Wednesday, December 11, 2013

St. ELDER PORPHYRIOS ON THE ISSUES OF SADNESS, SORROW & ANGUISH Translated from the Greek by: Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones

Translated from the Greek by: Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones

            The important thing for us is to be part of the Church.  It is important for us to be in unity with our fellow man, with the joys and sorrows of all people.  We should feel like they are our people and that we should pray for everyone. We should pray for their salvation and forget about ourselves.  We should want to do everything we can do for them just as Christ did for us.  By being in the Church, we become one with every unfortunate and hurting sinner.  No one should want to save himself without others also being saved.  It is wrong for a person to pray for himself so that just he will be saved.  We should love everyone and we should pray that no one is spiritually lost, that all of them should be part of the Church.  That has value.  It is with such an attitude that a person should leave this life.

            In the Church, this attitude is where we have the sacraments that save us and there is no despair.  We may be very sinful.  We then confess our sins.  The priest reads the prayer of absolution over us and our sins are forgiven and then we move on to eternal life without anxiety or fear.

            Whoever lives with Christ becomes one with Him, with the Church.  He lives a type of insanity because that life that he lives is different from the life of other people. It is joy, it is light, it is delight, and it is resurrection.  This is the life of the Church, the life of the Gospel and of the Kingdom of God.  “The Kingdom of God is within us.” (Luke 17:21).  Christ enters us and we enter Him.  It is like a piece of iron that is placed in a fire and it becomes fire and light.  When it is taken out of the fire it again becomes dark iron.

            All those who criticize the Church because of the errors made by its representatives make a big mistake. They supposedly do this to help and correct the Church’s wrongs.  These people do not really love the Church.  Neither, of course do they love Christ.  We love the Church when we, through our prayers, embrace every member of the Church and do whatever Christ does.  We sacrifice ourselves.  We become vigilant.  We do everything we can to do just as He did. “Who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return.” (1 Peter 2:23).

            We should relate to the rituals of the Church.  We should live the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Holy Communion.  Holy Orthodoxy is found in them. Christ is offered in the Church, in the sacraments and especially in Holy Communion.

            But for many people, Church is a struggle filled with anguish and agony.  This is why these so-called religious people consider themselves unfortunate for they see themselves to be in a terrible state.  And surely, if a person does not understand the depth of religion and lives its saving message, it becomes a fearful sickness. It is so fearful that a person loses control of his actions.  He becomes inconsiderate and feeble.  He is filled with anxiety and sorrow and acts with an evil spirit (under demonic influence).  He does genuflections, he cries, he shouts, he feigns humbleness, and all this humbleness is simply a satanic act.  Some of the people live their religion like some type of hell.  In Church, they do genuflections, make the sign of the Cross, and say we are sinful, unworthy and as soon as they leave the Church they start blaspheming holy things when someone upsets them.  It is clearly revealed here that this is demonic.

            In reality, the Christian faith changes a person and heals him.  But the most important presupposition for a person to have is to comprehend and understand where truth is. It is found in humbleness, for egotism darkens the mind of man.  Egotism confuses him. It leads him to delusion and to heresy.  It is very important for man to know the truth.  Mixed-up people follow heresies.  Mixed-up children come from mixed-up parents.

            Many times, religious expressions such as genuflections and crossing oneself will not attract Divine Grace.  These are mysterious things.  The most fundamental thing to do is to abandon the superficial and go to the essence of things.  Whatever happens, it should happen with love. 

            When we do not live with Christ, we will live in sadness, in sorrow, in anguish and in worry.  We cannot live productively without Christ.  If we live without Christ then many anomalies manifest themselves in our bodies.  Our bodies are afflicted in our endocrine glands, in our liver, in the pancreas, and in the stomach.  People tell you: “In order for you to be healthy you should drink milk in the morning, eat an egg along with two or three pieces of buttered toast.” But yet, if you live properly like being in love with Jesus, you will be fine by just eating an orange or an apple.  The best medicine for you is to worship Christ.  All things then are healed.  All things then function properly.  The love of God changes all things.  It transforms everything.  Things are sanctified. Things are corrected. They are changed. Jesus rearranges everything for us.

            The love of Christ is something else in our lives.  There is no end to it.  It can never be satisfied.  It gives life.  It gives strength.  It gives health. It gives, it gives, and it gives.  And as much as He gives, so much more does man desire to be loved by Him while human love can corrupt man and make him crazy.  When we love Christ, all other loves are diminished.  Carnal love seeks to be satiated. In carnal love envy becomes a problem.  Griping enters the picture and it can even end up in murder.  Carnal love can be transformed into hatred but love in Christ never changes.  Worldly love lasts for a short time but slowly, slowly fades away while divine love always grows and becomes more profound.  Every other type of love can bring man to a point of dissolution.  Divine love raises us up to the sphere of God and grants us peace, joy and fullness. The other pleasures of life tire us but divine love never tires us.  It is an insatiable desire which a person never gets tired of.  It is the greatest good in our lives.

            When you love Christ, in spite of all your weaknesses and your awareness of them, you have the certainty that you have overcome death because you are in communion with the love of Christ.

            We should feel that Christ is our friend.  He personally verifies this when He says: “You are my friends” (John 15:14).  As a friend we should look to Him and approach Him.  Do I fall?  Do I sin?  We should hasten to be close to Him with a sense of familiarity, with love, and be confident.  We should do this without the fear that He will punish us. We should approach Him with confidence and the understanding that He is a friend.  We should say to Him: “Lord, I did it, I fell, forgive me.”  But at the same time we should do this knowing that He loves us, He accepts us tenderly with love and forgiveness.  Do not let sin separate you from the love of Christ.  When we believe that He loves us and we love Him, we will not feel like strangers and separated from Him, even when we have sinned.  We have secured His love and no matter how we act, we know He loves us. 

            The Gospel states specifically that which is unjust in life will find itself in that place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth because when one lives far from the God, that is the way things are.  We know this from the Neptic Fathers of the Church. (Nepsis and hesychia constitute the essential point of life.  Nepsis is the vigilance of the nous and the watchfulness of the gates of the heart.) Many of the Fathers speak about the fear of death and hell.  They say: “Always remember death.”  If we analyze these words carefully, there is a sense of fear of hell in them.  A person who desires to avoid sin thinks this way so that his soul will be constrained from sinning by fearing death, hell and Satan.

            All things in life have their purpose, their time and their circumstance. The meaning of fear is good during the first stages of spiritual development.  It is good for beginners.  It is good for the situation in which the old person still lives.  A person in the first stages of spiritual growth, a person who begins to understand himself is held back from evil by fear.  And fear is indispensable since we are matter and earth-bound.  But that is one stage only.  It is one of the lower levels of spiritual development in reference to the divine.  Let us look at a specific situation since we desire to storm the gates of paradise and be rescued from hell.  If we look at this issue of fear carefully it can be used for our benefit.  I like this way of doing things. When a person proceeds and enters into the love of God, why does he need fear anymore?  Whatever he does, he does it out of love and that has greater value.  For a person who attempts to be good because of the fear of God, then this does not have much value. 

            Whoever wishes to become a Christian must first become a poet.  If the soul is corrupted and becomes unworthy of the love of Christ, Jesus cuts off His relationship with it because He does not want fat souls close to him.

            Nobody should be allowed to see and to observe one’s private moments of worship towards the divine. All these things should be done in private, mystically, just like in the life of an ascetic.  Do you remember when I told you the story of the nightingale? It sings in the silence of the forest.  Who hears it or praises it?  How beautiful it sings in the wilderness.  If it expresses love, it puffs up its diaphragm and it becomes like a hairy tongue.  It may sit in a cave or in a ravine and mystically praises God. Scorn your passions.  Do not have dealings with the devil and turn toward Christ.

            The very slightest complaint against your neighbor affects your soul and as a result of this it cannot pray.  When the Holy Spirit finds your soul in such a state, It does not dare to approach it.

            We should always desire to seek after the will of God.  That is to our benefit.  It is the best thing for us and for those for whom we pray.  Christ will give us everything most abundantly. But even if there is just a little egotism in us, nothing can be accomplished with prayer.

            When God does not give us something that we insist on, He has His reason for doing this.  We should know that God also has His secrets.

            If you are not obedient to your father confessor and you are not humble, the Jesus Prayer cannot be effectual and there is the fear of us falling into delusion.              Do not say the Jesus Prayer as if it is a difficult task for you.  Forcing yourself to say the Jesus Prayer may bring about a negative reaction from within.  It can create something harmful.  Many people have become sick saying the Jesus Prayer because they forced themselves to say it.  It is not healthy for you to force yourself to pray.

            It is not important to gather your thoughts together to say the Jesus Prayer.  It does not need a special effort if you have acquired divine love.  Wherever you find yourself in your daily routine; on a bench, in a chair, in a car, everywhere—on the road, in school, in the office and at work, you can say the Jesus Prayer softly, without effort, and without being self-conscious about it.  The importance of the Jesus Prayer is not the length of the prayer but the intensity of the prayer.  Pray for even five minutes but offer this prayer to God with love and fervor.  A person can pray for a whole month while a five minute prayer can be more effectual.  Of course this is a mystery but that is the way it is.

            A man who belongs to Christ makes all things in his life a prayer.  Even in times of sorrow and difficulty this also becomes a time of prayer for us.  Whatever happens to us in life we immediately start the Jesus Prayer.  Prayer is profitable for all things, even the simplest of things.  For example, if you suffer from insomnia: do not think about sleep.  Get up, leave your room and then return to your room.  Get into bed as if it were for the first time without thinking whether or not you will fall asleep. Concentrate your thoughts and say the doxology and after this say the Jesus Prayer three times and in this way sleep will come to you.

            All things emanate from within us like our instincts and they desire to be satisfied.  If they are not satisfied at some point they seek revenge which creates spiritual problems for us. Unless we can direct them in the right direction we are in trouble..

            You do not become holy by hunting down the evil one.  Leave evil alone.  Instead look toward Christ and He will save you.  Instead of you standing outside the door and chasing away evil, ignore it.  Does evil come at you from a certain place?  Look quietly in that direction.  Evil is intent on embarrassing you.  You should direct your inner being toward that which is good, to Christ.  Pray: “Lord Jesus Christ forgive me.” He knows how to forgive you.  He knows the proper way to deal with you. He knows when you are full of that which is good and you no longer turn to that which is evil.  With the Grace of God, you yourself become good.  If you are at this point, can evil find a place to enter your life?  It disappears.  Are you overwhelmed by fear and disappointment?  You should turn to Christ.  Love Him simply, humbly and without reservations.  He Himself will unburden you.

            Do not choose negative ways to correct yourself.  It is not necessary for you to even fear the devil, hell, or anything else.   I myself have a little experience in dealing with this issue.  Our purpose is not to beat ourselves up and be uncomfortable so that we can improve.  Our purpose is to live, to study, to pray, and to move forward in love, in the love of Christ, in the love of the Church.

            Abandon all your weaknesses in a way that the evil one will not know that you are doing this. In doing this he will not have the opportunity to grab you, put you down and fill you with worry.  Do not make any effort to free yourself from these things.  You should struggle quietly and simply without struggle or sadness.  Do not say: “I will now force myself; I will pray in order to acquire love so that I may become good etc.”  It is not good for you to force yourself and beat yourself up in order to become good. In doing this, you will get a worse reaction.  All things are done quietly, unhurriedly and freely.  Neither should you say: “My God, free me from this, from anger and sorrow.”  It is not good for us to pray or to think about a specific passion.  When we do this something happens in our souls and we are in more turmoil.  By throwing yourself with force in order to defeat the passions you will see how evil envelopes you, squeezes you, and your soul will be rendered helpless.

            Freedom is not obtained if we do not first free our inner being from turmoil and passions. This is our Church. This is our joy. This is everything for us and that is what man is seeking today.  Man takes harmful things like narcotics so that he can supposedly enter the world of joy which is false joy. The addict feels something at the moment he takes the drugs and the following day he is a broken man.  One person feels ground up by this activity.  Another person feels eaten up by this.  Another feels like he has fried his brain. While on the other hand, a person given over to Christ is given life and joy.  It makes him joyful about life. He feels strong and wonderful about life.

            We need a specific plan to acquire holiness for our souls.  A person can become holy anywhere.  He can become holy even in Omonia Square (Athens) if he so desires.  Even at work, whatever that is you are doing, you can become holy.  This can be accomplished with meekness, patience, and love.  Every day you should have a new routine, a new desire, with a sense of enthusiasm, love, prayer and stillness. We should not be anxious about doing this and feel it is an effort.

            Deal with life’s problems with a sense of fervor, simply, quietly, without effort, with joy, exultation and a good attitude.  Divine Grace comes to us we when respond this way.  All unpleasant things that remain in your soul that bring about sadness, can become catalysts to worship God and they will then cease to cause you pain.  Have trust in God.

            When communication with Christ happens simply, quietly and without pressure, the devil will leave.  Satan does not depart under pressure or by squeezing him out of our lives.  He departs when he encounters meekness and prayer.  He retreats when he sees the soul ignore him and it turns its love toward Christ.  He cannot endure being ignored because he is haughty.  But on the other hand, when he is pressured, the evil spirit becomes aware of your efforts and fights you all the more.  Do not concern yourselves with the devil; neither should you demand that he leave.  As much as you ask him to leave the more he will stay and afflict you.  You should ignore the devil.  Do not fight him face to face.  When you fight him with spite he attacks like a tiger, like a wild cat.  When you shoot bullets at him he will throw hand grenades at you.  When you throw a bomb at him he will respond with an artillery barrage.  Do not look at anything evil.  You should look at the embrace of God and you should fall into His presence and proceed with life.

            A humble person is aware of what is happening to his inner being even though it is ugly and he does not like what he sees.  He should not lose his cool about it.  But with an egotist, the opposite thing happens.  In the beginning he is like a humble person.  But if a person bothers him a little, he immediately loses his sense of peace and becomes nervous and upset.

            When a person lives without God, without tranquility, without trustworthiness, but with agony, sorrow, and hopelessness he becomes physically and spiritually sick.  Psychosomatic diseases such as neurosis and split personalities are demonic conditions.  There is also a type of humbleness that is really demonic.  They call it a feeling of inferiority.  True humbleness does not speak.  It does not say humble things, such I am sinful, unworthy, and the least of all.  The humble person fears that these humble expressions will lead him to vanity.  The Grace of God never approaches such a person.  On the contrary, the Grace of God finds him wherever true divine humbleness exists which is complete trust in God.  It is our complete dependence on Him.

            A vain soul is banished from eternal life.  Finally, egotism is unabashed foolishness.  Vanity creates air heads.  When we do something to show off we end up spiritually empty.  Whatever we do, we should do it to thank God without personal interest, without vanity, without haughtiness, and without egotism; without, without…..

            The soul should never complain and say “why did God do this to me?  Why couldn’t He do it differently? “This indicates that internally we have small souls that object to God.  It indicates what a high opinion we have of ourselves in our haughtiness and in our egos. When we ask why this tortures us, it creates that which the world calls a complex.   For example; why am I so tall or the opposite, why am I so short?  That type of attitude leads to nowhere.  There are people who pray and do vigils for spiritual benefit but the opposite happens.  This person suffers and becomes angry without accomplishing anything.  While, on the other hand, with Christ, and with Grace, all evil things are banished.  For a true believer there is that something down deep within us that says why, but the Grace of God protects us against this feeling. While the root of this question is a complex and beyond this a rosebush blossoms with beautiful roses as long as it is watered with faith, love, patience, and humbleness.  In a situation like this, the devil will fail to have any power over us and will cease to exist.  In other words, it does not disappear but it wilts.  The less a rose is watered the more it wilts, it dries up, it disappears, and a thorn is formed in its place. Do you get the message?

            We can trouble God when we ask something of Him.  We become troublesome to Him when we are spiritually far away from Him.  We trouble Him when we ask something of Him because our life is not in concert with His will.  In reality, we live in opposition to God when the soul lives in sadness and agony. .

            Your spiritual father could say to you: “How I would desire to be in a quiet place, a place where there are no responsibilities, where you could tell me about your life from the beginning, from that time when you understood who you are.  A place where you could tell me all the events you remember in your life and how you dealt with them, not only the unsavory events but also the joyful ones.  I do not mean only the sins but also the good things.  And I would like to hear about your successes and your disappointments.  I want to know everything, all the things that make up your life.

            Many times I have used general confession with people and I have seen miracles result from it.  At the time you speak to your father confessor, Divine Grace comes forth and It releases you from all your unfortunate acts in life, from our wounds, your spiritual afflictions and your guilt.  This happens because when you speak to your confessor he prays fervently for the absolution of your sins.

            We should not return to the sins that we have already confessed.  Remembrance of past sins creates bad things for us.  Have we already asked for forgiveness?  It is finished.  God forgives all things through confession.  If I think that I have sinned, that I am not functioning well then I will pray about it.  I do not close it up inside of me.  I go to my father confessor.  I confess it.  It is finished.  The important thing about confession is what we are going to do with the rest of our lives.

            Despondency and desperation are the worst things.  They are a trap of Satan in order to make us lose our desire for spiritual things and to bring us to a point of desperation.

            Practically all sicknesses are the result of a lack of trust in God.  This creates sadness.  Sadness in turn creates an atmosphere which terminates our religious efforts.  If you do not have love for Christ, if you do not busy yourself with holy things, surely you will be enveloped with sadness and evil.

            One thing that can help with the feeling of oppression is work. Keep yourself occupied.  These activities can be the garden, the plants, the flowers, the trees, the outdoors, and walking.  All these things remove us from inactivity and create for us another desire other than sadness.  These things act upon us like medicine.  Our getting involved in the arts, music etc does a lot of good for our souls.  But to that which I give a lot of attention is one’s interest in the Church, in the study of Holy Scripture and Church services.  By studying the Word of God a person is healed without realizing it.

            We should not be superficial, nor should we rush to judgment of people based on their outward appearance.  We should try to enter the depths of a person’s soul.  Maybe it could be a very good soul; it could have existential issues which express themselves revealed in an outward frantic way.  The soul is dynamic.  It has the power of expression. It wants things.  It wants to attract the attention of others.  But out of spiritual ignorance, the soul has perverted things.  Just think for a moment if this soul could think about Christ.  It would then believe and all the effort that it has been vainly putting forth will now be for Christ. It will then do everything it can to attract the Grace of God.  It will become holy instead of haughty.

            Many times in our struggles and fears, and with the ugliness of our souls, without our realizing it and without our understanding it, we do bad things to people that we love very much. We give you the example of a mother’s relationship with her child.  The mother can sometimes transfer feeling of her sadness about life to her child.  She transfers to the child her negative feelings about his health, about his progress and she does this without verbalizing it. This shows that our natural love that we have for loved ones can sometimes hurt them.  But this does not happen when we have the love of Christ. This love elicits calmness through prayer and with the holiness of life.  Love makes us holy and makes us peaceful because love is God.    

Translated from the Greek by:
Fr. Constantine (Charles) J. Simones, Waterford, CT.



Monday, December 2, 2013

If We Want Mercy from God We Must Give Mercy to God’s Children by Fr Ted Toppses

5th Sunday of Luke 2013

Lazarus and the Rich man a sermon by Fr Ted Toppses

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

Let us review today’s Gospel reading from
St. Luke 16:19-31

The Gospel Begins…

The Lord said, "There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day.

Fr George Calciu of blessed memory wrote in his sermon on this Gospel “The wealth will not condemn you to hell, neither that poverty will take you to heaven but how you managed them, how you put them in relation to God and your fellow men.” – from Fr George Calciu Interviews Homilies and Talks copywright 2010 St Herman of Alaska Brotherhood Press

The Gospel continues…
And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

What excuses do we have not to help someone in need?  Do we give them even our crumbs?  When giving to God do we give only what is left over?  Giving to God through His church and the poor is commanded by God to come from the first fruits that we are blessed with, not the last.

The Gospel continues…
The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom.

The fathers speak about the poor man patiently awaiting some kind of help.  God has compassion on this poor man and when he dies he goes to heaven.  The rich man dies without having offered from the bounty that God blessed him with and is in reality rejecting God. 

The Gospel continues…
And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazaros to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.' But Abraham said, 'Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazaros in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish.

The lack of giving and the rejection of helping those in need is in fact a great sin and rejection of God who is Christ laying at our gates.  We need to become aware of what our faith requires ,and become good managers of what God has entrusted to us.  Our faith insists for us to use these gifts for Godly things and helping especially the least fortunate of God’s children.
Where you put your treasure your heart is there also. 

The Gospel concludes…
And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.' And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.' But Abraham said, 'They have Moses, and the prophets; let them hear them.' And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.' He said to them, 'If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.'"

We do not want judgment and we understand God to be a loving and kind God yet unknowingly at times we reject Christ who is at our gate.  Riches are not evil but the mismanagement of them by ignoring the commandment of giving back is. Offering to God the first fruits of what we have is a critical part of our faith.

If we want mercy from God we must give mercy to God’s Children.

If we want blessing from God we must give blessings to God and His children.

If we want compassion from God we must be compassionate.

God needs to be the highest priority in our life because there is no eternal life outside our Lord and God. 

God is good and loving but those who reject Him and His commandments separate themselves from our Lord in this life and the next just like the stingy rich man separated Himself from God by ignoring the need of Lazarus.

May God inspire us to have our Lord always in our hearts and on our minds, and have God truly first in our life above all things.  We will then be blessed to be with our Lord in life after death, for we have put our hearts and lives with Christ now.  We must truly live our Christianity, which is demonstrated by our faith in Christ and generosity, by abundantly giving back to God from them blessings the Lord has provided to us.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

O Lord, Do you know my pain? Luke 7:11-16

O Lord, Do you know my pain?
By Fr Ted Toppses

Sunday Sermon on the Third Sunday of Luke 2013

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and Of the Holy Spirit, Amen

O Lord, Do you know my pain?

O Lord, Do you see my struggle?

I am lost in the world; will you find me and bring me home?
Gifts are something we do not deserve, but rather are given to us because of love.  Divine Love, the Love of God sees all that we are, all that we will be, and what will become of us.  One mystery of life is that the divine patience and love of God gives us true freedom, and choice, even though God knows already what is to come.  

This morning’s Gospel reading is from St. Luke chapter 7 and begins this way…
At that time, Jesus went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her....

In the days of Christ, a woman was unable to support herself without a man to provide for her.  In this case, this widow lost her only son.  Her grief was twofold because she not only lost her son, but she also lost the only means for her support being also a widow.  Her tears from sorrow were very large and painful.  She herself did not approach the Lord, but it was Our Lord who approached her out of compassion and brought back her son to life. 

In the Gospel the Greek word used for compassion is ἐσπλαγχνίσθη. This word in Greek latterly means “moved with compassion”.  Compassion in the Greek language is not only defined as a deep awareness and sympathy of another’s suffering, but also moving to action because of compassion. 

God many times in our lives acts on our behalf even though we have not yet asked.  He has compassion on our suffering, acting to heal us even when we are at times not asking.  Prayer connects us with the One who already knows our true needs.

Christ’s coming compassion is prophesied in
Isaiah 49.13: Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the LORD has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

Throughout the scriptures there are many examples of Christ’s compassion.  Jesus had compassion on the crowds, for the sick, for the hungry, for ignorance, and for true needs, and to give us eternal life through Himself taking on our suffering and sin. 

Let us now ask ourselves:

Are we ever alone? Never, for we can always be intimately close to God and we have only to open our hearts in prayer to know that He is there.  If we seek the world rather than God and reject Christ we build a callous over our heart where we no longer feel God’s touch, warmth and compassion.  We must be cautious because we can still reject the Lord who dwells so close to us, and welcome the enemy to come within us leading to our destruction. 

Is our suffering going unknown? No, for God has compassion and love for us beyond our comprehension.

Is our suffering meaningless?  No, for if we bear it with faith, we transform this darkness of our life into saving light that molds and bonds us to God.  Our suffering becomes our cross which leads to resurrection and heaven, through God’s Gifts and Grace.

The Gospel Concludes this way…
And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, "Do not weep." And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, "Young man, I say to you, arise." And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all; and they glorified God, saying, "A great prophet has arisen among us!" and "God has visited his people!"

Let us now affirm:

We are not alone. 

We are truly loved by God more than we can comprehend.

We may weep for a period of time in this life, but through Jesus Christ our Lord and God who destroyed death by His death our tears will turn into eternal joy.  Our suffering will turn into healing and blessing.  Our death will turn into true life and we will dwell in the kingdom of God. 

This world sometimes appears to have prison shackles on us because of this suffering and sinful worldly existence; however these shackles cannot hold the spirit from prayer and communion with God.  In prayer we can begin to truly know God, His Love, His unending Compassion and the Kingdom of God. 

Pray and find God who is waiting for you at the gates of your heart.
Pray and be free.
Pray and feel God’s love and peace.
Pray and enter the Kingdom of God even while living this life.
Pray as often as you can during your daily life.
And everyday take time to be in a place of quietness and solitude and pray even for a short time.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God have mercy on me a sinner.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Savior Knows our Thoughts, Sorrows, Sighing and Circumstances by St. John Kronstadt

You gaze upon the icon of the Saviour and see that He looks at you from it with brightest eyes; this look is the image of how He actually looks upon you with His eyes, that are brighter than the sun, and sees all your thoughts, hears all your heartfelt distress and sighs. The image is an image, and represents in lines and signs that which cannot be delineated, cannot be given in signs, and can be comprehended by faith alone. Believe, then, that the Saviour always protects you and sees each one of you--with all your thoughts, sorrows and sighing, in all your circumstances, as upon the palm of the hand. "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of My hands; thy walls are continually before Me," says the Lord God. How much consolation and life are contained in these gracious words of the Almighty and Provident God! Therefore pray before the icon of the Saviour as before Himself. The Lover of men is present in it by His grace, and with the eyes depicted in it really looks at you: "The eyes of the Lord are in every place," while with His ears as represented on the icon, He hears you. But remember that His eyes are the eyes of God, and His ears are the ears of the omnipresent God.

St John of Kronstadt from the Book , My Life in Christ, or Moments of Spiritual Serenity and Contemplation, of Reverent Feeling, of Earnest Self-Amendment, and of Peace in God 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

3 amazing videos - The Truly Amazing Story of Australian Fr. Lazarus Al-Anthony from Atheism to being a Coptic Orthodox Monk and more...

This is the fascinating and amazing story of Fr. Lazarus Al-Anthony sharing the story of his journey to God and Coptic Orthodox Monasticism in two video parts... plus a link to a award winning documentary called The Last Anchorite.  Read more about Fr. Lazarus below too...

2 hour video part 1:

1 hour part 2:

ALSO A Great Short Documentary
watch the film about Fr. Lazarus called:

to watch THE LAST ANCHORITE click this link below...

from this web site:
A truly remarkable story of Father Lazarus El Anthony who lives in solitude on the Al-Qalzam Mountain (Egypt). It was in a cave at this mountain that the great hermit, the founder and the father of the monastic life; Saint Anthony the Great (Abba Antonius)lived. At the foot of the mountain lies St. Anthony's Monastery (Deir Mar Antonios), the oldest active christian monastery in the world, founded in 356 AD just after the saints death.
Father Lazarus was born in Tasmania and had worked as a university lecturer in a provincial city in Australia teaching literature and philosophy; very often preaching against Christianity in many of his classes. He spent about forty-years of his life as an atheist deriving his philosophy from Marxism. When his mother was diagnosed with incurable cancer and died, "he began realize that he had indentured himself to things, to the promise of illusory happiness; and began to understand the true paradox of existence: that it cannot be ordered or forecast". Ultimately he 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. He met H.H. Pope Shenouda III, who lead him to where he is today.
It was not the magnificence of the pyramids, the Pharaonic heritage, the Roman monuments, the minarets, the cruises on the river Nile – the scope of Egypt' s magnificent, nor the crystal waters of the Red Sea and stunning corals surrounded by an aquatic frenzy of underwater life and not even the incredible scent of the freshly cut herbs, coffee and aroma of hookah in khan el-khalili that attracted him to this place. It was the emptiness, the lifelessness, the peace and the wilderness of the Egyptian desert that was most attractive to Lazarus.
What many associate with death, Lazarus identifies with life. As he says "...coming to the desert and becoming a hermit... it was like I was dead and came to life". Father Lazarus El Anthony is a man who defies logic. Like St Anthony, but seventeen centuries later, he sets out on an endeavor that defies aspirations common to most humans.
He chooses poverty over luxury, hunger over greed, celibacy over lust, solitary life over prominence, non-material aspiration over riches and the denial of all family affections as the basis of a new kind of adventure. It seems almost as if he wished to deny everything that made the human life worthwhile. Yet, the stillness of the desert becomes his metaphor for being, his ageless encounter with lifelessness as a principle of rectitude.
Here is a man living like St Anthony, who had forsaken the world in the pursuit of what the Desert Fathers called apatheia, holy stillness. Though for many solitary life would seem to be a lonely life, Father Lazarus from the beginning believed that the desert is a place where he could find life in all its fullness. A place where he would encounter his savior and find his salvation. Among stones, sand and thirst he found his identification.
He claims he is not alone, and never felt alone. As he says: "I am alone from human company, but human company is not what I am seeking, I am seeking spiritual company and I have it".
Living just on bread and water, occasionally honey, the only thing father Lazarus desires is to sustain his faith and focus on God. In the course of eight years he dug miles of hiking trail with his bare hands that lead to his cave from the bottom of the mountain. He finds that this foreign desert is his home, and despite all the hardships and terrible dangers, he persevered.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Keep Focus on Christ and Rise Above the Storms of this Life - 9th Sunday of Matthew 2013

by Fr Ted Toppses

9th Sunday of Matthew 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…

Let us review this morning’s Gospel reading from St. Matthew 14:22-34

At that time, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.

Finding a quiet place to be alone with God is something we all would benefit greatly from.  The peacefulness and effectiveness of prayer at times by privately being with God and no one else was demonstrated by our Lord and Savior many times.  We must find a place of our own, not for every once in a great while, but for regular time together to be prayerfully intimate with God.  This quiet place does not replace the Church that Christ established but tremendously enhances the experience by seeking Christ in the church at home and the Church here that is the living Body of Christ.

The Gospel continues…

When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying "Take heart, it is I; have no fear."

The presence of Christ does not invoke fear but calm.  Christ gives peace not agitation.  Christ gives eternal life, not death.

The Gospel continues…

And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me."
Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?"

Peter wanted to come to Jesus and when the storms of the world distracted his faith and he took his eyes off Christ he began to sink.  When we take our eyes or our focus off of Christ we too will begin to sink into the depths of this worldly life.  We too must reach out when this happens and call upon the Lord for help.  The Lord immediately reached out to keep Peter from drowning.  Christ is the only one who can help us to truly rise above the waters in this life that would drown us. We must remain focused on Christ in order to stay above the waves and must reach out to Him when we fall, Christ is there for us.

The Gospel Continues….

And when they entered the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.

The world is like the sea deep and wide full of storms and winds and dangers.  If we go into the sea without even a boat it would be hard not to drown in the ups and downs of this earthly life.  The Boat could be looked at like the Church which keeps us afloat and together safe in this dangerous world.  Jesus who comes into the boat of our life calms the sea and the waves and instead of drowning in this world we are saved for eternal life.

Our focus must be on Christ at all times by prayer and a conscious effort to live constantly with Christ.  Our faith in Him will help us rise above the cares and troubles of this world and live forever with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Catholic Monk Helped by Elder Porphyrios

Once, when we were at New Skete, we were hosting a Catholic monk who had come to Mt. Athos to learn more about how the monks live, the ascetic life and the general polity of Mt. Athos. We told him about Elder Porphyrios and when he went to Athens he went to meet him. When Elder Porphyrios saw him, without asking him anything, he began to describe this monk’s monastery in Italy and their way of life there. He even described a neighboring convent. He saw all the monks and nuns there and mentioned each one of them in specific detail. The monk was literally dumbfounded because it was the first time in his life that he had met such a man. When he returned to Mt. Athos, he told us, “If someone had told me about these things; that he had seen and heard these things, I would never believe it. How is it possible for this person who lives in Greece to describe our monastery in Northern Italy in detail, to tell me all those details, to tell me about the monks, to tell me about the nuns, each one of them individually?” As this monk told us, when he asked Elder Porphyrios how he was able to see all these things, he answered him: “God’s grace reveals the mysteries to us, the Orthodox.”

Joannidis, Klitos . Elder Porphyrios Testimonies and Experiences . The Holy Convent of the Transfiguration of the Savior. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Christ Healing the Whole Person

6th Sunday of Matthew - Sunday Sermon 8-4-2013
by Fr Ted Toppses

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit...

Let us review today’s Gospel of Matthew 9:1-8

At that time, getting into a boat Jesus crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven." And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say 'Rise and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" he then said to the paralytic -- "Rise, take up your bed and go home." And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

This Gospel Lesson opens our minds to begin to understand the question, “What is Sin?”

It is important to understand that the first sin occurred when human beings disobeyed God and took from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This knowledge of how to be disobedient to God, shattered the innocence of mankind and created a destructive path of disease of soul and body where death could come instead of life. 

The English word “sin” in Greek is “Hamartia”.  Hamartia is rooted in the idea of missing the mark.  This is understood to be like an archer shooting at a target but falls short or misses his intended target.  The intended target of all Christians is to do the will of God, to seek God in all things, to live and behave in the excellent way that God gives us.  We sin by falling short or straying away from God in our thoughts, words or actions knowingly or even unknowingly.  We may know we have sinned and sometimes in our life we do things to harm others and do not realize what we have done.  Sometimes we stray from God unintentionally and we do not realize we are separating ourselves from the Lord.

Forgiveness of sin is the restoration of the soul towards God in everything.  In the sacrament of confession, God Blesses the person with freedom and forgiveness from their sin and empowers the person to live a Godly life again.  Forgiveness can happen through our private prayer, through the liturgy and other church services. 

The private service and sacrament of Confession is a powerful tool for forgiveness and gives the penitent person surety of forgiveness and guidance for true fulfillment of our lives by Living and uniting ourselves with Jesus Christ.

In the Gospel today Jesus saw the faith of the people who brought the paralytic to Him and said "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven." And later when the people thought He was blaspheming Jesus says "Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say 'Rise and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" he then said to the paralytic -- "Rise, take up your bed and go home." And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

When we pray for each other we are doing what the people in today’s Gospel did, who brought the paralytic to Christ.  We are interceding in a way that is similar to the intercession of the saints or the Theotokos.  Our faith and prayers can help bring about restoration of another person to God.

Let us remember, St. Seraphim of Sarov who said, “save yourself, and a thousand around you will be saved as well.”

In this life we should ask ourselves…

Which is greater a disease of body or of soul?

What harms a person more bodily death or spiritual death?

Our life here is temporary and we all will taste physical death.  Spiritual death is when the soul goes to the place of damnation rather than being blessed by the presence of God in Heaven.

Understanding our concern for the whole person including spiritual life, we can begin to comprehend that Christ’s first mission was to free us from sin.  Illness and disease is a distortion of creation and part of the fallenness of this world.  Christ wants to restore the whole man, and first frees the man by forgiving his sins.  Christ also frees the body through physical healing as well. 

When the crowds saw the miracle they glorified God and were amazed.  The crowds may not have realized that the whole man was restored and blessed in today’s Gospel reading, through forgiveness of sins as well as physical healing.  Even though this man would later be subject to physical death, Christ freed him and gave him the path to truly live after this earthly life.

We should take from this Gospel at least these few things.
1st We should seek freedom from sin through forgiveness by Christ in order to truly live.
2nd We should always pray for one another and be committed to bringing each other to Christ.
3rd  We should understand that Christ desires that we would come together to Him in faith that we may be given God’s blessing, and grace to live Life Eternal in the Kingdom and Presence of God.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

How The Divine Light of God Came and God Performed Miracles through the prayers of Elder Zosima

 There lived the elder Zosima in a monastery, and a rumor circulated that miraculous healings happened by his prayers. A lot of people came from distant places to ask for his help. Monastic brethren were proud that their monastery had such an elder. But there were also many of those who envied, thinking: “Why does God not hear our prayers no matter how much we pray? We make so many bows, but all in vain! Yet God somehow accepts the prayers of this elder…” 

Once a young novice decided to find out how Zosima performed wonders and why God listened to him. He thought that since the elder was kind, he might teach him… He came to the elder and asked: “Why do your prayers perform miracles, but ours don’t? Teach me your secrets! What if you die suddenly, who will glorify our monastery then?!” The elder looked kindly at him and said: “It’s hard to explain… I would say that I don’t pray at all… “It’s just necessary to kindle in the human heart the light similar to that of a candle or of an icon-lamp! “This light originates from love. “And one can expand this light of the soul up to immensity, like the light of the Sun!"

And then — the Great Light of the Holy Spirit appears and is ready to help! And I can see everything inside that Living Divine Light, as if there were no walls of my cell and as if there were no towers of the monastery. And inside this Light, every human body can be seen through and every soul can be understood regardless of distance. “It happens like this: I just need to start saying the words of the prayer addressed to the Holy Spirit, and It comes! The Light of God begins to flow like a river and embrace everything with Itself! 

“This Light understands the love of the heart but not the words muttered by a person! “You ask how miracles occur… When the soul merges with this Light, I stop distinguishing where my love is and where — God’s Love! “In the River of Light, there are numerous Arms. It seems that they are mine but at the same time not mine fully… “I see those Arms of God That do His Work! Just as the arms of a ploughman or cook do their work so the similar Arms of the Holy Spirit work! “It is these Arms That can heal. If the Holy Spirit wants, I can — with these Arms — cleanse filth and diseases from the bodies. But if the Holy Spirit do not want — I can’t move even a finger tip. “Inside this Light of God, I can see diseases in the body of a sick person and vices in the soul. 

“However, not every soul can be cleansed, not everyone can be helped… “The soul needs to be taught to love first! Otherwise, later it may become a debtor of God for that miracle!” … Zosima said this and smiled gently. But the young novice, in fright of the elder, fell to his knees and set his head against the floor… Then, crossing himself devoutly, he jumped out of the cell… Zosima sighed quietly: it seems that again not that man had come, whom God was talking about… This novice did not want to know about the warmth of the heart or about the spiritual heart love… So many years had passed already since Zosima began to look for a worthy disciple…

 from the Book, the Parables about the Elder Zosima 

Author: Zubkova, Anna       Vladimir Antonov (Editor) Book: Parables about the Elder Zosima