Author Archives: sethearl

Met Anthony of Sourozh on the Sunday of the Adoration of the Cross

In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

As we progress deeper and deeper into the weeks of Lent, we can say with an ever-growing sense of gratitude and of joy, of a serene and exulting joy the words of a Psalm, ‘My soul shall live, and with gratitude I will give glory to the Lord’.

In the first week of Lent we have seen all the promises of salvation given in the Old Testament fulfilled: God became man, salvation has come, and all hopes are possible. And then, in the second week of Lent, we had the glorious proclamation of all the saints of Christendom that not only did God come and dwell in our midst, but He has poured out upon us, into the Church and into every human soul ready to receive Him the presence, the transforming gift of the Holy Spirit that makes us gradually commune ever deeper to the Living God until one day we become partakers of the Divine nature.

And today, if we ask ourselves, ‘But how that? How can we be forgiven, how can evil be undone?’ — one step brings us deeper into gratitude, deeper into joy, deeper into certainty: when we consider, when we contemplate, the Cross.

There is a passage of the Gospel in which we are told that when Christ spoke of salvation and of its conditions, Peter said to Him, ‘Who then can be saved?’ and Christ answered, ‘What is not possible to men is possible for God!’ And He Himself came; the fullness of God abided in a human person, and He has power to forgive because He is the victim of all the evil, all the cruelty, all the destructiveness of human history. Because, indeed, no one but the victim can forgive those who have brought evil, suffering, misery, corruption and death into their lives. And Christ does not only forgive His own murderers when He says, ‘Father, forgive — they don’t know what they are doing’: He goes beyond this, because He had said, ‘Whatever you have done to one of My smaller brethren and sisters, you have done it to Me’ — not only in good, but indeed, the worst: because in compassion, in solidarity, He identifies with every sufferer: the death, the pain, the agony of each of those who suffer is His. And so, when He prays, ‘Father, forgive! They do not know what they are doing, what they have been doing’, He prays for each of us not only in His own name, but in the name of all those upon whom evil has visited because of human sin.

But it is not only Christ who forgives; everyone who has suffered in soul, in body, in spirit — everyone is called to grant freedom to those who have made him suffer.

And so, we can see why Christ says, ‘Forgive so that you may be forgiven’ because both the victim and the culprit are tied in one knot of solidarity and reciprocal responsibility. Only the victim can say, ‘Lord — forgive him, forgive her’, and only then can the Lord say, ‘I do!’

But do you realise what responsibility it puts on each of us with regard to all and everyone? But also the depth, the glorious depth of hope which opens up to us when we look at the Cross and see that in solidarity with all mankind Christ taking upon Himself all the suffering of the world, accepting to die an impossible death has said in the name of all the sufferers, ‘Yes, we forgive!’

This is one more step towards freedom, this is one more step towards the moment when we will be faced with Christ’s resurrection that engulfs us also because the risen Christ is risen and is offering all and each of us the fullness of eternal life.

And so, again and again we can say that Lent is a spring of a new life, a new time, a time of renewal, not only in repentance, but in being taken by Christ Himself as the shepherd took the lost sheep, as the Lord took up His Cross, brought it to the place of death and undid death, undid evil by forgiveness and giving His life. Once more we are confronted with another step of our freedom and of newness. Let us enter ever deeper into this mystery, into this wonder of salvation, and rejoice in the Lord; and rejoicing, step after step, more and more, let us also express our gratitude by newness of life. Amen!

‘A full stomach abhors examining spiritual matters, just as a prostitute dislikes talking about chastity.’ (The Wisdom of St Isaac of Syria

‘A full stomac…

st theophan …

When Moses and Aaron began to intercede before Pharaoh to let their people go, the answer to this was increased work for oppressed Israelites, to the point that they raised an outcry against their intercessors: ye have made our savour to be abhorred in the eyes of Pharaoh (Ex. 5:21). This is exactly what the soul of a repentant sinner experiences. When the fear of God and one’s conscience—the inner Moses and Aaron—begin to inspire a soul to finally rise up onto its feet and shake off the yoke of sinful slavery, joy passes through all of its members. But the enemy does not sleep; he heaps mountains of mental obstacles—thoughts that sin is insurmountable, and brings in fear from all sides—fear for one’s prosperity, for external relationships, for one’s influence, even for one’s life. It even happens that one stops having only just begun. Be inspired brother! The Lord of hosts shall be exalted in judgement, and God that is holy shall be sanctified in righteousness (Is. 5:16). God is stronger than the enemy. Cry out to Him, and you will hear the same thing that Moses heard then: Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh (Ex. 6:1).

examine yourself, o soul…

“Examine yourself, O soul, and see in what land your portion lies; and if you have crossed over to that field which bears a harvest of bitterness for those who till it, wail and cry aloud, with groaning and great affliction, those words which give rest to your God more than sacrifices and whole burnt offerings.” – St. Isaac the Syrian

The Desert Struggle

Originally posted on Glory to God for All Things:

One of the best-known sayings to have come from the Desert Fathers is: “Stay in your cell and your cell will teach you everything.” To a large degree the saying extols the virtue of stability. Moving from place to place never removes the problem – it only postpones the inevitable. Somewhere, sometime we have to face the heart of our struggle and by the grace of God overcome. Of course, not everyone is entirely successful in such struggles in the course of this life. How our healing is completed beyond this life is left to the mystery of grace.

There is nothing secular about the desert, the arena of our spiritual struggle. The early monastics who fled to the desert for prayer did not think that they were avoiding problems by seeking out such solitude. St. Athanasius, in the 4th century, had written the Life of St. Antony, one…

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Fr. John Chyssavgis on the Iconicity of Humanity

This year the Annunciation Cathedral hosted the Orthodox of Atlanta for Vespers and an inspirational talk by Fr. Deacon John Chryssavgvis of the Greek Orthodox Church.

You can (and should) listen to it hear:

Humanity as Icon

sunday of orthodoxy

The Seventh Ecumenical Council dealt predominantly with the controversy regarding icons and their place in Orthodox worship. It was convened in Nicaea in 787 by Empress Irene at the request of Tarasios, Patriarch of Constantinople. The Council was attended by 367 bishops.

More…

The first week of the fast

The primary aim of fasting is to make us conscious of our dependence upon God. If practiced seriously, the Lenten abstinence from food – particularly in the opening days – involves a considerable measure of real hunger, and also a feeling of tiredness and physical exhaustion. The purpose of this is to lead us in turn to a sense of inward brokenness and contrition; to bring us, that is, to the point where we appreciate the full force of Christ’s statement, ‘Without Me you can do nothing’ (John 15: 5). If we always take our fill of food and drink, we easily grow over-confident in our own abilities, acquiring a false sense of autonomy and self-sufficiency. The observance of a physical fast undermines this sinful complacency. Stripping from us the specious assurance of the Pharisee – who fasted, it is true, but not in the right spirit – Lenten abstinence gives us the saving self dissatisfaction of the Publican (Luke I 8: 10-1 3). Such is the function of the hunger and the tiredness: to make us ‘poor in spirit’, aware of our helplessness and of our dependence on God’s aid.
-Met Kailstos Ware

st theophan on spiritual re-creation

The suggested readings [scripture readings during lent] are about the creation, the original state of the fall and the promise of salvation in our Lord Jesus Christ. Take heed and learn! Now is the time for your re-creation. Embrace the Lord, and He will give you light which will enlighten your sinful darkness; He will set a firmament amidst your restless thoughts and the desires of your sin-loving heart—the good intention to firmly and steadfastly work for Him. He will establish dry land and the sea, and will give everything its place within you. Then you will begin to bring forth first herb, grass and trees—the first fruits of the virtues, and then living creatures—perfect spiritual and God-pleasing works; until at last the image and likeness of God is restored in you, as you were created in the beginning (cf. Gen. 1–26). All of this will the Lord create for you in these six days of spiritual creation, which is your preparation for Holy Communion,[1] if you will pass this time with attention, reverence and contrition of heart.

[1] In St. Theophan’s time it was a widespread custom in Russia for people to spend the first week of Great Lent preparing to receive Holy Communion on Saturday. This preparation, in Russian called govenie, involved fasting, attending Divine Services, reading prayers (including canons, akathists, etc.), doing prostrations and engaging in other spiritual activities, instead of going to work. On the Friday of the first week of Lent, people would go to confession. Thus, when St. Theophan mentions the “six days of spiritual creation,” he refers to these first six days of Lent which were a preparation for Holy Communion on St. Theodore’s Saturday.

st john cassian on forgiveness

If we remember that thief who, for a single confession, was taken into Paradise, we shall realize that it was not for the merit of the life he lived that he obtained so great blessedness, but that it was his by the gift of God, Who had mercy on him. Or let us think of David, the king, whose two such grievous and awful crimes were wiped away by one word of penitence. Neither here do we see that the merit of what he did was equal to obtaining pardon for such great offense, but the grace of God did the more abound when on the occasion of true penitence He did away with all that weight of sin for one single word of genuine confession. Again, when we consider the beginnings of man’s calling and salvation, which, as the Apostle tells us, is not of ourselves or of our words, but we are saved by the gift and grace of God, we shall be able clearly to perceive how the end of perfection is not “of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God Who showeth mercy,” Who makes us victors over our vices, although we have no merit at all of life or labors to weigh against them, nor does the effort of our will avail for us to reach the steep summit of righteousness, or to subdue the flesh which we are bound to use… For the outcome of all good flows from His grace, Who hath bestowed so great an eternity of bliss and such immeasurable glory , with manifold generosity, upon the weak will and the short life-work of man.’ (Institutes, 12.11.)

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