleasure disparage himself, excusing himself with excuses in his sins. Where there is much corruption, considerable treatment is needed to draw out all the impurity. The healthy do not go to a hospital.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Labour and grief turns to joy and eagerness

Venerable John Climacus ~ The Ladder of Divine Ascent
Step 1 ~ On Renunciation of the World

¶16. In the very beginning of our renunciation, it is certainly with labour and grief that we practice the virtues. But when we have made progress in them, we no longer feel sorrow, or we feel little sorrow. But as soon as our mortal mind is consumed and mastered by our zeal, we practice them with all joy and eagerness, with love and with divine fire.