Unseen Warfare chapter 23 by St Theophan the Recluse & St Nicoodemus of the holy mountain

Cap 23.

How to translate sensory impressions into profitable lessons

When you see things beautiful to the eye and valued on earth, think that they are all as nothing, as mere dust, compared with the beauties and riches of heaven, which you will certainly receive after death, if you renounce the whole world.

Looking at the sun, think that your soul is still more beautiful and radiant, if it is filled with the grace of its Creator; and if it is not, it is darker and more despicable than outer darkness.

Turning your eyes to the skies, raise the eyes of the soul to the highest heaven beyond and cleave to it with your thought, since it is the heavenly dwelling place prepared for you, if your life here on earth is sinless and holy.

When you hear the songs of birds in the trees in springtime, or other sweet singing, raise your mind to the sweetest songs of paradise and think how the heavens echo for ever with Halleluia and other angelic praises, and pray God to let you sing His praises for ever, in company with those heavenly spirits, of whom Revelation says: ‘And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God” (Rev. xix. 1).

If you feel attracted by someone’s beauty, bring to your mind the thought that under this attractive exterior hides the serpent of hell, ready to slay you, or at least to wound you, and say to it: ‘ Accursed serpent! It is you who stand here like a thief, seeking to devour me! Vain effort, for God is my helper! ‘ Then, turning to God, say: ‘Blessed art Thou, my God, Who hath revealed to us our secret enemies and “’hath not given us as a prey to their teeth”’ (Ps. cxxiv. 6).’ Thereupon take refuge in the wounds of Him, Who was crucified for us, dedicating yourself to them and thinking how much our Lord suffered in His holy flesh, to free you from sin and instil in you a disgust of carnal lusts.

I remind you of one more weapon to repel the seduction of physical beauty, namely: when you fall into it, hasten to sink your mind deep into the thought of what will this creature, so attractive to you now, become after death? Stinking putrefaction filled with worms.

When you are walking somewhere, think at each step that every stride takes you nearer the grave. Seeing birds flying in the air, or rivers with swiftly flowing waters, reflect that your life flies still faster, hastening towards its end.

When strong winds blow, the sky is overcast with black clouds and you hear shattering thunderclaps and see blinding flashes of lightning, remember the terrible day of judgment and, falling on your knees, bow to your Lord and God and pray Him to grant you time and His grace to prepare yourself to stand then without shame before the face of His terrible majesty.

When various troubles assail you, do not forget to exercise your mind in edifying thoughts about them and connected with them, but above all do this: rise to the contemplation of the all-governing will of God and strive to establish in yourself the assurance that it is for your good and for the sake of your salvation, that the loving wisdom and just will of God has graciously ruled that you should suffer what you now suffer and in the measure that you suffer. So rejoice that God shows you His love in such cases, and provides an occasion to prove how willingly and whole-heartedly you submit to His will in everything He chooses to send you. Say from your heart: ‘This is the will of God fulfilled in me, for in His love of me He has ordained before all time that I should suffer this affliction, or sorrow, or loss, or injustice. Blessed be the name of my most merciful Lord.”

When a good thought comes to your mind, turn to God and, realising that it was sent by Him, give thanks.

When you are occupied with reading the word of God, have in mind that God is secretly present beneath every word, and take these words as issuing from His divine lips. When while the sun reigns in the heavens, you see darkness approach and veil its light, as happens in eclipses, grieve and pray to God not to let you fall into outer darkness.

Looking at the cross, remember that it is the emblem of our spiritual warfare and contains unconquerable power; that if you turn away from it, you will be delivered into the hands of our enemies, but that if you remain under it, you will reach heaven and enter it in triumph and glory.

When you see an icon of the Most Holy Mother of God, turn I your heart to Her, the Queen of heaven, and give thanks that She showed such readiness to submit to the will of God, to give ‘ birth, suckle and bring up the Saviour of the world and to be an unfailing protector and helper in our unseen warfare.

Let the icons of saints bring to your mind how many intercessors you have always praying for you before God, and how many allies fighting for you in your unceasing battles. Having themselves courageously fought the enemies throughout their lives and overcome them, they have revealed and shown you the I art of waging war. If, with their help, you are alert in fighting your battles, you will, like them, be crowned with victory in the eternal glory of heaven.

When you see a church, among other good thoughts remember also that your soul too is the temple of God, as it is written: ‘Ye are the temple of the living God’ (II Cor. vi. 16) and therefore you must keep it pure and immaculate.

Every time you hear church bells, bring to mind the greeting of the Archangel to the Mother of God, “Hail, thou that art highly favoured’ and dwell on the following thoughts and feelings: give thanks to God for sending from heaven to earth these good tidings, by which the work of your salvation began; rejoice with the Holy Virgin in the transubstantial greatness to which She was raised for Her deep humility; in company with Her and the Archangel Gabriel, adore the divine Fruit which was then forthwith conceived in Her most holy womb. You will do well to repeat this glorification often in the course of the day, accompanied by the feelings I have described; make it a strict rule to repeat it at least three times a day: in the morning, at midday and in the evening.

In brief I give you the following advice: be always awake and attentive in relation to your senses and never allow the impressions you get through them to excite and feed your passions. On the contrary, use your senses in such a way as not to deviate even a hair’s breadth from your decision to please God always and in everything, or to be guided by His will. To achieve this, in addition to transferring your thoughts from the sensory to the spiritual, as we have indicated, it is very useful to practise the small rule mentioned in the first chapters—not to be spontaneously attracted by anything or spontaneously repelled by anything, but by strict and steadfast reasoning to determine, in each particular case, the attitude to be adopted to the impressions received through the senses, in order that it should conform to the will of God, which we know through His commandments.

I shall also add, that if I have described above methods of turning the use of the senses to spiritual benefit, it does not mean that you should constantly practise them. No, what you must practise constantly is to collect your mind in the heart and remain there with the Lord, thus having Him as a Teacher and Helper in your victory over enemies and passions, either through direct inner resistance, or through the practice of virtues opposed to them. What I described was said only with the intention that you should know these methods and make use of them when necessary. All the same, it is unquestionably very useful, in our warfare, to cover all sensory things with a spiritual veil.

St Philaret of New York : Will the heterodox be saved ?

Will the Heterodox Be Saved?

Question: If the Orthodox faith is the only true faith, can Christians of other confessions be saved? May a person who has led a perfectly righteous life on earth be saved on the strength of his ancestry, while not being baptized as Christian?

Answer: “For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth [struggleth], but of God that showeth mercy” (Rom. 9:15-16).

In the Orthodox Church we have the path of salvation indicated to us and we are given the means by which a person maybe morally purified and have a direct promise of salvation.  In this sense St. Cyprian of Carthage says that “outside the Church there is no salvation.”

In the Church is given that of which Apostle Peter writes to Christians (and only Christians): “According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.  And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.  For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:3-8).

And what should one say of those outside the Church, who do not belong to her?  Another apostle provides us with an idea: “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without?  Do not ye judge them that are within?  But them that are without God judgeth” (1 Cor. 5:12-13).

God “will have mercy on whom He will have mercy” (Rom 9:18).

It is necessary to mention only one thing: that to “lead a perfectly righteous life,” as the questioner expressed it, means to live according to the commandments of the Beatitudes—which is beyond the power of one, outside the Orthodox Church, without the help of grace which is concealed within it.

The question: Can the heterodox, (i.e. those who do, not belong to Orthodoxy—the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church) be saved, has become particularly painful and acute in our days.

In attempting to answer this question, it is necessary, first of all, to recall that in His Gospel the Lord Jesus Christ Himself mentions but one state of the human soul which unfailingly leads to perdition, i.e. blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:1-32).  The Holy Spirit is, above all, the Spirit of Truth, as the Saviour loved to refer to Him.  Accordingly, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is blasphemy against the Truth, conscious and persistent opposition to it.  The same text makes it clear that even blasphemy against the Son of Man—i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God Himself may be forgiven men, as it may be uttered in error or in ignorance and, subsequently may be covered by conversion and repentance (an example of such a converted and repentant blasphemer is the Apostle Paul. See Acts 26:11 and I Tim. 1:13.)  If, however, a man opposes the Truth which he clearly apprehends by his reason and, conscience, he becomes blind and commits spiritual suicide, for he thereby likens himself to the devil, who believes in God and dreads Him, yet hates, blasphemes, and opposes Him.

Thus, man’s refusal to accept the Divine Truth and his opposition thereto makes him a son of damnation.  Accordingly, in sending His disciples to preach, the Lord told them: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk. 16:16), for the latter heard the Lord’s Truth and was called upon to accept it, yet refused, thereby inheriting the damnation of those who “believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thes. 2:12).

The Holy Orthodox Church is the repository of the divinely revealed Truth in all its fullness and fidelity to apostolic Tradition.  Hence, he who leaves the Church, who intentionally and consciously falls away from it, joins the ranks of its opponents and becomes a renegade as regards apostolic Tradition.  The Church dreadfully anathematized such renegades, in accordance with the words of the Saviour Himself (Matt. 18:17) and of the Apostle Paul (Gal. 1:8-9), threatening them with e ternal damnation and calling them to return to the Orthodox fold.  It is self evident, however, that sincere Christians who are Roman Catholics, or Lutherans, or members, of other non-Orthodox confessions, cannot be termed renegades or heretics—i.e. those who knowingly pervert the truth…*  They have been born and raised and are living according to the creed which they have inherited, just as do the majority of you who are Orthodox; in their lives there has not been a moment of personal and conscious renunciation of Orthodoxy.  The Lord, “Who will have all men to be saved” (I Tim. 2:4) and “Who enlightens every man born into the world” (Jn. 1.43), undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation In His own way.

With reference to the above question, it is particularly instructive to recall the answer once given to an inquirer by the Blessed Theophan the Recluse.  The blessed one replied more or less thus:

“You ask, will the heterodox be saved… Why do you worry about them? 

They have a Saviour Who desires the salvation of every human being.  

He will take care of them.  You and I should not be burdened with such a 

concern.  Study yourself and your own sins… 

I will tell you one thing, however: should you, being Orthodox and 

possessing the Truth in its fullness, betray Orthodoxy, and enter a 

different faith, you will lose your soul forever.”

We believe the foregoing answer by the saintly ascetic to be the best that can be given in this matter.

Archimandrite Philaret

(now in 1984 Metropolitan Philaret)

today 2013, St. Philaret (†1985)

* The Greek word for “heresy” is derived from the word for “choice” and hence inherently implies conscious, willful rejection or opposition to the Divine Truth manifest in the Orthodox Church.

Translated by Timothy Fisher from Questions and Answers in Explanation of Church Piety and Care for Souls (in Russian).  Reprinted from “Orthodox Russia,” Jordanville, N.Y. 1958

Translation from the Russian by Stephen Karganovic.

From Orthodox Life, Vol. 34, No. 6, Nov/Dec, 1984

EP is an antiChrist : Patriarch Bartholomew: to the Roman clergy, “even if slow, the walk towards the unity of our Churches is unstoppable”.

”Since the XVI century, the distance the Julian and Gregorian calendars have taken from each other has led to having a different Easter date. We are sure that, as soon as the time is right, our Churches will be able to humbly and willingly implement a joint and to listen to St Paul’s invitation as a cry that sounds more urgent than ever nowadays, in a globalised, media-dependent world: ‘Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed’ (1 Cor. 5, 7-8)”. This was said earlier today by His Holiness, Bartholomew, archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch, as he received at Fanar the general vicar of the Holy Father for the diocese of Rome, mgr. Angelo De Donatis, and the Roman clergy, who are in Turkey on a pilgrimage these days. In repeating the Easter announcement – “Christ rose from the dead!” – which will resound in the Orthodox Churches on Sunday, April 8th, Patriarch Bartholomew invited to “go and announce this great truth to all the world, we must make it the source and walk of our personal experience, we must embody it and make it fruitful in the life of the Church”. And, mentioning why they were there, Bartholomew pointed out that “being pilgrims means walking the ways of the world, it also means converting oneself to get rid of the labours of life so as to walk a way of holiness and completely entrust oneself to God”. Then, the ecumenical Patriarch mentioned that “you come from Rome, where our beloved brother, Pope Francis, is bishop. A deep unity of purpose has bonded us since His election and has gone on fruitfully in the five years of His Papacy, and it has found us together in so many events and so many times”. “Our meetings, our common perseverance in looking for all the possible ways to solve the unsolved issues between our Churches – he added – have been imbued with great mutual respect, trust and Christian love. And so has the international Catholic-Orthodox theological dialogue, which has already borne plenty of fruit”. “Even if slow, even if sometimes hesitantly, the walk towards the unity of our Holy Churches is unstoppable – he concluded – because God wants it, and because we must be His witnesses in this world that does not care for God”.

© Riproduzione Riservata

Know yourself !

This is the knowledge of the perfect saints: (it is not as some people explain it, but it has its own special power) to put it simply, one must confess that even when one is at the heavenly height of virtue, it is possible– if God abandons him– for him to fall into the abyss of corruption and debauchery! It is not a matter of just saying this with empty words, but one must really feel this way. But one cannot say this with conviction if one does not first pass through the Babylonian furnace of temptations, and if one’s human nature does not slip by God’s permission, so that he realizes his weak constitution. He then sees with whom he has to wrestle, what the wickedness and malice of his adversary (the devil) is, and how difficult it is to rise after a fall! In brief, this is what “know thyself” means.

– Elder Ephraim of Philotheou

 (Counsels from the Holy Mountain)

Fr John Whiteford : One mediator , many intercessors.

Fr John Whiteford : One mediator , many intercessors .

The Virgin Mary beseeching Christ at the Wedding of Cana

Question: “Protestants often claim that Orthodox (and other Christians)  raise the Theotokos to the divine level of Jesus Christ by referring to her as “intercessor”. In their opinion “there is only one mediator; the Man Christ Jesus”. Furthermore they point out that by beseeching her to “turn away the wrath stirred up against us” we turn her into a Christian “type” of the pagan Mother & Child deities from the ancient world. These “mother goddesses” were often invoked to similarly turn away their “son-god’s” wrath. They say this is a blasphemous aberration that entered the Church under the “paganization process” they claim happened under the Roman emperor St Constantine. How does one answer these accusations from both Scripture and Tradition?”

This claim is based on St. Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” However, one need only look to the verses immediately prior to that statement to find: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). St. James also tells us that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). So clearly the fact that Christians are called upon to make supplications, prayers, and intercessions on behalf of others is not a contradiction to Christ being the one mediator.

In what sense is Christ the one mediator? In Hebrews 9:15, St. Paul also says: “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” So is the unique mediator between God and Man in that He became incarnate, was crucified, died,  and rose again for our salvation. No one else can possibly provide the basis for our salvation. And yet, God desires that we have many intercessors who pray for others, and that God acts in response to these prayers.

When I was a Protestant, who was interested in Orthodoxy, but had to deal with this question myself, it so happened that one day I was talking to a neighbor who was talking about the wife of a retired professor at Southern Nazarene University (the school I attended). He said that this woman was such a woman of prayer that if you ever needed an answer to prayer, she would be the one to go to, because she “had a hotline to God.” Having known some very pious Nazarenes over the years, I didn’t find his account hard to believe. But then it dawned on me, if any woman ever had a hotline to God, that would be first and foremost, the Virgin Mary, wouldn’t it? And didn’t Christ say that God was the God of the living and not the dead (Matthew 22:23-33), and so if I could ask this pious old Nazarene woman  from Bethany, Oklahoma to pray for me, couldn’t I also ask the Virgin Mary from Nazareth of Galilee to pray for me?

As for the question of turning away God’s wrath, one finds many examples in which God’s wrath was turned away by the prayers of righteous men. For example, Moses himself recounts how he turned away God’s wrath from the people of Israel: “Furthermore the Lord spake unto me, saying, I have seen this people, and, behold, it is a stiffnecked people: let me alone, that I may destroy them, and blot out their name from under heaven: and I will make of thee a nation mightier and greater than they…. And I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and forty nights: I did neither eat bread, nor drink water, because of all your sins which ye sinned, in doing wickedly in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger. For I was afraid of the anger and hot displeasure, wherewith the Lord was wroth against you to destroy you. But the Lord hearkened unto me at that time also (Deuteronomy 9:13-14, 18-19). And in the Psalms we are told: “Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them” (Psalm 105[106]:23). So if Moses could turn away God’s wrath, I see no reason why it would be blasphemous to ask the Virgin Mary to pray for us, and to turn away God’s wrath from us.

See also:

Stump the Priest: Is There Anything Special About the Virgin Mary?

The Gospel of the Virgin Mary

The Icon FAQ: Answers to common questions about icons (which discusses the veneration of Saints)

Can the Virgin Mary “Save” Us? by Fr. Andrew Damick

One Mediator Between God and Men, by Tim Staples (from Catholic Answers)

Posted by Fr. John Whiteford at 2:08 PM