Fr Lawrence Farley on the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed .2

The Creed not only confesses that our God, the Father

of the Lord Jesus Christ, is the creator of heaven and

earth. It also adds the phrase that He is the creator “of

all things, visible and invisible.” In its original form, the

phrase was probably added to hammer yet another nail

into the Gnostic coffin. The Gnostics were the ones who

asserted that there were many divine powers in the

world (one Gnostic system counted forty), each one an

emanation leading back ultimately to the one high and

transcendent divinity. Over against such nonsense, this

phrase makes it clear that whatever invisible powers

there might be in the world (such as angels), they were not divine emanations or deities, but simply creations of the one God. As such, these powers had no divinity, and should not be adored. Only God should be adored; nothing created (such as the angels and archangels) should have such worship, however exalted they might be.

In our day, this phrase serves another purpose, one scarcely foreseen by the Fathers who first framed the Creed. That is, it serves as a reminder that the invisible world actually exists, and that it is just as real as the

visible world. Such an affirmation was hardly needed in

the fourth century, for no Christian questioned the existence of angels and demons. But in our modern materialistic world, many people do question the existence of angels, and even more question the existence of demons, so that now such a reminder is very helpful.

The Christian lives in a multi-layered world. In some sense, everyone in North America, whether religious or not, lives in a multi-layered world, confessing the existence of things they can see with their naked eyes (such as people, animals, and plants) and also things they cannot see with their naked eyes (such as germs and radio waves). The Christian simply confesses that the world is even more multi-layered than most people might think it is, and that it is populated not only by

living germs and bacteria, but also by living angels and

demons. That is, the Christian confesses that there is a spiritual dimension to life, co-existing with and undergirding the physical dimension. The supernatural invisible world of the spirit does not exist side by side

the physical visible world, like oil and water. Rather, the

two worlds intermesh; the physical world is shot through with the supernatural. The ancient Rabbis knew

this, and said that every single blade of grass had its own guardian angel.

We Christians therefore confess that angels exist in the

invisible world, and they exist with the same glorious and rich variety that characterize animals in the visible world. Thus we read not only about angels, but also about archangels, thrones, dominions, principalities and authorities (see Colossians 1:16). Systematizers like the so-called St. Dionysius the Areopagite writing from about the late fifth century (and sometimes called “Pseudo-Dionysius” to distinguish him from his first century namesake of Acts 17:34) arranged the Pauline list of angelic beings into three groups of three. We need not be as wedded to any system as Dionysius was, but certainly St. Paul’s list of different kinds of angels reveals that the unseen world is at least as diverse and varied as the seen world.

Where popular culture accepts the existence of angels (such as in some New Age literature), it views them as

essentially bestowers of warm fuzzies—they may not be

the cute and cuddly cherubs featured in some Valentine

cards, but at least they are comforting friends. As usual,

popular culture has it wrong. Angels are creatures of

power, and it is significant that in the Scriptural account

when they appear to us, the first thing they have to say to us is, “Fear not!” Evidently they can be quite terrifying. A good antidote to the popular portrayal of angels may be found in reading C.S. Lewis’ description of the heavenly powers in chapter 15 of his book That Hideous Strength. One of the invisible bodiless powers was described there as “fiery, sharp, bright and ruthless, ready to kill, ready to die, outspeeding light.” Those nearby experiencing the descent of the angel

were “blinded, scorched, deafened.” This is much more

in keeping with the Scriptural portrayal of angels. Not

surprisingly, our iconography clothes them in the robes

of Byzantine soldiers. And soldiers are not to be messed with; soldiers are armed.

If our popular culture doesn’t quite “get” angels, it doesn’t “get” demons at all. Indeed, admitting that one believes in the existence of demons is a quick way to expose oneself to mockery and to kill whatever credibility one managed to amass. It is true that people talk about “wrestling with one’s demons,” but this is

simply meant as a metaphor for dealing with one’s inner

psychoses and maladjustments. (One author said, “Well, after all, ‘devil’ is just ‘evil’ with a capital ‘d’.”) Few people today believe that demons and evil spirits actually exist. Even in C.S. Lewis’ day (and he died in 1963), talk about the devil conjured up in people’s minds a comic figure with horns, a forked tail, and red tights, and clearly no one believed in that. Therefore, they concluded, they could not believe in a devil. It seems to have dawned on very few of them that Scripture did not insist on his horns, his tail, or his tights.

Belief in an objective spirit called Satan and in evil spirits constitutes then a great gulf fixed between Christians who accept the teaching of the Scriptures and the Fathers, and those who simply give it lip-service. But there is no getting around it: the teaching

is found throughout the New Testament, and a Christian

worldview is not complete without it. Christ clearly

believed that Satan existed (see Mk.6:7, 13, Lk. 10:17-18, Jn. 12:3, 14:30), and He, if anyone, was in a position to know.

Thus the Creed gives us a salutary reminder that the invisible world really exists, and that it often impinges upon our visible one. And all that exists, including the

angels who kept their first blessed state, and the angels

who fell from it and became demons, came originally

from the hand of God. We live in God’s world, and for all

the danger in it, He has not abandoned it. We confess the dangerous and beautiful complexity of this multilayered world every time we say the Creed. __________________________________________ Posted by the Orthodox Christian Network.

Fr Lawrence Farley

Fr Lawrence Farley on the Nicene Constantinopolitan Creed .AD 381

I believe i one God , the Father almighty maker of Heaven and Earth

To us today, it sounds a little odd to begin a creed with anything so obvious as the fact that there exists but one God, and that this almighty Father is the creator of heaven and earth. Given that the rest of the creed is devoted to proclaiming the Church’s position on controversial things (such as the full divinity of Jesus), how could the fact that God the Father is the creator be remotely controversial?

Welcome to the wonderful and whacky world of Gnosticism. Gnosticism is the title given by scholars to a series of sects in the early Christian centuries proclaiming a rival version of Christianity. Each had its own founder, the earliest (if you don’t count the great grand-daddy of heretics, Simon Magus; see Acts 8:9f) being Marcion who taught at Rome in the second century and died 160 A.D. Each teacher put his own spin on the historic Christian Faith, and each competed for disciples (i.e. for money; they would usually charge fees for their lectures). Some of the more successful teachers were Valentinus and Basilides. The movement produced its own literature, including the now-famous Gospel of Judas, which was written in about the late second century. The Gnostics were a diverse bunch, but they did share certain things in common.

One thing they shared in common was a disdain for the plain meaning of the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (that is doubtless why some Gnostic groups produced their own gospels). Isolated sayings of Jesus were seized upon and subjected to wild and symbolic interpretations. Another thing they shared was a disdain for the historic and apostolic Church, which they regarded as too unspiritual and as fit only for beginners at best. The really spiritual people, the ones in the know (the word “gnostic” comes from the Greek word gnosis, knowledge) would, of course, shun that unspiritual bunch of plodders and join the Gnostics instead.

Another thing they all shared in common was a horror of the physical world. They thought that an earthly, physical, fleshly existence was radically incompatible with a truly spiritual life, and so obviously the one true God would never have done anything so crass and tasteless as creating matter. How then did matter come to exist? Through a series of emanations, or aeons. The one true God was too exalted to soil Himself with the physical creation. He emitted an inferior emanation, who in turn emitted an inferior emanation, etc., etc., etc. How many emanations were necessary before the last one was inferior enough and crass enough to create the heaven and the earth? By one count, forty. And oh yes: the Jewish God was considered the crass creator of heaven and earth, but He was so far down the line that He was in ignorance of the emanations above Him.

For people of that time, it was all so exciting. How deliciously esoteric! St. Irenaeus, in his massive multi-volume work known now as Against Heresies, unravels all this nonsense, patiently explaining to his Orthodox readers what the various Gnostic teachers taught in their varied systems. He takes, for example, the teaching of Valentinus (Against Heresies, Bk I, chapter 11). Valentinus posited a certain two-fold being, the Dyad, one part called Inexpressible and the other part called Silence. From this Dyad, a second dyad was produced, called Father and Truth. From these four another four were emitted, whom Valentinus calls Word, Life, Man, and Church. This is the Ogdoad, the Eight. From Word and Life, ten more were emitted, and from Man and Church, another twelve. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Each Gnostic teacher seemed to have his own spin, and produce names more or less at will. Indeed, Irenaeus lampoons them for clearly making it up as they go along. And he says in effect, Anybody could invent their own religion like this. I could do it. Let me try:

There is a certain Pre-source, a power existing before every other essence. But along with it there exists a power which I term a Gourd, and along with this Gourd there exists a power which again I term Utter-emptiness. This Gourd and Emptiness, produced a fruit, everywhere visible, eatable and delicious, which fruit-language calls a Cucumber. Along with this Cucumber exists a power of the same essence which again I call a Melon. These powers, the Gourd, Utter-emptiness, the Cucumber and the Melon brought forth the remaining multitude of the delirious melons of Valentinus! (the quote is from Against Heresies, Bk. I,chapter 11)

Ouch. Point taken. By playing their own game and showing the Gnostics up through a kind of reductio ad absurdum, Irenaeus reveals Gnosticism as the nonsense it is. It all sounds bizarre to us today, but at that time, the Gnostics gained a great following. For the Gnostics as a whole, the Father of our Lord Jesus was not the creator God of the Old Testament. This creator God was an inferior deity, and Jesus, sent by the Father, came essentially to undo His work. Their view that the physical created world of sex, blood, excrement, and death was all too wretched and unspiritual to be the work of a truly exalted God desperately needed contradicting. And so the Church set about to contradict it in the opening words of the Creed.

Against the assertions of the Gnostics, the Church proclaims that there is only one God—the creator God of the Old Testament. There were no emanations from Him, no lesser deities, no emitted gods. The one true God was the creator—and this God was also the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. As challenging as bits of the Old Testament record might be to explain, the Old Testament God was indeed the Father of Jesus. Devaluing the created world as if it were some kind of divine mistake or something unspiritual from which we needed to be freed was out of the question. The world, though fallen, was created good, and it remains good. Food is good, and all food could be eaten if offered with thanksgiving. Sex was good, and could be lawfully used in marriage. Wine was good, and not only gladdened the heart of man (Psalm 104:15) but became a source of grace and salvation in the Eucharist. The body was good, and in Christ could become the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

The Gnostics that St. Irenaeus knew have long since ceased being a threat to the faithful of the Church. But, sad to say, some of their spirit lingers in the world. Whenever one devalues or rejects the Old Testament as “subChristian” or as “less inspired” or as “contradictory” to the Gospel, we see the lingering influence of Gnosticism. It is as if Marcion stirs in his long sleep, for he was adamant that the Old Testament and its inferior deity had no place in the Church.

Confessing the opening words of the Creed commits us to the view that the God of the Old Testament is our God, the One who sent and worked through His Son to bring us a salvation that transcended all that He had done before. It also commits us to an implacable monotheism, and to the view that all the multitudes of other gods (such as we find so numerous in the Indian subcontinent) are not truly gods at all. As the Psalmist says: “All the gods of the peoples are idols; but the Lord made the heavens” (Ps. 96:5). We believe the Psalmist. We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth.

St John Climacus on Repentance

Repentance is the renewal of baptism and is a contract with God for a fresh start in life.

Repentance goes shopping for humility and is ever distrustful of bodily comfort.

Repentance is critical awareness and a sure watch over oneself.

Repentance is the daughter of hope and the refusal to despair. (The penitent stands guilty but undisgraced.)

Repentance is reconciliation with the Lord by the performance of good deeds which are the opposites of the sins.

It is the purification of conscience and the voluntary endurance of affliction. The penitent deals out his own punishment, for repentance is the fierce persecution of the stomachand the flogging of the soul into intense awareness.

Come, gather round, listen here and I will speak to all of you who have angered the Lord.

Crowd around me and see what he has revealed to my soul for your edification. Let us give first place to the story of the dishonored workers who still earned respect. Let us listen, take heed, and act we who may have suffered an unexpected fall. Rise up and be seated, all you who have been laid low by your sins. Hear what I have to say, my brothers. Listen, all you who long to be reconciled with God again in a true conversion.

The Path to Salvation Chap 4 by St Theophan the Recluse

The Icon above is for sale here https://www.uncutmountainsupply.com/icons/of-saints/by-name/t-u/icon-of-st-theophan-the-recluse-20th-c-1th60/ “Chapter Four. Awakening the Sinner from the Sleep of Sin. The awakening of the sinner is that act of divine grace in his heart, the consequence of which he,

as one awakened from sleep, sees his sinfulness, senses the danger of his situation, begins to fear for himself and to care about deliverance from his misfortune and salvation. Previously, he was like a blind man, unfeeling and uncaring with regard to salvation; now he sees, senses and cares.

However, this is still not change. It is only the opportunity for change and the call for it. Grace is only telling the sinner at this point, “See what you have gotten into; look then, take measures for salvation.” It merely removes him from his customary bonds and sets him beyond them, thereby giving him the opportunity to choose a completely new life and find his place in it. If he takes advantage of this, it is to his benefit; if he does not, he will be cast again into the very same sleep and the very same abyss of destruction.

This divine grace is achieved by exposing to the consciousness and feeling the insignificance and shame of that to which a person is devoted and values so highly. Just as the word of God pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow (Heb. 4:12), so does grace pierce to the division of the heart and sin, and breaks down their unlawful alliance and relationship. We saw how the sinner with his entire being falls into a realm where there are principles, ideas, opinions, rules, customs, pleasures and ways that are completely incompatible with the true spiritual life for which man is intended.

Once he has fallen into this place, he is not there in isolation or detachment. Instead, he is permeated by everything, mingles with everything. He is completely immersed in it. Thus, it is only natural that he not knows or thinks about its incompatibility with spiritual life, and he has no kind of sympathy toward spiritual life. The spiritual realm is completely closed off to him. It is obvious from this that the door to conversion may be opened only under the condition that the spiritual way of life be revealed to the sinner’s consciousness in its full light, and not merely revealed, but that it touch the heart; that the sinful way of life be discredited, rejected, and destroyed. This also takes place in the presence of consciousness and feeling. Only then can the care arise to abandon the old ways and begin the new. All this is accomplished in the single act of the sinner’s arousal by grace.

In its course of action, the arousing divine grace is always connected not only with the bonds in which the sinner is held, but also with the overall condition of the sinner. In this latter regard, one must above all keep in mind the difference in the way the action of grace appears when it acts on those who have never been aroused, and when it acts on those who have previously experienced such arousal. For someone who has never experienced spiritual awakening before, it is given to him freely, like some all-encompassing, preliminary or summoning grace. Nothing is required from the person beforehand, because he has a completely different orientation.

However, grace is not freely given to the person who has already experienced spiritual arousal, who knows and senses what life in Christ is, and who has fallen into sin again. He must give something himself first. He must still be worthy and beseech. It is not enough merely to wish; he must work on himself in order to attract spiritual arousal by grace. Such a person, in recollecting his previous sojourn in the virtuous Christian way, often desires it again, but has no power over himself. He would like to turn over a new leaf, but is unable to gain self-mastery and conquer himself. He has abandoned himself to helpless despair because he previously abandoned the gift and reproached and trodden underfoot the Son of God…and hath done despite unto the Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10:29). Now he is allowed to perceive that this power of grace is so great that it will not be granted immediately. Seek and labor, and learn to appreciate how difficult it is to acquire. Such a person is in a somewhat agonizing condition: He thirsts but is not given drink, hungers but is not fed, seeks but does not find, exerts himself but does not receive. Sometimes a person is left in this condition for a very long time, to the point where he feels divine reproach, as if God has forgotten him, turned away and betrayed His promise. He feels like the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it…but…which beareth thorns and briers (Heb. 6:7-8). But this slow touching of grace to the heart of the seeker is only a trial. He goes through the period of trial, and thanks to his labors and agonizing search, the spirit of arousal once again descends on him as it descends on others as a gift. This course of action of salvific grace shows us two things: First, the special actions of divine grace in arousing the sinner; second, the usual way of acquiring the gift of arousing grace.

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St John Climacus on Repentance 1

3. Weak as I am, I heard that there was a certain powerful and strange way of life and humility for those living in a separate monastic establishment called ‘The Prison’ which was under the authority of the above-mentioned man, that light of lights. So when I was still staying there I asked the good man to allow me to visit it. And the great man, never wishing to grieve a soul in any way, agreed to my request.

4. And so, coming to this abode of penitents and to this true land of mourners, I actually saw (if it is not audacious to say so) what is most cases the eye of a careless person never saw, and what the ear of a slothful and easy-going person never heard, and what never entered the heart of a timid person 3 that is, I saw such deeds and words as can incline God to mercy; such activities and postures as speedily attract His love for men.

5. I saw some of those guilty yet guiltless men standing in the open air, all night till morning and never moving their feet, by force of nature pitifully dazed by sleep; yet they allowed themselves no rest, but reproached themselves, and drove away sleep with dishonours and insults.

6. Others lifted up their eyes to heaven, and with wailings and outcries, implored help from there.

7. Others stood in prayer with their hands tied behind their backs like criminals, their faces, darkened by sorrow, bent to the earth. They regarded themselves as unworthy to look up to heaven. Overwhelmed by the embarrassment of their thoughts and conscience they could not find anything to say or pray about to God, how or with what to begin their prayers. But as if filled with darkness and a blank despair, they offered to God nothing but a speechless soul and a voiceless mind.

8. Others sat on the ground in sackcloth and ashes, hiding their faces between their knees, and striking the earth with their foreheads.

St John Climacus From the Dvine Ascent Step 5: 3-8

Chap.3 and 4 from ”The path to Salvation.” By St Theophan the Recluse .

3 The Action of Divine Grace

We have said that the sinner is like a person who is sunk in deep slumber. Just as a person who is fast asleep will not stir and get up on his own in spite of approaching danger unless someone comes and rouses him, so will the person who is sunk in the slumber of sin not come to his senses and awaken unless divine grace comes to his aid. By the boundless mercy of God, this grace is prepared for everyone, approaches everyone in turn, and calls out clearly to each: Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light (Eph. 5:14).

This comparison of sinners with sleepers provides a starting point for a thorough examination of their conversion to God. For example, a sleeper awakens, gets up and gets ready to go to work. A sinner who turns to God and repents is roused horn the lullaby of sinfulness, reaches a decision to change (he gets up), and, at last, puts on strength for his new life in the Mysteries of Repentance and Holy Communion (preparation for work). These moments are described in the parable of the Prodigal Son in this way: When he came to himself means he has come to his senses; I will arise and go indicates he has decided to cease his former life; I have sinned is repentance, and his father clothes him (forgiveness and absolution from sins) and prepares him a meal (Holy Communion) (cf. Lk. 15:11-32).

Thus, there are three stages in the conversion of sinners to God: 1) arousal from the slumber of sin; 2) reaching the decision to give up sin and devote oneself to pleasing God; 3) vestment with power from on high for doing this in the Mysteries of Repentance and Communion.

4 Awakening the Sinner from the Sleep of Sin.

The awakening of the sinner is that act of divine grace in his heart, the consequence of which he, as one awakened from sleep, sees his sinfulness, senses the danger of his situation, begins to fear for himself and to care about deliverance from his misfortune and salvation. Previously, he was like a blind man, unfeeling and uncaring with regard to salvation; now he sees, senses and cares.

However, this is still not change. It is only the opportunity for change and the call for it. Grace is only telling the sinner at this point, “See what you have gotten into; look then, take measures for salvation.” It merely removes him from his customary bonds and sets him beyond them, thereby giving him the opportunity to choose a completely new life and find his place in it. If he takes advantage of this, it is to his benefit; if he does not, he will be cast again into the very same sleep and the very same abyss of destruction.

This divine grace is achieved by exposing to the consciousness and feeling the insignificance and shame of that to which a person is devoted and values so highly. Just as the word of God pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow (Heb. 4:12), so does grace pierce to the division of the heart and sin, and breaks down their unlawful alliance and relationship. We saw how the sinner with his entire being falls into a realm where there are principles, ideas, opinions, rules, customs, pleasures and ways that are completely incompatible with the true spiritual life for which man is intended.

Once he has fallen into this place, he is not there in isolation or detachment. Instead, he is permeated by everything, mingles with everything. He is completely immersed in it. Thus, it is only natural that he not knows or thinks about its incompatibility with spiritual life, and he has no kind of sympathy toward spiritual life. The spiritual realm is completely closed off to him. It is obvious from this that the door to conversion may be opened only under the condition that the spiritual way of life be revealed to the sinner’s consciousness in its full light, and not merely revealed, but that it touch the heart; that the sinful way of life be discredited, rejected, and destroyed. This also takes place in the presence of consciousness and feeling. Only then can the care arise to abandon the old ways and begin the new. All this is accomplished in the single act of the sinner’s arousal by grace. In its course of action, the arousing divine grace is always connected not only with the bonds in which the sinner is held, but also with the overall condition of the sinner. In this latter regard, one must above all keep in mind the difference in the way the action of grace appears when it acts on those who have never been aroused, and when it acts on those who have previously experienced such arousal. For someone who has never experienced spiritual awakening before, it is given to him freely, like some all-encompassing, preliminary or summoning grace. Nothing is required from the person beforehand, because he has a completely different orientation.

However, grace is not freely given to the person who has already experienced spiritual arousal, who knows and senses what life in Christ is, and who has fallen into sin again. He must give something himself first. He must still be worthy and beseech. It is not enough merely to wish; he must work on himself in order to attract spiritual arousal by grace. Such a person, in recollecting his previous sojourn in the virtuous Christian way, often desires it again, but has no power over himself. He would like to turn over a new leaf, but is unable to gain self-mastery and conquer himself. He has abandoned himself to helpless despair because he previously abandoned the gift and reproached and trodden underfoot the Son of God…and hath done despite unto the Spirit of Grace (Heb. 10:29). Now he is allowed to perceive that this power of grace is so great that it will not be granted immediately. Seek and labor, and learn to appreciate how difficult it is to acquire.

Such a person is in a somewhat agonizing condition: He thirsts but is not given drink, hungers but is not fed, seeks but does not find, exerts himself but does not receive. Sometimes a person is left in this condition for a very long time, to the point where he feels divine reproach, as if God has forgotten him, turned away and betrayed His promise. He feels like the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it…but…which beareth thorns and briers (Heb. 6:78). But this slow touching of grace to the heart of the seeker is only a trial. He goes through the period of trial, and thanks to his labors and agonizing search, the spirit of arousal once again descends on him as it descends on others as a gift. This course of action of salvific grace shows us two things: First, the special actions of divine grace in arousing the sinner; second, the usual way of acquiring the gift of arousing grace.

Copyright 2006 by St Paisius Monastery. Arizona.

The mystery of Repentance. by St Theophan the Recluse.

The grace-filled Christian life is supposed to begin in baptism. But those who preserve this grace are rare; the majority of Christians lose it. We see some people who are more or less depraved in their present lives, because they had poor beginnings which were allowed to develop and take root in them. Others perhaps had good beginnings, but during the early years of their youth, whether by personal inclination or through temptation from others, forgot these beginnings and acquired evil habits. Such people no longer lead a true Christian life. Our holy faith offers the Mystery of Repentance for this. We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (I Jn. 2:1). If you have sinned, acknowledge the sin and repent. God will forgive the sin and once again give you a new heart…and a new spirit (Ez. 36:26). There is no other way: Either do not sin, or repent. Judging by the number of those who have fallen away from Baptism, one could even say that repentance has become for us the only source of true Christian life.

It is necessary to know that in the Mystery of Repentance some merely have to be cleansed, and the gift of the grace-filled life, previously assimilated and operating within them, will be rekindled. For others, the beginning of this life has just been established within them, or it is being given and accepted anew. We will be examining the latter case.

I. Turning away from Sin to God.

With regard to the second item we have mentioned, it is a decisive change for the better, a breaking of the will, a turning away from sin and a turning to God, or a kindling of the fire of zeal for exclusively God-pleasing things, with renunciation of the self and everything else. It is above all characterized by an extreme breaking of the will. If a person has acquired evil habits, he must now rend himself. If he has offended God, he must now grieve in the fire of just judgment. A repentant person experiences the pain of a woman giving birth, and, in the feelings of the heart, he encounters, as it were, the tortures of hell. To the lamenting Jeremiah, the Lord commanded destroy and build and plant (Jer. 1:10). The lamenting spirit of repentance is sent by the Lord to the earth so that when it passes into those who accept it, to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow (Heb. 4:12), it destroys the old man and lays the foundation for the creation of the new. Within the repentant person there is first fear, then the lightness of hope; sorrow, then comfort; terror to the point of despair, then the breath of the consolation of mercy. One thing replaces another, and this supplies or keeps a person who is in a state of corruption or parting with life in the hope, however, of receiving new life.

It is something painful, but it saves. It is therefore inmevitable that whoever has not experienced such a painful break has not yet begun to live through repentance. It is impossible for a person to begin cleansing himself in everything without having gone through this crucible. Decisive and active resistance to sin comes only from hatred of it. Hatred of sin comes only from a sense of evil from it; the sense of evil from it is experienced in all its force in this painful break within repentance. Only here does a person sense with his whole heart what a great evil sin is; afterward he will run from it as he would from the fire of Gehenna. Without this painful experience, even if he begins cleansing himself in some other way, he will be able to cleanse himself only slightly, more outwardly than inwardly, more in actions than in disposition. That is why his heart will remain unclean, like unsmelted ore.

Such change is brought about in the human heart by divine grace. This alone can inspire a man to raise his hand to himself and bring himself to God in sacrifice. No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him (Jn. 6:44). God Himself gives a new heart and spirit (cf. Ez. 36:26). Man grieves for himself. Having been fused with flesh and sin, he became one with them. Only an outside, higher force can separate him and arm him against himself.

Thus, grace produces change in the sinner, but this does not come about without free assent. In Baptism, grace is given to us at the moment the mystery is performed upon us; however, free will comes later and assimilates to itself what has been given. In repentance, then, free assent must participate in the very act of change.

2. The Combining of Freedom with Grace.

Change for the better and turning to God must seemingly be instantaneous or sudden, and so does it happen. In preparation, however, change undergoes several stages signifying the combining of freedom with grace, where grace gains mastery of the freedom and freedom is subordinated to grace. These stages are necessary for everyone. For some, the stages go by quickly, while for others, the process continues for many years. Who can keep track of everything that is going on here, especially when the ways of action of grace within us are so varied, and the conditions of people in whom they begin to act are infinite in number? It is necessary, however, to expect that, with all this variation, there is one general aspect of change that no one can escape. Every repenting man is a man who lives in sin, and every such man is recreated by grace. Therefore, it is on the basis of an understanding of the sinner’s condition in general, and the basis of the relationship of freedom with grace that we are able to depict this process and characterize it through principles.

Beware of unchanging peace ! From Homily 42 by St Isaac the Syrian .

“Whenever in your path you find unchanging peace, beware: you are very far from the divine paths trodden by the weary feet of the saints. For as long as you are journeying in the way to the city of the Kingdom and are drawing nigh the city of God, this will be a sign for you: the strength of the temptations that you counter. And the nearer you draw nigh and progress, the more temptations will multiply against you.

Whenever, therefore, you perceive in your soul diverse and stronger temptations in your path, know that at that time your soul has in fact secretly entered a new and higher level, and that grace has been added to her in the state wherein she was found; for God leads the soul into the afflictions of trials in exact proportion to the magnitude of the grace He bestows.”

Copyright 1984 Holy Transfiguration Monastery.

Boston, USA.

CONCERNING FREQUENT COMMUNION OF THE IMMACULATE MYSTERIES OF CHRIST by our Righteous God-bearing Father Saint Nikodemos the Hagiorite.

PART TWO

CONCERNING FREQUENT COMMUNION

CHAPTER 1 part 1.

It Is Necessary for the Orthodox to Partake Frequently of the Divine Body and Blood of Our Lord

All Orthodox Christians are commanded to receive Communion frequently. First, by the orders of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. Second, by the Acts and Canons of the Holy Apostles and the sacred Councils and by the testimonies of the divine Fathers. Third, by the very words, the order, and the celebration of the Divine Liturgy. Fourth, by Holy Communion in and of itself.

1. Our Lord Jesus Christ, before He handed down the Mystery of Communion, said: “And the bread that I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world” (Jn. 6:51). This means that, for the faithful, divine Communion is a necessary constituent of the spiritual life in Christ. This spiritual life in Christ is not to be extinguished or interrupted—as the Apostle says: “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Th. 5:19)—but must be continuous and uninterrupted, “that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15), according to the words of the same Apostle. That is, the living faithful are no longer to live a selfish and carnal life, but the life of Christ, Who died and resurrected for them. Necessarily, then, it is required that divine Communion, the constituent of this spiritual life, also be uninterrupted.

And in another place the Lord says imperatively: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). These words make apparent that divine Communion is just as necessary for the Christian as Holy Baptism. For He used the same double expression when speaking about Baptism and about Communion. Concerning Baptism, He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Concerning divine Communion, He likewise said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). Therefore, just as without Baptism it is impossible for one to live the spiritual “And in another place the Lord says imperatively: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). These words make apparent that divine Communion is just as necessary for the Christian as Holy Baptism. For He used the same double expression when speaking about Baptism and about Communion. Concerning Baptism, He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (Jn. 3:5). Concerning divine Communion, He likewise said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you” (Jn. 6:53). Therefore, just as without Baptism it is impossible for one to live the spiritual life and be saved, it is impossible for one to live without divine Communion. But since these two have this difference, that Baptism is to occur but one time, while divine Communion is to occur frequently and daily, it is right to conclude that there are two requirements respecting divine Communion: one, that it is to be received; and the other, that it is to be received frequently.

When the Lord handed down this Mystery to His disciples, He did not merely make a recommendation, saying: “Whoever wants to eat My body, and whoever wants to drink My blood”—as He did when He said, “Whoever wants to follow Me,”68 and, “If you want to be perfect.”69 Rather, He commandingly cried out: “Take, eat; this is My body” (Mt. 26:26), and, “Drink of it, all of you, this is My blood” (Mt. 26:27–28). That is, “You must absolutely eat My body, and you must unfailingly drink My blood.” Again He says: “This do in remembrance of Me” (Lk. 22:19). That is, “I am delivering this Mystery to you so that you might celebrate it, not one, two, or three times, but every day (as the divine Chrysostom interprets it),70 unto the remembrance of My sufferings, My death, and My whole incarnate economy.”

Behold how these words of the Lord clearly present the two requirements respecting Communion, the one by the fundamental command they contain, and the other by the frequency signified by the words “this do;” and this clearly means that we are strongly commanded not only to commune, but also to commune often. Everyone, therefore, can now see that an Orthodox is not allowed to transgress these things, no matter his order.71 Rather, he is absolutely obligated and required to keep them, and to receive them as commands and ordinances of the Master .

Copyright © 2006

by Uncut Mountain Press

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Designed and published in Thessalonica, Greece by Uncut Mountain Press. Distributed by Uncut Mountain Supply, The Dalles, Oregon.

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Translated by Fr. George Dokos

This translation has been made from the Greek text of the first edition published by Nektarios Panagopoulos (Athens, 2001).