St John of Kronstadt. Quotes 1

“It is especially necessary for us Christians to have a pure heart, because with the eyes of the heart we must see God as He is, with His love for us and with all His perfections. We are called to contemplate the beauty of the angels, the glory of the Holy Virgin, the beauty of Her soul, Her greatness as the Mother of God, the beauty of the souls of God’s saints, and their love for us. We must see them as they are in themselves; we must contemplate the truths of the Christian faith, with all its sacraments, and feel their greatness; we must see the state of our own souls, especially our sins. An impure heart, that is, a heart occupied with passionate, earthly attachments, a heart that sustains itself itself carnal desires, the lust of the eyes, and worldly pride, can see none of these things.”

“Watch your heart during all your life–examine it, listen to it, and see what prevents its union with the most blessed Lord. Let this be for you the science of all sciences, and with God’s help you will easily observe what estranges you from God, and what draws you towards Him and unites you to Him. It is the evil spirit more than anything that stands between our hearts and God; he estranges God from us by various passions, or by the desires of the flesh, by the desires of the eyes, and by worldly pride.”

“While praying, we ought without fail to take possession of the heart and turn it to the Lord, but never allow even one exclamation to God which does not proceed from the depth of the heart. When we shall learn during prayer to speak from the heart only the truth – that which we actually realize and feel then sincere or true prayer will cleanse our heart from falsehood and we shall not permit ourselves to lie in life either”

Archbishop Averky on St Matthew 16:18

The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail

Orthodox Life, 1961

Archbishop Averky

“I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against It”

Matthew XVI, 18

We have just recently celebrated a great holy day.  every year on June 29th our Holy Church commemorates the glorious martyrdom of two of the greatest Apostles, who more than all others have laboured in spreading the Gospel, – Saints Peter and Paul.  In the church services songs of that day the Holy Church can hardly find words with which to worthily give honour to their apostolic zeal, to bring to remembrance their self-sacrificial deeds.

“Apostles nearest to the Heavenly Throne”, “Universal Teachers”, “First witnesses for God’s Truth”, “the hands of Gospel’s Grace”, “the feet of true preaching”, “rivers of wisdom”, “the frightful swords of the spirit”, “Universal Nurturers”, “The tables of God’s written New Testament”, “the foundation of the Church, true pillars and walls”, “intercessors for the whole world” – it is with such lofty names and expressions that the Church exalts these her own loyal servants, both equal – this let us note – not giving preference either to one or the other, but equally naming them both as “primary” and first sentinels.

Great should be the joy and spiritual rejoicing of the faithful, whom not in vain the Holy Church prepares to meet this day by means of a special, so-called “apostolic” St. Peter’s lent as it occurs before only a few other important holy days, and it would seem that in this celebration of faith all Christians who consider themselves to be followers of the leading apostles should unite.

But, alas! – powerful is the enemy, and that which should serve as an incentive toward stronger inner unity, it cunningly transformed into cause for separation.  Even as far as the inspiring and most exalted teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ concerning His founding of His Church and of Her firmness, and of her invincibility before the gate of hell, spoken to Apostle Peter in reward for his utterance of confession of faith in the Lord as the Son of God, – the enemy gas contrived to make this an object of argument and dissension among Christians, and thereby brought a great schism in the Church of Christ as a result of which the whole Western half fell away from Her.  The heart of every true Christian contracts with pain at the thought of the ruinous consequences of this schism, and one fears for the ones who are guilty of it.  The severe words of the great pillar of the Church, St. John Chrysostom, involuntarily come to mind: “Nothing so arouses the wrath of God as division in the Church: Even if we were to do the most perfect of deed – in disrupting unity, we are to be punished the same as though we were to have torn asunder the Body of Christ … even the blood of martyrs does not expiate such a sin” …

Where are the basic causes of this schism?

The fundamental cause of all divisions is always one and the same.  Division arises when anyone, forgetting his lawful and direct designation, begins to exalt and pride oneself in his calling, abandoning humility taught by Christ the Savior, taking a stand on the path of allurement by soul-destroying pride.

“… Not to think of himself more highly than he ought to …”, the holy Apostle teaches (Romans 12:3).  This profound warning was abandoned during their time without worthy consideration by some of he Bishops of ancient Rome, bedewed with the martyr blood of the first rank apostles.  Not being content with the high honour and glory of he Bishop’s calling even without this, they began to think of themselves more highly than they ought to have, and being supported by human flattery they finally went so far as to declare themselves to be infallible vicars of God the Son on earth.  Having forgotten about the true nature of pastoral service, which has to be carried out in the spirit of humility, and with the acknowledgment of one’s unworthiness, sinfulness and worthlessness before God, the One Lord of all living creatures, both pastors and flocks, they boldly usurped unto themselves the honor that belongs to God alone and began to demand that all Christians the world over should pay almost divine homage before them and that they should obey them in all things, not only as Bishops of the Church of Christ, but also as absolute rulers in whose hands all authority on earth was to reside, not only spiritual, but also worldly, as “substitutes” of God Himself on earth.

In support of their incredible pretension, they invented a teaching about the person of St. Peter unknown to the ancient Church, that on his individuality as on a foundation the Church of Christ has been established and for that reason the Roman Bishops, or Popes, as successors to St. Peter’s chair, belongs all higher extraordinary authority and right from God over the whole Church of Christ.

Apostle Peter himself, as is plainly seen from his Epistle (I Peter 2:4–8), knew nothing of such a fanatical teaching.  And the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, his first rank Apostles and the Holy Fathers witness with full understanding and intelligence that the corner stone on which the Church has been founded is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, or to be more accurate, – faith in Him as The Son of God (Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:2; Romans 9:33; I Cor. 10:4).

“Thou are Christ, the Son of the Living God” – that is the great truth confessed by Apostle Peter on behalf of all the Apostles, – a Truth that is firm and immovable as a rock, upon which the Church of Christ is founded (Matthew 21:16) which for that reason will remain invincible before the gates of hell.

Only where this pure and uncorrupted faith, maintained in sacredness and unchangeability and openly confessed without any fear, is confessed in the Deity of the Incarnate Son of God here for the sake of us human beings and for our salvation, this namely is the True Church of Christ.  All else where this clearly expressed faith does not exist, or where this faith in one way or another is altered or perverted, is not the True Church.  She is, of course, also not where hiding behind the name of Christ He is not served, but some one “else”, where “other” lords are pleased entirely “different” aims are served, “different” strivings are satisfied, not having anything in common with the matter of salvation, for which purpose the Church has been funded.

And this latter condition now is very, very widespread.  For “Satan himself”, according to the teaching of St. Paul, “will transform himself into an angel of light” and for that reason “it is not a great work”, as it is said further by the Apostle, “if his servants take on the appearance of servants of truth (II Cor. 11:14–15).

That is why it is in no way astounding that during our evil time there arose so many self-styled “churches” of all kinds, or rather, as they are called here, “denominations”, pretending to be churches, and which have nothing in common with the true Church.

But it becomes very frightful when representatives and leaders of separate local churches which are part of the One True Church of Christ, forgetting their high calling to be servants of the task of Christ here on earth, enter into affiliation and cooperate most friendly with the enemies of the Church and give themselves over to Satan, and already thinking not of serving Christ the Saviour,but only about pleasing their new lords.  The worst and most dangerous idea of modern times is the idea of reconciliation, of “coexistence” with evil.  And very many servants subjugate themselves to this idea, the servants of the Church are not to be excluded.

But is it possible for the True Church of Christ to reconcile Herself somehow with evil, which comes from the enemy of mankind’s salvation – the devil?  Is it possible for Her to coexist with it, without carrying on a most decisive struggle with it?

Of course not, for, according to the words of Christ the Saviour, no one can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).  And it is namely for this reason that they who broke away from the True Church, the so-called movement of the living Church, the movement for reform which wanted to compromise Christianity with their world, that lies in sin, and “Sergianism” which preaches “co-existence” with the godless power of Communism, and participation in the so-called “ecumenical movement” that recognizes the equality in rights and dignity of all groups and “denominations”, all this is in essence already a departure from the true Church.

Can that organization be called a Church which calls for “loyalty” to the servants of Satan?

This of course already is not The Church, but a false church, or according to the word of God “the congregation of evil-doers”, and to remain in such a Church is not only not helpful toward salvation, but, on the contrary – it is ruinous.

It may be asked why do we speak and write about this so often?

For the reason that it is our sacred pastoral duty – to warn our believers about those countless numbers of subtle temptations which now have been abundantly sown about everywhere.  We are obligated to teach them to discern the True Church – to be able to distinguish it from the false church and the “congregation of evil-doers”.  Christ our Saviour gave us the great promise that the gates of hell shall not prevail over His Church, that is to say all the forces of hell in all their maximum endeavor.  But believers, separately, and pastors individually, and even separate hierarchs and whole local churches headed by them, can fall away from the One True Church, preparing for themselves and their followers eternal perdition in the depths of hell.

It was not in vain that the Lord named the members of His Church as “the little flock”, and foretold that when He would come back to earth again the second time, He hardly shall find faith on earth (Luke 12:32; 18;8).  The circle of true believers in Christ shunning all compromises with the evils of the devil, at the time of the end of the world and the Second Coming of Christ will be contracted to an ever greater extent, and corresponding to this, the diapason of the True Church of Christ will lessen more and more.  But the True Church of Christ, which did not involve itself in “co-existence” with the evil one and did not bow before the Antichrist, will not end its own existence, in spite of all the difficult hardships, shocks and persecution, to which it will be subjected to up to the very end of the world.  It will exist to the very Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, even if only one bishop exists who retained and kept loyalty to Christ the Saviour with a most insignificant group of clergy and laymen.

Our age doubly intensified in materialism is characterized very much by its almost complete loss of the most valuable and important in the life of people – this being a correct conception of the Church of Christ, as a God-man organism – as the Body of Christ, the Head of Which is Christ Himself.  The Church in complete agreement with the accepted course of “democracy” has begun to be considered as only one of many among common human organizations.  From here proceeds all evil, all the disorder, conflicts, schisms in this most important branch of human existence on earth – in church life, which in fact should serve as a threshold, as a preparation towards future eternal life.  And this, of course, results from the lessening of faith in this future life to come.

Much has been done and continues to be done in this direction by the enemy of mankind’s salvation – the devil, through the people who sold themselves to him in exchange for earthly goods.  It is he who through sowing of animosity and schisms amongst people has been able to convince modern man, that Christ’s words: “I will build My Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against Her” turned out to be false and in reality unattainable: that the True Church of Christ has ceased to exist long ago on earth, and that now in the twentieth century of the Christian era we only need to strive toward founding her through the so-called “Ecumenical Movement”, with which already many of the hierarchy of the contemporary Orthodox Church have come into union, having dreams of an arrival of some “new era”, the “third cosmogeny” (words of Patriarch Athenagoras).

In reality this “new era” will be nothing else but the brief period of rule of the Antichrist on Earth, who will “unite” all under his blasphemous authority.

Save us, Oh Lord, from such “unity”, from any kind of participation in the establishment of such an ecumenical false-church!

For us Russian Orthodox people, there is no other way or salvation beside the way outlined for us by the great Enlightener of Russia, co-equal to the Apostles St. Vladimir, the St. Vladimir way, the bright exponent and ideologist of whom was our recently departed Abba Archbishop Vitaly, having built here in far off America for the edification of Russian people who found here for themselves a shelter, the St. Vladimir Monument Church, and made it the place of his eternal repose.  It was not by accident that he wanted to have in all parishes St. Vladimir societies of youth, realizing that only by training in the spirit of the principles of St. Vladimir, can our youth be saved from assimilation and complete loss of identity, – the loss of one’s faith and nationality.  That is why the enemy arms himself against this clean, healthy and idealistic organization, striving to vulgarize it and draw it away from the right path, toward the wide and open spaces of this world that lies in evil.

The frightful and sanguine misery of the Revolution that convulsed our unfortunate Homeland Russia, and achieved its apotheosis in the horrible evil deed committed of the enemy of mankind’s salvation upon our Homeland, because for a period of almost a thousand years she bridled and restrained its godless efforts, being a firm defense of the one true, saving faith and Church of Christ on earth.  And along with this also the allowance of God’s punishment for the Russian people’s not maintaining unto the end their in truth exalted and honorable calling.

Let us keep in mind: the striving toward knowing God, firmness in sacred Orthodoxy, decisive irreconcilability towards the devil’s evil – this is what is written on our St. Vladimir banner!  And for this reason let us not surrender to any kind of evil modernism no matter how alluring it may appear to us.  Let us firmly hold on to that True Church of Christ, which has been founded already 2000 years ago by Christ the Saviour Himself, and to which is given the great promise, that the gates of hell will not prevail against Her!

†Bishop Averky.

PERFECT GOD AND PERFECT MAN CHRIST IS BORN! – HRISTOS SE RODI! A Nativity Epistle from Archimandrite Justin Popovich

God is born on earth, and moreover He is born as a man:

perfect God and perfect man–the unique God-man. And He has forever remained as the God-man both on earth and in heaven. Indeed, the God-man is the first perfect man on earth. Perfect man? Yes, because only in the God-man is man without sin, without evil, without death, totally filled with God, and thereby with all divine perfections.

 

The God-man has demonstrated and proved this most convincingly: man is only a true man when he is completely united with God, and in everything and every way completely lives in God, thinks in God, feels in God, acts in God, is virtuous in God, is immortal in God, is eternal in God. Only and solely in God is man a man, a true man, a perfect man, a man in whom all the fullness of the Godhead lives.

 

We can analyze this fundamental, evangelic, Divine-human truth about man.

 

The soul of man?–Only and solely as the Divine Soul in the God-man does it become and forever remain sinless, im­mortal, God-like, holy, perfect eternal.

 

The mind of man?–Only and solely as the Divine Mind in the God-man does it become and forever remain sinless, immortal, God-like, holy, perfect, eternal.

 

The heart of man?–Only and solely as the Divine Heart in the God-man does it become and remain sinless, immortal, God-like, holy, perfect, eternal.

 

The conscience of man?–Only and solely as the Divine Conscience in the God-man does it become and remain sinless, immortal, God-like, holy, perfect, eternal.

 

The will of man?–Only and solely as the Divine Will in the God-man does our will become and forever remain sinless, immortal, God-like, holy, perfect, eternal.

 

The body of man?–Only and solely as the Divine Body in the God-man does the body become and forever remain sinless, immortal, God-like, holy, perfect, eternal.

 

The life of man?–Only and solely as the Divine Life in the God-man does our life become and forever remain sinless, immortal, God-like, holy, perfect, eternal.

Everything that man is, and everything that is of man perfectly lives, works, thinks, feels, is human, immortal, divine, and eternal only and solely in the God-man and through the God-man. Only through the God-man Christ is man divine majesty and the highest value next to God in all worlds. For this reason God became man, and has remained the God-man for all eternity. With the God-man Christ, all that is God’s has become man’s, human, ours, so that each of us individually and all of us assembled together in the Divine-human body of Christ, the Church, might become god-men, having at­tained “to the perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:12-13).

 

Therefore Christmas, the day of the birth of the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the greatest and most important day in the history of all the worlds in which man moves and lives. Truly this is “great joy”–truly the only true joy, the only eternal joy of a human being in all worlds.

 

The God-man?–This is the most important Event of all the worlds of man: the Ultimate Event.

 

The God-man?–This is the most important Justice of all the worlds of man: the Ultimate Justice.

 

The God-man?–This is the most important Love of all the worlds of man: the Ultimate Love.

 

The God-man?–This is the most important Good of all the worlds of man: the Ultimate Good.

 

The God-man?–This is the most important Man of all the worlds of man: the Ultimate Man.

 

The God-man?–This is the most important God of all the gods of man: the Ultimate God.

 

    On account of all this, the Nativity is our only eternal Joy:

the Ultimate Joy. The Joy of all joys, the Joy above all joys. Therefore, again and again: Hristos se rodi! Christ is born! The God-man is born! Our deification is born! Our divine­human transformation is born!

Purification illumination and glorification . By Protopresbyter Fr. John Romanides

The basis of Orthodoxy is the same as the methodology used in the positive sciences, and this fact needs to be properly evaluated and accurately identified. It should become a focus of interest for Orthodox Christians, as it deserves to be.
Why do we have our liturgical tradition? The liturgical tradition is an expression of none other than the tradition of purification, illumination and glorification. Take all the services: Vespers, Matins, the Divine Liturgy, the services of Baptism and Chrismation, the service for blessing of the Chrism performed by the bishops on Holy Thursday, monastic profession, marriage – all are about purification, illumination and glorification.
There is an instrument that is used in Orthodox theology and constitutes an indispensable element of it. Without it Orthodox theology cannot exist. It is an instrument called the noetic faculty. Although it is an instrument, it is not part of science. This is the only instrument needed for divine vision.
We construct telescopes, microscopes, balances and all the instruments used in other sciences, but in Orthodox theology we do not construct any instruments. We have the instrument ready-made. It is part of the human personality. We do not make it; all we do is put it to work. We undertake purification; we provoke illumination and glorification. God brings about illumination and glorification. Illumination and glorification are gifts of God. Purification, however, is the work of man with God’s help.
When all is said and done, for the nous to be purified (by expelling all thoughts) it is not even necessary to be a Christian. The Hindu monk does the same. It is an exercise that he does. One does not need to be a Christian to perform this exercise. However, the purification of the nous (by driving away thoughts) is one thing and purification of the passions is something else. It is purification not only of the nous but of the passions that brings about divine grace.
When the patristic understanding of purification, illumination and glorification disappeared – although our liturgical services are full of purification and illumination – look at any service – we pray continuously for purification, illumination and glorification. It is in all the hymns. The services of Baptism, Chrismation, the Paraklesis, Compline, the troparia and the Psalms are full of this teaching. But when the patristic interpretation of these things was dismissed, purification was reduced to abstention from sins, usually either sexual sins or moralistic ones, such as lies, stealing and so on. It ended up being merely ethical teaching that did not cure man’s personality.
So instead of being concerned with treating the core of his personality, as a psychiatrist would be, man was concerned about external acts and had a very hypocritical disposition. He pretended that he had no temptations, whereas in fact he did. And he thought he could surmount them, but afterwards he saw that he couldn’t. He therefore thought that no one else had temptations, and felt guilty. Young people are shocked at the temptations they have.
In the patristic tradition, by contrast, these problems are solved by noetic prayer. Teaching someone how he should behave is not the same as teaching him how to find strength to behave in this way. As he cannot manage to do it, he pretends that he has managed. These are very funny things. There is a lot of hypocrisy, particularly among Christians, and the more pious they are, the more hypocritical they are these days. That’s how things stand. There’s nothing we can do about it.
Theology has only one aim: purification, illumination and glorification. Theology has no other purpose. Do you understand? Theology has no other aim other than purification, illumination and glorification.
What is Orthodoxy without purification, illumination and glorification? I don’t know if you can draw this conclusion, because the Church did not reach this conclusion. Why not? Because there were monasteries. Purification, illumination and glorification, as they used to take place in the traditional way, gradually became the task of monasticism. The bishop, so to speak, would sit and act as an administrator and would say: “I have five monasteries. If you want to lead that sort of life, go to a monastery. We are engaged in administration.”
Purification for the pious became a release from moral failings, from an ethical standpoint. It seems that the Greek mentality had a greater problem with sex than with anything else. The problem of sex became an obsession for the modern Greeks. So purification for the pious means not having sexual temptations.
Illumination became Sunday School: learning Holy Scripture, Church history, the lives of a few saints; in other words, filling the rational faculty. Although purification is the illumination of a person’s nous, they tried to illuminate his reason. Instead of the nous being illuminated, nowadays the rational faculty is illuminated.
Without purification, illumination and glorification there is no salvation. This is salvation: purification and illumination.
Definition of Purification
Purification is essentially the asceticism that one practices by avoiding doing bad things and doing good things. It begins with ethics; there is a moral orientation in the beginning. We learn to fast, to do everything necessary to make progress in the initial stages.
Of course, the Fathers of the Church specifically define purification as the release of the heart and the nous from the domination of thoughts (logismoi) and passions. The human soul has two faculties: the noetic faculty and the rational faculty. Through the noetic faculty (the nous) man comes into contact with God, and through the rational faculty he knows the world around him. In their natural state, the noetic faculty is located in the heart and has remembrance of God, and the rational faculty is in the brain and forms thoughts. When these faculties are confused and the thoughts of the mind take possession of the nous and go down into the heart – into the passible part of the soul, where anger and desire are – it creates impurity of the nous and heart. Thus purification in the Orthodox tradition is understood as the liberation of the noetic faculty (the nous) from thoughts, good ones as well as bad.
So what is purification? Purification means that all thoughts leave the nous and only one remains. This thought is the remembrance of God, the impression on man’s heart of the remembrance of God, which now works twenty-four hours a day. We clean the nous thoroughly. We throw out of the nous all concepts and thoughts. We make it a nous with a single thought. It has one thought instead of many: single-thought prayer begins. This is the cure of the nous and the return of the memory – the constant remembrance of God. The nous recovers the memory it had lost. Thus purification for the Fathers is an ascetic state which man reaches after a struggle, not simply to avoid sin – because avoiding sin is an integral part of asceticism – but to purify the heart.
Purification of the heart does not only mean avoiding sin. Purification of the heart means that thoughts leave the heart and go to the rational faculty, leaving the heart free of thoughts. It is left with one thought alone – prayer. This is extremely important. Once it is acquired, this is called prayer of the heart or single-thought prayer. This one thought, the prayer itself, constitutes the constant remembrance of God. This is purification of the heart according to the Fathers. It is not simply avoidance of sin.
When the Fathers of the Church speak about purification of the nous, they mean that the nous should be emptied of good thoughts as well as bad ones. When the nous is empty and the passions have been defeated, the Holy Spirit comes and visits. Then the Spirit takes it upon Himself to pray in man’s heart.
The Holy Spirit’s prayer cannot come to someone unless his nous has previously been emptied. This is the start of man’s therapeutic treatment. The single-thought prayer means the existence of only one thought, which is the remembrance of God: “Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me a sinner.”
The nous itself is the center of all the five senses. When the nous is purified, the five senses are purified. Then the five senses become one sense, one single sense. The five senses are united and become one. Thus when someone has concentrated his nous in his heart, he can guard his senses because he guards his nous. And provided his nous is only engaged in prayer, as he has reached this single energy of the nous in the heart, the problems of the five senses are also solved. All concepts depart from the heart and nous, everything that originates from the senses and the rational faculty, and this emptying of the nous is also its purification. When the nous has been cleansed by constant remembrance of God and noetic prayer, the only thing that occupies the nous from then on is remembrance of God or unceasing prayer. Nothing else.
When someone arrives at this state he successfully resists temptations. Thus we see the phenomenon that ascetic fathers who had attained noetic prayer used to go into brothels in order to save prostitutes, many of whom were held prisoner in the brothels. How? Because they were in this state and were no longer affected by their surroundings; they were no longer susceptible to the influence of their environment. Instead of being influenced by their surroundings they themselves had an effect on their surroundings. Instead of being darkened by the environment they illuminated it. That is why the Fathers call them “shining lights”. 
In the patristic tradition, which is the tradition of Holy Scripture, when purification takes place, then one is baptized in water, one’s sins are remitted, and afterwards there is Chrismation. In Orthodoxy, the very worst human being can be purified and reach illumination. Dogmas are a guide for those going through purification, and it continues to be a guide for those who go on to be illuminated.
Purification has been reduced nowadays to morality. Due to the pietism that has come into Greece, purification has been changed from ascetic purification into moral purification. Also, some people said that the Canons say that we should take Holy Communion every Sunday. In other words, provided we have been instructed in the faith and are moral, we ought to take Holy Communion every Sunday.
Definition of Illumination

What is illumination? Essentially, illumination is not illumination of the rational faculty. Of course there is illumination of the rational faculty: one prays, goes to church, fasts. One orientates the rational faculty towards doing the right thing: liberating slaves, helping the poor, going voluntarily to give blood, all those sorts of things.
To the Fathers, illumination is not the enlightenment of the rational faculty, but of the heart. There is the purification of the heart, then the illumination of the heart, which is not a rational enlightenment but a spiritual enlightenment – this is illumination. This is the cure. The illness is when the nous is darkened and the cure is when the nous is illumined.
Man has to be concerned with the essentials of life – with family, the community, work and so on. He can only pray with the rational faculty at intervals during the day: Matins, Vespers, Midnight Office, etc. The rest of the day he may try to pray while he works, but if he tries hard, he will not be a good worker, to say the least. They will regard him as lazy, as a shirker. He will not be an efficient worker. So he needs to separate his noetic faculty from his rational faculty. How is this done? By expelling all thoughts from the noetic faculty, from the nous.

One does not need to be a philosopher to learn these things. The Fathers used to say that it was not necessary to be educated to reach illumination. Asceticism, not science and learning, leads to illumination of the nous. The Fathers lay great stress on this.
When the nous has been purified, the nous begins to be illumined. There are those who have been newly-baptized and there are those who have been newly-illumined, and the illuminated are presumed to have constant remembrance of God. Their nous has been freed from the rational faculty, the passions and so on, and is only occupied with prayer, noetic prayer, and the remembrance of God.
In our tradition, illumination is when the heart has been purified and the multitude of our thoughts have been replaced with one single thought, which is a simple prayer. This is what the Apostle Paul meant by the words “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). This is illumination and this is how St. Paul describes it. This is illumination in the early Church.
The knowledge gained through this illumination is not philosophical knowledge, but prayer. It is not rational knowledge, but the knowledge of prayer, because rational knowledge stays in the rational faculty. The prayer of the illuminated is unceasing. It lasts twenty-four hours a day and even during sleep.
All prayers are words and concepts, so words and concepts are used in the experience of illumination by the Holy Spirit Himself. He takes the very words with which we pray, the Psalms for example. The Spirit takes these words and concepts and prays in us with our own words.
Our captivity comes to an end when the unceasing remembrance of God is restored in the summit of the soul’s energies, called the nous, which is transformed from being a captive power in the grip of passions. What is meant by a darkened nous? It does not have the Holy Spirit praying in the heart.
According to the Fathers of the Church, someone who is visited by the Holy Spirit acquires illumination of the nous. The Holy Spirit enters a persons heart and gives us prayer, so we acquire noetic prayer, noetic worship. Otherwise we give God rational worship.
When someone has the prayer associated with the state of illumination, that is to say, noetic prayer in the heart, this prayer illumines his nous. He now sees through faith, by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, things within his heart that he did not see before. He sees them through faith and understands words and concepts spiritually, not philosophically. He reads Holy Scripture. He understands the words and concepts, not from the point of view of philosophical method but from the point of view of methodology. Why? Because the words and concepts are regarded as medicines for man. 
I have heard nuns say, “Now I shall pray noetic prayer.” They sit down, take a prayer rope and think that is noetic prayer. They do not understand that prayer ought to be in the heart, not only in the prayer rope and brain. They do not know the difference between rational and noetic worship. They are not the same thing. They are different.
Because the beginner cannot manage this, as he has not yet distinguished between the nous and the rational faculty, he sits and prays as much as he can with the rational faculty, under the guidance of his spiritual father. He prays continually until the day when, instead of praying this prayer with his rational faculty, he begins to pray it with his nous in his heart. The spiritual father guides to illumination, and verifies it as well.
Noetic prayer is the resurrection of the nous, the liberation of the nous from the rational faculty, the passions, the body and its surroundings. The nous exists for the purpose of being in contact with God alone. The rational faculty exists for the purpose of enabling man to adapt to his surroundings, to created things, so that he can live in harmony with his environment.
Poverty is an indispensable requirement for reaching illumination. Without being free of possessions one cannot reach illumination. It is impossible.
Basil the Great writes that the one who suffers no interruption in the constant remembrance of God due to everyday concerns is a temple of God. This is what is meant when we sing [in the Cherubic Hymn] “Let us lay aside all earthly cares.” If we acquire illumination of the nous, then when we are occupied with everyday cares, these earthly concerns will not interrupt the continuous remembrance of God. Why? Because the rational faculty is busy with earthly cares while the nous is unceasingly occupied with the remembrance of God. These things take place at the same time.
Someone who does not reach illumination is self-centered. He is dominated by the instinct of self-preservation and becomes acquisitive. He wants to become rich, to acquire possessions, to do things, to find security, and he has all sorts of strange hostile attitudes towards his fellow human beings, to the point of committing murder, stealing and telling lies. 
These states are not cured simply by faith in the Gospel. There are many people who believe in the Gospel. Priests sit all day long telling us to love one another, and none of them tell us how to love. Love “does not seek its own” (1 Cor. 13:5). How can someone acquire this love? How is it done?
When the illumination of the nous begins and becomes an integrated and stable state, selfishness, egoism and self-centeredness are gradually replaced by love which “does not seek its own.” The perfection of love comes about through the appearance of Christ “in glory” to the one who is spiritually vigilant. When someone reaches this stage, he has reached theoria and is on the way towards glorification. These are not people who are merely moral, but people who have been cured in the core of their personality.
When Christ said “You are the light of the world” He meant those Christians who were illuminated. Christians are not the light of the world simply because they believe in Christ. The essence of Holy Tradition, its core, is illumination, whereby we hand over the torch. One becomes a shining light in order to illumine others. Thus illumination is the essence of Christianity, where the illuminated who shed light hand over the light to others, which is diagnosis and cure. The cure is man’s illumination.
Why were those who denied Christ rather than face martyrdom excluded from Holy Communion? Because it was proof they had not reached the state of illumination. If they had been in a state of illumination, which is noetic prayer, he would have been unable to deny Christ. The fact that he denied Christ was due to him not being in a state of illumination, so he could not take Holy Communion. This did not take place because the Church wanted to punish these people. It was simply in recognition of the fact that this person was not in a state of illumination. Not being in a state of illumination yet, they ought not to take Holy Communion. 
If I have not reached illumination I am not ready to face the glory of God. If someone has arrived at illumination and noetic prayer, provided he is faithful to the end, he will leave sacred relics.
The clergy do not have a monopoly on this therapeutic treatment. Treatment can be given by anyone at all who has noetic prayer, whereas the clergy celebrate the Mysteries. These are two different things, so in Orthodoxy they were always separated. The celebrant is concerned with the rituals. But someone who has reached illumination will be the spiritual father.

Definition of Glorification

Man was created to be in a state of illumination or glorification. Glorification is an empirical state. It has nothing to do with metaphysics. The glorification of man means union with God, or theosis. It is divine theoria, divine vision. Man becomes god by grace during the vision of God, if he reaches this point. The aim of Holy Scripture is to lead man to divine vision, to glorification, that he might see Christ in glory.
When man is glorified it means he sees the glory in which he stands. Only someone who is within the uncreated Light sees the uncreated Light. One must be in God to see God. Man sees God through God.
The experience of glorification fills the pages of the Old Testament and the New Testament. Theosis is not there, but glorification is. The Apostle Paul uses the word “glorified” to describe theosis (cf. 1 Cor. 12:26; 2 Cor. 12:1-6). Theosis, or glorification, is man’s sanctification, his participation in glory. When the Fathers of the Church say “theosis” or “glorification” they are referring to divine vision, which is the vision of God’s glory, His uncreated Light. The Prophets in the Old Testament saw the glory of Christ, which means they reached glorification. The same can be said about those who saw Christ in glory in the New Testament. Man cannot see God unless he has been glorified. The difference is that the Prophets experienced glorification before the incarnation and salvation, while the Apostles experienced glorification after the incarnation and salvation.
Glorification is the surest knowledge of God. Glorification transcends understanding, which is why St. Gregory the Theologian says, “It is impossible to conceive God.” Even the glorified cannot conceive God. The glorified know God without knowledge, and conceive without understanding, and hear without hearing, and see invisibly, and so on. One has reached glorification when one sees what is uncreated. The vision of something created comes from demonic energies, even if we think we are seeing God.
Glorification is a repetition of Pentecost. Those who reach glorification have equal grace with the Apostles at Pentecost. There is no difference, at least from the patristic point of view. The Fathers say Pentecost is the highest experience of glorification prior to the Second Coming. This is because it is the glorification that existed in the Old Testament with the addition of the incarnation and salvation.
In the state of glorification, prayer ceases. Divine vision takes the place of prayer, so one does not pray but has the vision of God. When the experience of glorification comes to an end, one returns to prayer. The state of glorification is not a permanent state. Anyone who reaches glorification comes back to illumination. It could last a minute, an hour, a day, a week, 40 days, or a year; God determines the duration. However, there are those in the state of illumination who never reach glorification, because there is no spiritual need. Glorification is given by God, not just to meet personal needs, but usually to meet the needs of others.
In the state of glorification knowledge of God vanishes, theology is no more, because one sees Christ now “face to face.” Knowledge of created things is not abolished, because we still have our senses. The Apostle Paul was blinded by the Light, but he spoke and heard while in this state. He did not eat and drink for three days, because this natural function ceases. When this state of glorification ceases, prayer and prophecy begin again, and one preaches and teaches and so on.
Noetic prayer also ceases in the experience of glorification. When glorification, divine vision, ceases, noetic prayer starts up again. Glorification is a direct knowledge and experience of God. However, someone in a state of glorification is able to celebrate the Liturgy and to say the prayers of the Church as usual.
We know from the experience of Moses on Sinai and the experience of the saints, who like Moses reached theoria before their bodily death, that during this experience of glorification the natural and blameless passions are suspended in such a way that there is no hunger, thirst, tiredness, fear, uneasiness or sleep. The state of perfection is such that the devil becomes for the most part, if not completely, powerless. This is why we have stylites who endured the extreme elements they were fully exposed to, and ascetics who endured extreme hunger and thirst, extreme frost and heat.
The theology of the Church is an expression of the experience of theosis, man’s glorification, when he attains to the revelation. Theology comes from the divine vision of the Prophets, Apostles, saints and all those who have been glorified. Noetic prayer is the foundation of theology and theologizing, according to the Fathers. In the early Church someone was allowed to theologize only when he had reached illumination. He was called a theologian when he reached glorification. This is the historical usage of these terms.
Orthodox theology means that someone sees, and on the basis of the experience of divine vision and glorification, he theologizes. What does he see in the state of glorification? He sees all the dogmas. The one who prays theologizes, and the one who theologizes prays. Theology and prayer are the same thing. When the Fathers theologize they do not theologize only from Holy Scripture, but from their own experience. Expressions about God are therefore symbolic. This is why we have the term “symbolic theology”, because we use symbols to talk about God.
According to the Fathers of the Church, glorification is perfect freedom, and purification and illumination are the beginning of freedom. Holy relics are the result of glorification, as one who has reached glorification is suspended between immortality and corruption; there is some decay, but the identity of the cells is preserved to a great extent. When the glorified depart to the Lord, they remain glorified. They do not cease to be glorified and to share in the glory of God, in the divine vision. That is why we pray to these people and call upon them to intercede for us.
These are the living sermons of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is always based on the lives of the saints. The calendar of saints is the backbone of Orthodox theology.
Excerpted from Empirical Dogmatics of the Orthodox Catholic Church According to the Spoken Teaching of Father John Romanides, vol. 2, pp. 260-329.

I wonder what St John Chrysostom should say….

In the beginning of the movie JFK by Oliver Stone there is some very true words by Ella Wheeler Wilcox , which have came to my mind now and then since the dictator Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople put his nose unlawful in the church life of Ukraine:

We must remember the words by the Divine St John Chrysostom :

”But I entreat you,let us not pay heed to these people, let up stop up our hearing

against them, and let us believe the Divine Scripture, and following

what is said in it, let us strive to preserve in our souls sound

dogmas, and at the same time to lead also a right life, so that our

life would both testify of the dogmas, and the dogmas would give

firmness to our life… If we live well but will be negligent over

right dogmas, we can acquire nothing for our salvation.  If we wish to

be delivered from Gehenna and receive the Kingdom, we must be adorned

both with the one and with the other – both with rightness of dogmas,

and strictness of life.”  (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Genesis 13:4, p. 107.)

Maybe St John Chrysostom had said : Once again the dictator in Constantinople have revaled his true identity : that of the antichrist .

Micke Stensson

4/6 2019

WHY DOES GOD ALLOW EVIL? A Parable by Elder Cleopa of Romania .

When Elder Cleopa of Romania was asked, “Why does the Lord allow evil?” he answered with the following story.

A long time ago in the Egyptian desert there lived a hermit monk. Sometimes he would go to Alexandria to sell the baskets he wove. The hermit would give almost all the money he made on his baskets to the poor, leaving only enough to buy himself the bare necessities.

One day while walking to the city he asked himself the question, “Why does the Lord allow evil in people’s lives if He is Good, Just, and Almighty?” His mind was disturbed because he had seen so much unhappiness and sorrow when he was last in the city.

Along the road he met another monk who was also going to Alexandria. They talked with each other, and he told his new travelling companion about his anguish. Seeing that the hermit was troubled, the monk comforted him and told him that the Lord will reveal the truth to him when they arrive at the city, but he will have to pray ceaselessly and never ask questions, no matter what happens.

The hermit promised to do as the monk said, and they continued along their way. They stopped at one home to spend the night. The householders received them with love and generously fed them. On the table was a beautiful silver vessel. Before they left to go to sleep, the monk surreptitiously took that vessel and put it in his rucksack. The hermit wanted to reproach his companion, but he remembered his promise and said nothing.

In the morning they came to the river. The monk took out the vessel, made the sign of the cross over it, and put it into the river.

By lunchtime the travellers had arrived at another village. They were invited to one of the houses for a meal. When they were leaving the house, a dog was barking in the yard. The monk killed it. Immediately a boy ran out of the house and started screaming. The hermit’s travelling companion grabbed him by the right arm, yanked it and broke it, then calmly continued his way. The indignant hermit wanted to tell him what he thought, but remembering his promise he again kept silence.

When dusk fell, the monk and the hermit decided to spend the night in a ramshackle house, which turned out to be inhabited by some children. Their parents had died and they had no one to take care of them. The travellers spent the night there, but in the morning before leaving the monk took a firebrand out of the furnace and burned down the house. And again the hermit was indignant, but again he could say nothing.

They came to a third village. There they saw a ruined church, but it was still possible to go into it and pray. The monk took up a stone and flung it through the church window, shattering it. Then he took his bemused brother to a tavern. When he entered, the monk made three prostrations. The hermit by now had resigned himself to his companion’s strange behavior and just prayed.

On the last night the travellers were invited to spend the night in a house on the edge of a wood. There lived a young couple who had no children. In the morning the couple set out to work in the field, and the travellers went on their way. But suddenly the monk returned and burned down that house as well.

Finally they arrived at Alexandria. The hermit could no longer wait to understand the essence of what had happened to them on the road. So he asked his companion, “Tell me after all, who are you?”

“I am an angel,” the other replied.

“You! An angel?!” the hermit scoffed disdainfully. “You are a real devil! Only a demon could do all those dreadful things you’ve done. Those good people showed you hospitality you repaid them all with black ingratitude. You were a thief, an arsonist, a murderer, and a sacrilegious desecrator. And you even wear monastic clothing!”

“You are mistaken,” the travelling companion answered. “I really am an angel. And I was sent to you because the Lord saw your anguish and wanted to answer the questions that tormented you. I know that you want to know why I did all those things. I will start from the beginning.

“Why did I steal the vessel? I’ll answer you. Our host’s grandfather stole it from one monastery church, and because of that sacrilege his family was punished for three generations with illnesses and other problems. As a sign of gratitude for their hospitality I decided to deliver them from this punishment. I signed the vessel with the sign of the cross and put it into the river. Some monks will come there to wash their clothes, find it and return it to the monastery.

“I knew that the dog was already rabid. It would have bitten its owners and that is why I killed it. And I broke their son’s arm because I could foresee that when he grows up he would become a robber. But with a bad arm like that you can’t do much robbing.

“Why did I burn down the children’s house? Those children would soon have died without any care, and now in the place of their burned house they’ll find the silver their parents hid, and they can now go to Alexandria to their grandfather who is a bishop—he’ll take care of them. When they grow up, the boys will become priests and the girls will marry.

“I know that you are puzzled as to why I threw the stone through the church window and made prostrations in the tavern. I saw that the demons were dancing at the church window and I chased them away with that stone. That church will soon be repaired. In the tavern was a wealthy merchant who had promised the priest that he would pay the cost of repairing the church. That is why I bowed to him.

“And finally, about the last house. I burned it down in order to save the young couple from the curse of childlessness. The husband had made a dirty deal and built that house with the money he got from it. That is why they didn’t have any children. I saw that he is repenting of his deed and doesn’t know how to get rid of his house. Now he will build a more modest house but on honestly earned money. And the Lord will bless them with children.”

Do you understand? God’s mercy for people is shown in everything, but they don’t see it and can’t understand it. The Lord never commits evil. But people look at His works as misfortunes and sorrows, while the Lord does these things only for the sake of good and for their correction. Therefore do not look at the external side, but try to see God’s all-encompassing justice in everything.

Archimandrite Cleopa (Ilie)
Translated from the Russian version by Nun Cornelia (Rees)

Pravoslaven Sviat

6/1/2019

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