May 2010

For all of my friends who have gone through many travails, and who have just graduated at St. Tikhon’s:

“If trees have not stood up against tile, winter’s storms they cannot bear fruit. It is much the same with us. This present age is a storm, and it is only through many trials and temptations that we can obtain an inheritance in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

– Amma Theodora of the Desert


Holy Elder Ambrose of Optina

About laziness and depression St. Ambrose of Optina said: “Boredom is the grandson of depression, and laziness is the daughter. To send her away, labor actively–do not be lazy in prayer, then boredom will pass and zeal will come. And if you add to this patience and humility, then you will escape much evil.”

“If you do not feel like praying, you have to force yourself,” the Elder said. “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).”

Archimandrite Aimilianos

“The most dreadful enemy created by post-industrial culture, the culture of information technology and the image, is cunning distraction. Swamped by millions of images and a host of different situations on television and in the media in general, people lose their peace of mind, their self-control, their powers of contemplation and reflection and turn outwards, becoming strangers to themselves, in a word mindless, impervious to the dictates of their intelligence. If people, especially children, watch television for 35 hours a week, as they do according to statistics, then are not their minds and hearts threatened by Scylla and Charabdis, are they not between the devil and the deep blue sea? (Homer, Odyssey, XII, 85)

The majority of the faithful of the Church confess that they do not manage to pray, to concentrate and cast off the cares of the world and the storms of spirit and soul which are to the detriment of sobriety, inner balance, enjoyable work, family tranquility and a constructive social life. The world of the industrial image degenerates into real idolatry.

The teachings of the Fathers concerning spiritual vigilance arms people so that they can stave off the disastrous effects of the technological society. “For the weapons of our warfare… have divine power to destroy strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4), according to the Apostle Paul. Spiritual vigilance is a protection for everyone “containing everything good in this age and the next” (cf. Hesychius the Elder, PG 93, 1481A) and “the road leading to the kingdom, that us and that of the future” (Philotheos the Sinaite, Philokalia, vol. II, p. 275). Spiritual vigilance is not the prerogative only of those engaged actively in contemplation. It is for all those who are conscientiously “dealing with this world as though they had no dealings with it” (1 Cor. 7:31).

In the industrial era, people became consumers and slaves to things produced. In post-industrial society, they are also becoming consumers and slaves to images and information, which fill their lives.

Restraint and spiritual vigilance are, for all those who come into the world, a weapon made ready from the experience of the monastic life and Orthodox Tradition in general, one which abolishes the servitude of humanity and preserves our health and sovereignty as children of God.”

– Elder Aimilianos, Spiritual Instruction and Discourses, Ormylia (Halkidiki), Greece, 1999, pp. 343-352

“First of all it must be understood that it is the duty of all Christians – especially of those whose calling dedicates them to the spiritual life – to strive always and in every way to be united with God, their creator, lover, benefactor, and their supreme good, by Whom and for Whom they were created. This is because the center and the final purpose of the soul, which God created, must be God Himself alone, and nothing else – God from Whom the soul has received its life and its nature, and for Whom it must eternally live.”

– St. Dimitry of Rostov

Most blessed Lord Jesus Christ, send the grace of Thy Holy Spirit upon me, to strengthen me that I may learn well the things I am about to study, and by them become a better person for Thy glory, for the welfare of my family, and for the benefit of Thy Holy Church. Let this knowledge not make me boastful, but rather sanctify my mind by Thy deifying grace. Through my studies, teach me to acquire humility, a peaceful mind and a prayerful heart. This I ask of Thee through the prayers of Thy most Pure Mother, our Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary; of our holy and godbearing Fathers; of Saint Tatiana of Rome and Saint Sergius of Radonezh, and of all the saints who from the ages have been pleasing unto Thee. Amen.

As it is not the Orthodox tradition to have Sunday schools during Liturgy, where we rid ourselves of our children for the sake of our own religious experience, I found the following excerpt to be useful. It is an excerpt from a book called “Children in the Church Today – An Orthodox Perspective” by Sister Magdalen.

Children at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church

“Children should not be over-burdened by too long a prayer-time at home, or by being taken to every church service because the parents would like to attend. We would not wish our children to give in to laziness about attending church, but if they see church as a boring obligation, they are likely to revolt against it.

It is impossible to give a general rule about the number of church services children should attend. Every case needs thought and prayer, and the guidance of a spiritual father. The main thing to realize is that Christian parents should not feel guilty if they have to attend church less often than they would like, for the sake of their children who have not the same spiritual measure as they have. We must not blame or resent our children; we must accept it as being for their long-term good – for their salvation. In many cases, parents who have accepted this feel more close to God, taste more often His grace, than when they were neglecting their family to attend church services several times a week, or bringing their children too often. Our children’s life becomes our life: this is our kenosis (self-emptying or self-giving) as parents, and it will bring grace from God. ‘There is a time for everything’; when are children are independent we will have more time to attend services.”

“Even a pious person is not immune to spiritual sickness if he does not have a wise guide – either a living person or a spiritual writer. This sickness is called prelest, or spiritual delusion, imagining oneself to be near to God and to the realm of the divine and supernatural. Even zealous ascetics in monasteries are sometimes subject to this delusion, but of course, laymen who are zealous in external struggles (podvigi) undergo it much more frequently. Surpassing their acquaintances in struggles of prayer  and fasting, they imagine that they are seers of divine visions, or at least of dreams inspired by grace. In every event of their lives, they see special intentional directions from God or their guardian angel. And then they start imagining that they are God’s elect, and often try to foretell the future. The Holy Fathers armed themselves against nothing so fiercely as against this sickness – prelest.”

– Metropolitan Anthony Khrapovitsky

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