Sunday, June 30, 2013

Elder Paisios - 51 Minute Film with English Subtitles

Elder Paisios - 51 Minute Greek Film with  English Subtitles



This is worth a watch, a great recent saint of our times!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Elder Thaddeus - How to Have Inner Peace

Instructions for inner peace by Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica

1. We must give ourselves over to the Lord. We must commit ourselves and all that we have to Him, for He is ever present. He wants us to be quiet and at peace, with no thoughts at all. This means that the heart must keep silence. The Holy Fathers tell us that our nous must descend into the heart. That is where our nous should be, without any thoughts or imaginings. The Holy Fathers further say that we must occupy the nous with the Jesus Prayer. Let our minds always be saying the Jesus Prayer, for He is always present, and let us always be in communion with Him. 

2. We know that the Lord, while in the flesh, was kind to all people, even those who persecuted Him—Him, the Almighty God. He showed us how to avoid evil and not oppose it. He said so Himself (cf. Matt. 5:39). Not opposing evil means preserving one’s inner peace. Opposing evil is evil; it involves a desire to return evil for evil, which is what the fallen spirits thrive on. However, when they attack us and find that we do not oppose them, then our peacefulness disarms them and they are defeated. Therefore we must try to always pray like this: “Lord, help me to preserve my inner peace, teach me how to be calm and peaceful and kind, just like Thine angels.” In order to be able to do this, we must be with the Lord constantly in our thoughts. You see, we direct all our thoughts and all our attention to those whom we love. This is exactly how we should be toward God, for as our Parent, He rightfully asks that we give back to Him what He has given us. This is for our own good, in order that we may participate in Divine joy, peace, and life. Let us, therefore, learn to turn to God and seek Him ceaselessly through prayer. 

3. The Holy Fathers tell us that we must preserve our inner peace at all costs and always be joyful, always in a good mood. But even St. John of Kronstadt says, “We are like the weather: now the wind is blowing, a storm is raging, there is thunder and lightning and rain—but then the sun comes out and we feel well. Then another storm comes, and so on.” He goes on to say that since we are in the body, the atmospheric conditions influence us a lot. When the conditions are good, when the atmospheric pressure is not too high or too low, and when the weather is fine, we also feel well. But when the skies are gray and cloudy, we become depressed. We must learn how to preserve our spiritual balance, and when the weather is cloudy and stormy we must be at peace and be joyful. We must try to always be in good spirits, always joyful, because the spirits of evil want us to be sad all the time. 

4. You must strive to have peace in your homes. Peace starts with each one of us. When we have peace in us, we spread it around to others. You can see for yourself that there are very few humble and meek souls on the earth—but also that they are truly blessed. They will not be offended if you insult them in any way. Whatever way you treat them, they are quiet and peaceful and they are truly sorrowed because you are in such spiritual torment. 

5. We are always breaking God’s law. We know that the worldly authorities punish transgressions of civil law and that breaking the civil law can have even lifelong consequences. Spiritual transgressions also have consequences, even greater ones. There can be no peace in the world unless there is inner peace in each one of us. 

6. As St. Seraphim of Sarov says, in order for us to have inner peace and save our souls, we must often look deep into ourselves and ask, “Where am I?” While doing so we must be careful to guard our senses, especially our eyes, so that they may be to our spiritual benefit. Gifts of Grace are given only to those who work for them by constantly guarding their souls. 

7. How will we know whether we are living according to the will of God or not? If you are sad for whatever reason, this means that you have not given yourself over to God, although from the outside it may seem that you have. He who lives according to God’s will has no worries. When he needs something, he simply prays for it. If he does not receive that which he asked for, he is joyful as though he had received it. A soul that has given itself over to God has no fear of anything, not even robbers, sickness, or death. Whatever happens, such a soul always cries, “It was the will of God.” 

8. Here on earth we are given the chance to conquer all evil with peace and stillness. We can have peace when we live in surroundings that are peaceful and quiet, but that peace is not as stable and as permanent as the peace we acquire while living in chaotic conditions. When you move from quiet surroundings to chaotic ones, your mood changes instantly and you become irritable—all of a sudden evil thoughts assail you, and your mind is in hell. That is the end of our peace. This is why the Lord guides us through sufferings and sorrows—so that we may, through them, acquire real peace. Without Him we would not have the strength to overcome these things. There is the example of the holy martyr Catherine, who suffered for Christ when she was very young, only eighteen years old. Her tormentors threw her into a dungeon all tortured and broken, and the Lord appeared to her. When she asked Him, “Lord, where have You been all this time?” He answered, “I was here all the time, in your heart.” “How can that be, O Lord, when my heart is impure, and full of evil and pride?” “Yes,” said the Lord, “but you have left room in it for Me. Had I not been with you, you would not have been able to bear all these tortures. I will give you strength so that you can endure until the end.” The Holy Fathers say, “We know that God loves us when He takes us through many sufferings and misfortunes.” Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid (John 14:27), says the Lord, Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (cf. John 14:6). 

9. You should learn to love little things. Always try to be modest and simple in everything. When the soul is mature, God will give it peace. The Lord looks upon us and is pleased when we yearn after His peace. Until such time as the soul is mature enough to receive the Lord, He will only sometimes allow it to see and sense that He is present everywhere and fills all things. These are moments of indescribable joy. But after that, the Lord hides Himself from us once again in order that we might yearn for Him and seek Him with all our heart. 

10. Our spirit is saddened, everything is sorrow and suffering. You have seen for yourself: when you are in a state of peace, all is well, but here in this life, such peace does not last for long. It is disturbed very easily. For this reason we must always be in contact with the Source of life, with God—always, without ceasing. As soon as our inner peace is troubled, we must immediately ask for His help—just like a little child who, when separated from his mother, immediately cries and calls out to her. He is afraid to be alone. So it is with our soul: when it finds itself alone (separated from the Lord) it suffers a great deal, but when it is united with the Lord, no matter what misfortunes come upon it, all is well. The soul surmounts all difficulties because it is joyful to be with the Lord; it feels Divine joy and peace. The soul knows that it must pass through the fire and water of this world in order to rise above the little things of this world that torment us. What torments us most are our thoughts. Thoughts make us do all kinds of things, then we lose our peace and are tormented by our conscience. These pangs of conscience are nothing but the judgment of God within us. And so, we must make peace with our Heavenly Father and turn to Him from our heart, asking Him to forgive us and give us of His Grace and His Divine strength in order that we may always remain in peace and joy, like the angels and the saints. Amen. 

11. We have been endowed with many gifts from God, but we do not know how to live as we should, and we create hades in us and around us. Bishop Nikolai [Velimirovich] once told the story of a priest who kept asking to be transferred to another parish. After a while Bishop Nikolai answered his plea, saying, “Father, I would be glad to grant your wish for a transfer if only you were not going to take your self there!” 36 

12. When a person is in the power of the evil spirits, a false sense of peace reigns in him all the time. The devil does not tempt him with anything. We all have our periods of peace and quiet but also periods of war. The Lord permits this so that we may become well-versed in spiritual warfare and may learn how to conquer evil. Much time must pass before we attain the ability to conquer a bad trait that has been part of our personality for years, since our childhood. For this we need a spiritually experienced advisor who has himself passed through all of these phases of the spiritual life. A spiritual father or guide can teach us how to overcome such traits and how to win and preserve inner peace. St. Isaac the Syrian says, “Preserve your inner peace at any cost. Do not trade your inner peace for anything in the world. Make peace with yourself, and heaven and earth will make peace with you.” 

13. We must always be vigilant. Vigilance and discernment are the things we need. The Lord said to Joshua, son of Nun, “Whatever you do, think it over well” (cf. Joshua 1:8).  If we at first believe that what we are about to say will be to someone’s benefit, but then, after we use our discernment, we decide that our words will only hurt the other person, then it is better to remain silent. Everything should be done with discernment. When one uses one’s discernment, then one is also vigilant. Vigilance is also needed in prayer. Our attention must precede our prayer. We must know what we are asking for in prayer. You see, when we ask a favor of someone, we say, “I know you can help me if you apply yourself to it.” That means our attention is on the words we are saying when asking for help. If this is the case when we are turning to a person for help, how much more should our attention be focused when we are praying to the Lord, Who is our life! But we have found ways to shorten our prayer rule: we recite our prayers by rote or read them from a book. Our hearts and our feelings have no part in such prayer, and in the end we often do not even know what we have read. 

14. We can go wherever we want and do whatever we want, but that is not freedom. Freedom belongs to God. When a person is free from the tyranny of thoughts, that is freedom. When he lives in peace, that is freedom. He is always in prayer, he is always expecting help from the Lord—he listens to his conscience and does his best. We must pray with our whole being, work with our whole being, do everything with our whole being. We must also not be at war with anyone and never take any offense to heart. Let it be. Today we are offended by one person—who knows who will offend us tomorrow? We are constantly thinking about these insults, but we should just let them be in peace. We should never take them to heart. When we do, the adversary will try to do it again, but if we just let the insult bounce off us, and remain peaceful, then people will give up trying to offend us. And people will ask you, “How come you are always at peace? Everyone else is nervous and easily offended, while you don’t seem to be interested in this life at all. How did you become like that? How can you stay so calm?” Well, that is how the Lord keeps us from harm.

from the book: Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives: the Life and Teachings of Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, Translated by Ana Smiljanic


Monday, June 17, 2013

St. John Kronstadt’s Instructions for Prayer of the Heart


With the mental eyes of my heart, I see how I mentally breathe Christ in my heart, how He enters into it, and suddenly tranquilizes and rejoices it. O, do not leave me to dwell alone, without Thyself, the life-giver, my breath, my joy! 

It is hard for me to be left without Thee. Is it possible to pray rapidly without injuring the effect of the prayer? It is possible to those who have learned to pray inwardly with a pure heart. During prayer it is necessary that your heart should sincerely desire that which you ask for, should feel the truth of what you are saying, and this comes naturally to a pure heart. 

That is why it is capable of praying even rapidly, and at the same time agreeably, to God, as the rapidity in this case does not injure the truth (sincerity) of the prayer. 

But for those who have not attained the capability of praying sincerely it is necessary to pray slowly, waiting for a corresponding echo in the heart to each word of the prayer. And this is not always soon given to men unaccustomed to prayerful contemplation. Therefore, for such men, it must be laid down as an absolute rule to pronounce the words of the prayer slowly, and with pauses. Wait until every word gives back its corresponding echo in your heart.


From - St John of Kronstadt -   My Life in Christ

Friday, June 14, 2013

Elder Cleopa - On Prayer - Stages of Prayer


Elder Cleopa - On Prayer



Elder Cleopa (Ilie) (April 10 , 1912 - December 2, 1998) was a very well-known monk and representative of the Romanian Orthodox Church and an archimandrite and abbot of the Sihastria Monastery.

 

Biography

Cleopa Ilie (lay name: Constantin) was born in Suliţa, Botoşani to a family of peasants. He was the fifth of ten children born to Alexandru Ilie. He attended the primary school in his village. Afterwards he was an apprentice for three years to the monk Paisie Olaru, who lived in seclusion at the Cozancea hermitage.
Together with his elder brother, Vasile, Ilie joined the community at Sihastria hermitage in December 1929. In 1935, he joined the army in the town of Botoşani, but returned a year later to the hermitage, where he was anointed a monk on August 2, 1937, taking the name "Cleopa" (i.e. "guide") at his baptism. In June 1942, he was appointed to hegumen deputy because of abbot Ioanichie Moroi's poor health.
On December 27, 1944, he was ordained a hierodeacon (deacon-monk) and on January 23, 1945 a hieromonk (priest-monk) by the archbishop Galaction Cordun, abbot of the Neamţ Monastery at the time. Afterwards he was officially appointed hegumen of the Sihastria Hermitage.

Grave at Sihăstria Monastery
In 1947, the hermitage became a monastery and vice-archimandrite Cleopa Ilie became archimandrite on approval of Patriarch Nicodim. Because the Communist secret service was looking for him in 1948, he disappeared into the woods surrounding the monastery, staying there for six months. On August 30, 1949, he was appointed abbot of the Slatina Monastery in Suceava county, where he joined 30 other monks from the Sihastria Monastery community as a result of Patriarch Justinian’s decision.
There he founded a community of monks with over 80 people. Between 1952 and 1954 he was being chased again by the Securitate and, together with hieromonk Arsenie Papacioc, escaped to the Stanisoara Mountains. He was brought back to the monastery after two years upon Patriarch Justinian’s order.
In 1956 he returned to Sihastria monastery, where he had been anointed, and in the spring of 1959 he retired for the third time to the Neamţ Mountains, spending the next five years there. He returned to Sihastria in the fall of 1964, as confessor for the entire community and continued to give spiritual advice to both monks and lay people for the next 34 years. He died on December 2, 1998 at Sihăstria Monastery.

Published work

  • Despre credinţa ortodoxă ("About Orthodox Faith", Bucuresti, 1981, 280 pages, republished in 1985, then in Galaţi under the title: Călăuza în credinţa ortodoxă, "Guide to the Orthodox Faith", 1991, 276 pages);
  • Predici la praznice împărăteşti şi sfinti de peste an ("Sermons on Religious Feasts Over the Year", Ed. Episcopiei Romanului, 1986, 440 pages);
  • Predici la Duminicile de peste an (Sermons on Sundays Over the Year, Ed. Episcopiei Romanului, 1990, 560 pages);
  • Valoarea sufletului (Value of the Soul, Galaţi, 1991, 176 pages, republished in Bacău, 1994, 238 pages);
  • Urcuş spre înviere (predici duhovniceşti) ("Ascent Towards Resurrection (Spiritual Sermons)", Mănăstirea Neamţ, 1992, 416 pages);
  • Despre vise şi vedenii ("About Dreams and Visions", Bucureşti, 1993, 270 pages);
  • Numerous articles in different magazines and newspapers, sermons in manuscript

- source ( Orthodoxwiki.org)

Saturday, June 1, 2013

St. Photini the Samaritan Woman and the Living Water

St. Photini the Samaritan Woman  and the Living Water

Sunday Sermon for 6-2-2013 By Fr Ted Toppses

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

"If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked Him and he would have given you living water." John 4:10

Do we know the gift of God?  What would it mean for us to free ourselves from death itself?  Do we dare to take the next step in the new life that awaits us?  Will we approach Christ?  Will we go into our quiet place and seek God?  Can we ask of Christ for a drink of living water? Do we dare seek Him? Are we willing to proclaim Christ even if persecuted?

The following is an excerpt from today’s Gospel of from St. John Chapter 4…
At that time, Jesus came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the field that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Jacob's well was there, and so Jesus, wearied as he was with his journey, sat down beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give me a drink." For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman said to him, "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." The woman said to him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep; where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?" Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst; the water that I shall give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw."

The woman in today’s Gospel was coming to the well to meet the needs of this worldly life seeking water to nourish the body.  The woman did not expect to find the everlasting wellspring of living water, Christ our Lord, who would change her life from a simply earthly existence to a heavenly one.  This Samaritan woman is St. Photini and led many to Christ.

Let us learn today by examining and excerpt from her life:
St. Photini lived in first century Palestine. She was the Samaritan woman who Christ visited at the well asking her for water. It was she who accepted the “living water” offered her by Christ Himself after repenting from her many sins (John. 4:5-42). She went and told her townspeople that she had met the Christ. For this, she is sometimes recognized as the first to proclaim the Gospel of Christ. She converted her five sisters (Sts. Anatole, Photo, Photis, Paraskeve, and Kyriake) and her two sons (Victor and Joses). They all became tireless evangelists for Christ.

The apostles of Christ baptized her and gave her the name of Photini which means “the enlightened one.” She is remembered by the Church as a Holy Martyr and Equal to the Apostles. After Sts. Peter and Paul were martyred, St. Photini and her family left their homeland of Sychar, in Samaria, to travel to Carthage to proclaim the Gospel of Christ there.

During the reign of Emperor Nero in the first century, excessive cruelty was displayed against the Christians, St. Photini lived in Carthage with her younger son, Joses. Her eldest son, Victor, fought bravely in the Roman army against the barbarians, and was appointed military commander in the city of Attalia (Asia Minor). Later, Nero called him to Italy to arrest and punish Christians.
Sebastian, an official in Italy, said to Victor, “I know that you, your mother and your brother, are followers of Christ. As a friend I advise you to submit to the will of the emperor. If you inform on any Christians, you will receive their wealth. I shall write to your mother and brother, asking them not to preach Christ in public. Let them practice their faith in secret.”

Victor replied, “I want to be a preacher of Christianity like my mother and brother.” Sebastian said, “O Victor, we all know what woes await you, your mother and brother.” Then Sebastian suddenly felt a sharp pain in his eyes. He was dumbfounded, and his face was somber.

For three days Sebastian lay there blind, without uttering a word. On the fourth day he declared, “The God of the Christians is the only true God.” St. Victor asked why Sebastian had suddenly changed his mind. Sebastian replied, “Because Christ is calling me.” Soon he was baptized, and immediately regained his sight. St. Sebastian’s servants, after witnessing the miracle, were also baptized.

Reports of this reached Nero, and he commanded that the Christians be brought to him at Rome. The Lord Himself appeared to the confessors and said, “Fear not, for I am with you. Nero, and all who serve him, will be vanquished.” The Lord said to Victor, “From this day forward, your name will be Photinus, because through you, many will be enlightened and will believe in Me.” The Lord then told the Christians to strengthen and encourage Sebastian to persevere until the end.

All these things, and even future events, were revealed to St. Photini. She left Carthage in the company of several Christians and joined the confessors in Rome.

At Rome, Emperor Nero ordered the saints to be brought before him, and he asked them whether they truly believed in Christ. All the confessors refused to renounce the Savior. The emperor then gave orders to smash the martyrs’ finger joints. During the torture, the confessors felt no pain, and their hands remained unharmed.

Nero ordered that Sts. Sebastian, Photinus and Joses be blinded and locked up in prison, and St. Photini and her five sisters, Anatola, Phota, Photis, Paraskeva and Kyriake, were sent to the imperial court under the supervision of Nero’s daughter, Domnina. St. Photini converted both Domnina and her servants to Christ. She also converted a sorcerer, who had brought her poisoned food that was meant to kill her.

Three years passed, and Nero sent to the prison for one of his servants, who had been locked up. The messengers reported to him that Sts. Sebastian, Photinus and Joses, who had been blinded, had completely recovered, and that people were visiting them to hear their preaching. Indeed, the whole prison had been transformed into a bright and fragrant place where God was glorified.
Nero then gave orders to crucify the saints, and to beat their bodies with straps. On the fourth day, the emperor sent servants to see whether the martyrs were still alive. Approaching the place of the tortures, the servants fell blind. An angel of the Lord freed the martyrs from their crosses and healed them. The saints took pity on the blinded servants, and restored their sight by their prayers to the Lord. Those who were healed came to believe in Christ and were soon baptized.

In a rage, Nero martyred all the saints with extreme cruelty taking all their lives except St. Photini who he very cruelly tortured and threw into a well. St. Photini was later removed from the well and locked up in prison for twenty days.

After this, Nero had St. Photini brought to him and asked if she would now relent and offer sacrifice to the idols. St. Photini mocked him, said, “O most impious of the blind, you reckless and stupid man! Do you think me so deluded that I would consent to renounce my Lord Christ and instead offer sacrifice to idols as blind as you?”

Hearing such words, Nero gave orders to throw St. Photini again down a well, where she surrendered her soul to God in the year 66.
(source for life of the saint: adapted from the life of St. Photini - http://www.antiochian.org)

May we live a life of faith and seek the true living water who is Christ our Lord, through the profound example and intercessions of St. Photini, may we also courageously proclaim Christ no matter how much we are persecuted.

Amen.