Are the Terms “Christian” and “Orthodox” Accurate in our Times? by Archbishop Averky of Syracuse and Holy Trinity Monastery

There are a number of versions of this online with a paragraph missing [the paragraph with the word monstrosity, ¶13]  Fr. Demitrios also omits that one-sentence paragraph.  This below is checked against the Orthodox Life original hard copy.
Until recently [1975], the concepts and terms “Christian” and “Orthodox” were unambiguous and meaningful.  Now, however, we are living through times so terrible, so filled with falsehood and deception, that such concepts and terms no longer convey what is significant when used without further clarification.  They do not reflect the essence of things, but have become little more than deceptive labels.
Many societies and organizations now call themselves “Christian” although there is nothing Christian in them, insofar as they reject the principal dogma of Christianity – the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, as do several of the newest sects, to which the very spirit of true Christianity, which follows so naturally and logically from the teaching of the Gospels, is generally quite foreign.
Of late, the term “Orthodox” also has ceased in large measure to express what it should, for even those who in fact have apostatized from true Orthodoxy and become traitors to the Orthodox Faith and Church continue to call themselves “Orthodox.”
Such are all the innovators, who reject the true spirit of Orthodoxy, all those who have started down the path of mutual relations with the enemies of Orthodoxy, who propagandize for common prayer and even liturgical communion with those who do not belong to the Holy Orthodox Church.  Such are the “renovationists” [*The name for members of the “Living Church” movement, sponsored by the Bolsheviks in the 1920’s (Trans.).] and contemporary “neo-renovationists,” the “neo-Orthodox” (as some of them openly style themselves!), who are clamoring about how essential it is to “renew the Orthodox Church,” about some sort of “reforms in Orthodoxy,” which allegedly has become “set in its ways” and “moribund.” They harp on such things instead of focusing their prayerful attention on the truly essential renewal of their own souls and the fundamental reform of their own sinful nature with its passions and desires.
They insistently proclaim union with heretics, with non-Orthodox, and even with non-Christians.  They proclaim “the union of all,” but without the unity of spirit and truth which alone makes such union possible.
Such, for example, in our days are the Ecumenical Patriarchs of Constantinople, who in the past recognized the “Living Church” in Soviet Russia as legal and now recognize the Pope of Rome as the “head of the whole Christian Church,” and even admit the papist Latins to Holy Communion without their first being united to the Holy Orthodox Church.
Such are all those who actively participate in the so-called Ecumenical Movement, which is striving so blatantly to create some sort of new pseudo-church out of all the denominations now existing.
Such, too, are those many others who are not completely faithful to our Lord and Savior and His Holy Church, but serve His vicious enemies or please them in one way or another by helping them to realize their anti-Christian goals in a world which has turned away from God.
Who will dare to deny us our lawful right not to recognize such people as Orthodox, even though they may persist in using that name and in bearing various high ranks and titles?
From church history we know that there have been not a few heretics and even heresiarchs of high rank who were solemnly condemned by the Universal Church and removed from their offices.
But what do we see today?
This, sadly, is an age of unlimited concessions and sly collaboration, when even the most scandalous heretical actions or statements disturb hardly anyone.  Very few react to this manifest apostasy from Orthodoxy as they should, and as for condemning these new heretics and apostates – there is no point in even thinking about it.  Today everything is permitted for everyone and nothing is prohibited for anyone, except in cases where someone is personally hurt, offended and insulted when their own folly is pointed out.  Oh, in such cases, this is unforgivable!  Then threats make their appearance, based on those forgotten canons, which otherwise are “obsolete, outdated and unacceptable” in our advanced, progressive age!
This is the kind of moral disintegration, of real spiritual monstrosity, that faces us.
The truth is readily ignored and brazenly flouted, while evil, just as readily, celebrates its triumphant victory and gloatingly mocks the truth which it has overthrown and trampled upon.
Is it possible to reconcile one’s conscience to this contemporary situation?
Can one close one’s eyes to all these lies and falsehoods and calmly act as if one saw nothing wrong?
Only individuals whose consciences are burned out or completely lost can do so!  That is why it is more than strange to hear some, imagining themselves to be Orthodox, call the Russian Church Outside of Russia, “Old Believer,” “schismatic,” “Black Hundredist,” [Literally, “black hundreders”: the “black hundreds” were a patriotic, anti-revolutionary organization in pre-revolutionary Russia.  Popular slander equates them with the irresponsible mobs that carried out pogroms.  In fact the black hundreds were Church-sponsored and opposed to any sort of brutality.] “retrograde,” “obscurantist,” and so on, simply because we will not walk in step with these times and dare not to apostatize in anything from Christ’s Gospel and the original teaching of the Holy Church, and therefore consider it an obligation of conscience to condemn this clear and obvious evil of contemporary life which has already penetrated into the Church.
In fact, it is not we who are schismatic, but all those who follow the spirit of these times and by that act cut themselves off from the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, apostatizing from the apostolic faith, from the faith of the Fathers, from the Orthodox faith, which established the whole world…  These people are obviously hurtling over the precipice of apostasy – into the abyss of perdition, together with the whole contemporary world, burying themselves in their apostasy from the life-creating God.
Do you hear the Apostle’s divinely inspired words, modernists, attempting to distort Christ’s Gospel and becoming so readily and zealously “conformed to this world,” evil and alluring as it is?
We readily accept your indictment that we are “old believers,” considering it an honor to our traditionalism; but how does your Christian conscience get on with your innovating, which overthrows essentially the ancient, true faith and Christ’s unchanging Church?
Was it not the Apostle who warned all Christians:
“Be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).
We are “old believers,” but not schismatics, for we have never cut ourselves off from the true Church of Christ.
We are in union with our Head, Christ the Savior, with His holy Disciples and Apostles, with the Apostolic Fathers, with the great Fathers and Teachers of the Church, and with the great luminaries and pillars of the faith and piety of our Fatherland, Holy Russia.  But you are in union with some sort of innovating, self-appointed teachers, whom you advertise everywhere so unlawfully and obstinately, disparaging and at times even daring to criticize the genuine luminaries of our Holy Church, who have pleased God and been glorified in many ascetic struggles of piety and miracles throughout the course of her two thousand year history.
This being the case, which of us is really the schismatic?
Of course it is not those in the spirit of traditional Orthodoxy, but those who have apostatized from the true faith of Christ and rejected the genuine spirit of Christian piety; even though all the contemporary patriarchs, who have altered our age-old, patristic Orthodoxy, may be on the latter’s side, as well as the majority of contemporary, so-called Christians.
Indeed, Christ the Savior did not promise eternal salvation to the majority, but, quite to the contrary, He promised it to His “little flock,” which will remain faithful to Him to the end, in the day of His Glorious and Terrible Second Coming, when He will come “to judge the living and the dead.”
“Fear not, little flock,” He said, painting the frightening picture of the last times of apostasy from God and persecution of the Faith before our mind’s eye, “For it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
This is why all we have said above prompts us to re-examine the terminology that has been accepted up to the present.  It is insufficient in our time to say only “Christian” – now it is necessary to qualify this by saying “true-Christian.”  Similarly it is insufficient to say “Orthodox” – it is essential to emphasize that one is not referring to an innovating modernist “Orthodox,” but to a true Orthodox.
All genuine zealots of the true faith, serving Christ the Savior alone, have already begun to do this, both those in our Fatherland, enslaved by ferocious enemies of God, where zealots depart into the catacombs like the ancient Christians, as well as in Greece, our brother nation, where the “Old Calendarists” not only refuse to accept the new calendar, but also reject all innovations of any kind.  They have a special veneration for that champion of Holy Orthodoxy, St. Mark, Metropolitan of Ephesus, thanks to whose steadfastness the impious Union of Florence with papal Rome in 1439 failed. [It is noteworthy that both the Catacomb Church in the USSR (“Tikhonites”) and the Greek Old Calendarists, between whom there can hardly be any communication, have begun to call themselves “True Orthodox Christians.”]
In our firm stand for the true Faith and Church it is essential only to avoid everything personal – pride and self-exaltation, which inevitably lead to new errors, and eventually even to a fall; we have already witnessed this in several cases.  It is not ourselves we should praise, but the pure and immaculate Faith of Christ.  No fanaticism is admissible here because it is capable of blinding the spiritual eyes of such who are “zealous not according to knowledge.”  Rather than confirming one in the Faith, this blind fanaticism can sometimes lead one away from it.
It is important to know and to remember that a true Orthodox Christian is not someone who just accepts the dogmas of Orthodoxy formally, but a person who, as our great Russian hierarch St. Tikhon of Zadonsk taught so beautifully, thinks in an Orthodox way, feels in an Orthodox way, and lives in an Orthodox way, incarnating the spirit of Orthodoxy in his life.  This spirit – ascetic and world-renouncing, as is clearly set forth in the Word of God and the teachings of the Holy Fathers – is most sharply and boldly denied by the modernists, the “neo-Orthodox,” who want in everything to keep in step with the spirit of this world lying in evil, whose prince, in the words of the Lord Himself, is none other than the devil (John 12:31).  Thus it is not God Whom they desire to please, but the “prince of this world,” the devil; and thereby they cease to be true Orthodox Christians, even if they call themselves such.
If we consider all this more seriously and deeply, then we will see that this is precisely the case and that modernism with its innovations is leading us away from Christ and His true Church.
Let us be horrified at how rapidly apostasy has proceeded, although the modernists do not see it or feel it, inasmuch as they themselves are taking an active part in it.
And so let us not fear to remain in the minority – far from all their high-sounding titles and ranks.  Let us always remember that even Caiaphas was a high priest of the true God, and to what depths he sank – to the horrible sin of deicide!
While living in this world which has apostatized from God, let us strive not for specious human glory and cheap popularity, which will not save us, but only to be within Christ’s “little flock.”
Let us be True Orthodox Christians, not modernists!
From Orthodox Life, Vol. 25, No. 3 (May-June,1975)

Archbishop Averky Taushev of Jordanville . True Orthodoxy.

True Orthodoxy
of Syracuse and Holy Trinity Monastery

Blessed Archbishop AverkyFew people today know that the Orthodox Church is nothing less than that Church which has preserved untainted the genuine teachings of Jesus Christ, the very teachings delivered to every subsequent generation of believers. These teachings came down the centuries. from the Holy Apostles, explicated and carefully interpreted by their legitimate successors (their disciples and the holy Fathers), traditioned and conserved unaltered by our Eastern Church which is alone able to prove her right to be called “the Orthodox Church.”

The divine Founder of the Church, our Lord Jesus Christ, said clearly, “I will build my Church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against Her” (St. Matt xvi, 18). To the Church, He sent the Holy Spirit. The Spirit descended upon the Apostles, the Spirit of Truth (St. John xv, 16f) Who “manifests all things” to Her and guides Her (St. John xvi, 13), protecting Her from error. Indeed, it was to declare this Truth to men that the Lord came into the cosmos, according to His own words (St. John xviii, 31). And Saint Paul confirms this fact in his letter to his pupil, the bishop Timothy, saying that, “the Church of the living God is the ground and pillar of the Truth” (I Tim iii, 15).

Because She is “the ground and pillar of the Truth,” “the gates of Hell cannot prevail against Her.” It follows, then, that the true Christian Church—palpably unique since Christ established but one Church—has always existed on earth and will exist to the end of time. She has received the promise of Christ, “I will be with you even unto the end of the age.” Can there be the slightest doubt that the Lord refers here to the Church? Any honest and sane judgment, any act of good conscience, anyone familiar with the history of the Christian Church, the pure and unaltered moral and theological teachings of the Christian religion, must confess that there was but one true Church founded by our Lord, Jesus Christ, and that She has preserved His Truth holy and unchanged. History reveals, moreover, a traceable link of grace from the holy Apostles to their successors and to the holy Fathers. In contrast to what others have done, the Orthodox Church has never introduced novelties into Her teachings in order to “keep up with the times”, to be “progressive”, “not to be left at the side of the road,” or to accommodate current exigencies and fashions which are always suffused with evil. The Church never conforms to the world.

Indeed not, for the Lord has said to his disciples at the Last Supper, “You are not of this world.” We must hold to these words if we are to remain faithful to true Christianity—the true Church of Christ has always been, is and will always be a stranger to this world. Separated from it, she is able to transmit the divine teachings of the Lord unchanged, because that separation has kept Her unchanged, that is, like the immutable God Himself. That which the learned call “conservativism” is a principal and, perhaps, most characteristic index of the true Church.

Since the TRUTH is given to us once and for all, our task is to assimilate rather than to discover it. We are commanded to confirm ourselves and others in the Truth and thereby bring everyone to the true Faith, Orthodoxy.

Unfortunately, there have appeared in the very bosom of the Church, even among the hierarchy, opinions expressed by well-known individuals which are detrimental to Her. The desire to “march with the times” makes them fear that they will not be recognized as “cultured”, “liberal” and “progressive.” These modern apostates to Orthodoxy are “ashamed” to confess that our Orthodox church is precisely the Church which was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Church to which appertains the great promise that “the gates of Hell will not prevail against Her,” and to which He confided the plenum of divine Truth. By their deceit and false humility, by their blasphemy against the Lord, these false shepherds and those with them have been estranged from the true Church. They have given tacit expression to the idea that “the gates of Hell” have “prevailed” against the Church. In other words, these apostates say that our holy Orthodox Church is equally “at fault” for the “division of the churches” and ought now to “repent” her sins and enter into union with other “Christian churches” by means of certain concessions to them, the result being a new, indivisible church of Christ.

This is the ideology of the religious movement which has become so fashionable in our times: “The ecumenical movement” among whose number one may count Orthodox, even our clergy. For a long time, we have heard that they belong to this movement in order “to witness to the peoples of other confessions the truth of holy Orthodoxy,” but it is difficult for us to believe that this statement is anything more than “throwing powder in our eyes.” Their frequent theological declarations in the international press can lead us to no other conclusion than that they are traitors to the holy Truth.

As a matter of historical fact, the “ecumenical movement”—of which the WCC is the supreme organ—is an organization. of purely Protestant origin. Nearly all the Orthodox Churches have joined, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia being the most notable exception. Even those churches behind the “iron curtain” have joined. For some time the Russian Patriarchate resisted, flattering herself with the purity of her Orthodoxy and quite naturally viewing this movement as hostile to Orthodoxy. She has since become a member.

The Russian Synod almost stands alone in her opposition to the “ecumenical movement.” How can we explain her isolation from the rest of “global Orthodoxy”? We must understand the situation in terms of the words that “this Must take place” (St. Luke xxi, 9), that is, the “great apostasy” clearly predicted by the Lord (Sol ii, 3-12). “it is permitted by God,” as [St.] Ignatius Brianchaninoff said almost a century ago. (Another spiritual father, Theophan the Recluse, announced with grief that the horrendous apostasy would begin within Russia.) [St.] Ignatius wrote: “We are helpless to arrest this apostasy. Impotent hands will have no power against it and nothing more will be required than the attempt to withold it. The spirit of the age will reveal the apostasy. Study it, if you wish to avoid it, if you wish to escape this age and the temptation of its spirits. One can suppose, too, that the institution of the Church which has been tottering for so long will fall terribly and suddenly. Indeed, no one is able to stop or prevent it. The present means to sustain the institutional Church are borrowed from the elements of the world, things inimical to the Church, and the consequence will be only to accelerate its fall. Nevertheless, the Lord protects the elect and their limited number will be filled.”

The Enemy of humanity makes every effort and uses all means to confound it. Aid comes to him through the total co-operation of all the secret and invisible heterodox, especially those priests and bishops who betray their high calling and oath, the true faith and the true Church.

Repudiation of and preservation from the apostasy which has made such enormous progress demands that we stand apart from the spirit of the age (which bears the seeds of its own destruction). If we expect to withstand the world, it is first necessary to understand it and keep sensitively in mind that in this present age all that which carries the most holy and dear name of Orthodoxy is not in fact Orthodox. Rather, it is often “A fraudulent and usurped Orthodoxy” which we must fear and eschew as if it were fire. Unlike this spurious faith, true Orthodoxy was given and must be received without novelty and nothing must be accepted as a teaching or practice of the Church which is contrary to the Holy Scriptures and the dogma of the Universal Church. True Orthodoxy thinks only to serve god and to save souls and is not preoccupied with the secular and ephemeral welfare of men. True Orthodoxy is spiritual and not physical or psychological or earthly. In order to protect ourselves from “the spirit of the age” and preserve our fidelity to the true Orthodoxy, we ought firstly and with all our strength live blamelessly: A total and rigorous commitment to Christ, without deviation from the commandments of God or the laws of His holy Church. At the same time, we must have no common prayer or spiritual liaison with the modern apostasy or with anything which “soils” our holy Faith, even those dissidents who call themselves “Orthodox.” They will go their way and we will go ours. We must be honorable and tenacious, following the right way, never deviating in order to please men or from fear that we might lose some personal advantage.

The sure path to perdition is indifference and the lack of principles which is euphemistically called “the larger view.” In opposition to this “larger view” we put the “rigor of ideas” which, in modernity, it is fashionable to label “narrow” and “fanatical.” To be sure, if one adopts the “modern mentality,” one must consider the holy martyrs—whose blood is “the cement of the Church”—and the Church Fathers—who struggled all their lives against heretics—as nothing less than “narrow” and “fanatical.” In truth, there is little difference between “the broad way” against which the Lord warned and the modem “larger view.” He condemned the “broad way” as the way to “gehenna.”

Of course, the idea of “gehenna” holds no fear for those “liberals” and avant-garde theologians. They may smugly “theologize” about it, but in rashly and wantonly discussing “the new ways of Orthodox theology” and acquiring a number of disciples, they give evidence that they no longer believe in the existence of Hell. This new breed of “Orthodox” are really no more than modem “scholastics.”

In other words, the way of these “progressivists” is not our way. Their way is deceptive, and it is unfortunate that it is not evident to everyone. The “broader” or “larger view” alienates us from the Lord and His true Church. It is the road away from Orthodoxy. This view is sinister, maliciously invented by the Devil in order to deny us salvation. For us, however, we accept no innovations, but choose the ancient, proven way, the way in which true Christians have chosen to serve God for 2,000 years.

We choose the way of fidelity to the true Faith and not the “modern way.” We choose faithfulness to the true Church with all Her canons and dogmas which have been received and confirmed by the local and universal Councils. We choose the holy customs and traditions, the spiritual riches of that faith transmitted complete and entire to us from the Holy Apostles, the Holy Fathers of the Church, and the Christian heritage of our venerable ancestors. This alone is the faith of the true Orthodox, distinct from the counterfeit “orthodoxy” invented by the Adversary. We receive only the Apostolic Faith, the Faith of the Fathers, the Orthodox Faith.

From The Orthodox Christian Witness, wherein it appeared translated from the French in La Foi Transmise (Nov. 1968), pp. 19-22.

Voices on the heresy of ecumenism.

Ecumenism is a pan-heresy

The Satan-led and fetid pan-heresy of Ecumenism adopts and legitimizes all heresies as “churches” and attacks the uniqueness, exclusivity and dogma of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. A new doctrine of the Church has now grown, is being taught and is imposed by the Ecumenists; a new ecclesiology, according to which no group can claim exclusively the character of “Catholic and true Church”—whether heretics, or even the Orthodox Church. Every heresy, even the Orthodox Church, is only a piece, a part of this new Ecumenist “church,” and not the entire Church. All together these heresies with the Orthodox Church compose the new Ecumenist Church.” Metropolitan Seraphim of Pireaus.

Led by the Papacy

“Ecumenism is a common name for the pseudo-christianities, for the pseudo-churches of Western Europe. Within it is the heart of all European humanisms led by the Papacy. All these pseudo-christianities, all these pseudo-churches are nothing more than one heresy next to the other. Their common name is pan-heresy.”
St Justin Popovich.

Ecumenism: the Fathers struggled in vain

Ecumenism confounds everything. It does not believe that there is Orthodoxy; that there is Truth for which the Saints and Fathers struggled from the time of the Apostles. The Apostles were the first to struggle to preserve the faith, and then after them the Holy Fathers did likewise……Do you see how frightful a thing this is? The Holy Fathers as far back as the era of the Apostles, struggled so manfully… If we look at the New Testament, we will see that the Apostles themselves spoke about false shepherds, of wolves in sheep’s clothing, of heretics even in the New Testament.” Fr. Theodore Zisis

Ecumenism works against the Church’s Mission

For nineteen centuries the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has refused to name various heretical Christian communities as Christian Churches… We do not abandon those abiding in the darkness of heresy and malicious intentions to find rest in their confusions and spiritual darkness, but we remind them of the words of the Lord: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32)… Are we not hiding the truth and light of Christ from them? Won’t we, the Orthodox, answer on the day of judgment for constructing this spiritual tower of Babel and concealing the saving Truth of God? + Metropolitan Seraphim of Kythira,

Patriarch Bartholomew is far away from traditional Orthodoxy :

Whoever is with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew agrees with what he believes.

Do you believe in what he believes?

His All-Holiness:

  • Believes and preaches: “all religions are pathways of salvation.” (the idea of the antichrist ecumenism) This is the biggest insult of all times against Christ. If other religions lead also to salvation, then God’s plan of the incarnation of the Son – His teachings, miracles, crucifixion and resurrection – were futile and in vain! Only a devil could support such things. And yet bishops and priests adore this man!
  • Believes and preaches that the Quran (and the scriptures of other religions) is “equal to the holy scripture and as sacred” and that Muslims can go to heaven without believing in Christ.
  • Believes and preaches that many commandments of God are temporary, thus clashing even with the Lord!
  • Calls “blessed” and honors the synagogue of the Jews, where Christ and the Theotokos are insulted with such insults that it is unthinkable even to name them.
  • Believes and preaches the basic principle of Freemasonry, that is: “Let each one worship the one God as they prefer…” “God takes pleasure in the peaceful coexistence of humans, especially of those who worship Him regardless of differences existing in faith among the three major monotheistic religions.”
  • Seeks to repeal or amend a plurality of holy canons, something which for Orthodoxy is a characteristic of a heretic. He calls the canons “walls of shame.”
  • Believes and preaches—contrary to dozens of Synods and hundreds of Saints—that the Roman “church” is canonical, the mysteries are valid and the Pope is a canonical bishop. In 1995 he co-signed with the Pope a “Common Statement of Faith.”
  • In 2011 he even catechized students of the Pontifical University in favor of the Pope: The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew received a visiting group of students of the Pontifical Institute of Sant Apollinare. Referring to the students told them: “Follow the Pope. Pope Benedict XVI is a great theologian who does good in all the churches. Follow him with love and compassion.”
  • Prayed with Protestants who distort the teachings of Jesus, insult the Theotokos, despise the holy Mysteries of the Church, and being iconoclasts, they are under the anathema of the 7th Ecumenical Council.
  • He accepts the baptism of Protestants (Lutherans).
  • Recognizes the ordinations of the Anglicans.
  • In November of 1993 he lifted the anathemas between the Orthodox Church and the heresy of the Monophysites. Each side recognized the other as Orthodox. He calls the condemnations and anathemas of the Fourth Ecumenical Council against the Monophysites (which were reiterated by the subsequent Councils) “misunderstandings of the past that have been surpassed” since “there is no theology that divides us”!
  • He accepted the sacraments of papists and the UNIA…. [1991 at Balamand, Lebanon]
  • He accepted the joint declaration with the Protestants, [at the Congress of the WCC in 2006 in Porto Alegre] that there is not merely One Church, but that the 348 churches—members of the WCC—are genuine churches. One of them is the Orthodox Church! The various heretical teachings of the Protestants are considered as different ways to express the same faith and as a variety of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thus admitting that in the end there are no heresies!! “These churches are asked to keep pace even when they disagree.”

By believing in all of the above he denies four articles of the Creed.

He is a denier of the Saints and the Fathers.

He said: “Our forefathers who bequeathed to us the breakage (schism) were unlucky victims of the evil serpent and they already lie in the hands of righteous God. We ask God’s mercy on them, but as we stand before him we must rectify their errors”!!!

He is an open enemy of the Saints. But he who blasphemes the Saints is Antichrist.

If we want to follow our Saints, we must ask the condemnation and deposition of Patriarch Bartholomew and all Ecumenist bishops who prey on the flock of our Christ, if they don’t repent.

Nickolas Zotos, Orthodox Truth
September 2, 2016
Translated from Greek by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis

On Practicing the Jesus Prayer by St. Ignaty Brianchaninov

“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

THE CORRECT PRACTICE of the Jesus Prayer proceeds naturally from correct notions about God, about the most holy name of the Lord Jesus, and about man’s relationship to God.

God is an infinitely great and all-perfect being. God is the Creator and Renewer of men, Sovereign Master over men, angels, demons and all created things, both visible and invisible. Such a notion of God teaches us that we ought to stand prayerfully before Him in deepest reverence and in great fear and dread, directing toward Him all our attention, concentrating in our attention all the powers of the reason, heart, and soul, and rejecting distractions and vain imaginings, whereby we diminish alertness and reverence, and violate the correct manner of standing before God, as required by His majesty (John 4:23-24; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:27). St. Isaac the Syrian put it marvelously: “When you turn to God in prayer, be in your thoughts as an ant, as a serpent of the earth, like a worm, like a stuttering child. Do not speak to Him something philosophical or high-sounding, but approach Him with a child’s attitude” (Homily 49). Those who have acquired genuine prayer experience an ineffable poverty of the spirit when they stand before the Lord, glorify and praise Him, confess to Him, or present to Him their entreaties. They feel as if they had turned to nothing, as if they did not exist. That is natural. For when he who is in prayer experiences the fullness of the divine presence, of Life Itself, of Life abundant and unfathomable, then his own life strikes him as a tiny drop in comparison to the boundless ocean. That is what the righteous and long-suffering Job felt as he attained the height of spiritual perfection. He felt himself to be dust and ashes; he felt that he was melting and vanishing as does snow when struck by the sun’s burning rays (Job 42:6).

The name of our Lord Jesus Christ is a divine name. The power and effect of that name are divine, omnipotent and salvific, and transcend our ability to comprehend it. With faith therefore, with confidence and sincerity, and with great piety and fear ought we to proceed to the doing of the great work which God has entrusted to us: to train ourselves in prayer by using the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. “The incessant invocation of God’s name,” says Barsanuphius the Great, “is a medicine which mortifies not just the passions, but even their influence. Just as the physician puts medications or dressings on a wound that it might be healed, without the patient even knowing the manner of their operation, so also the name of God, when we invoke it, mortifies all passions, though we do not know how that happens” (421st Answer).

Our ordinary condition, the condition of all mankind, is one of fallenness, of spiritual deception, of perdition. Apprehending—and to the degree that we apprehend, experiencing—that condition, let us cry out from it in prayer, let us cry in spiritual humility, let us cry with wails and sighs, let us cry for clemency! Let us turn away from all spiritual gratifications, let us renounce all lofty states of prayer of which we are unworthy and incapable! It is impossible “to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land” (Ps. 136:5), in a heart held captive by passions. Should we hear an invitation to sing, we can know surely that it emanates “from them that have taken us captive” (Ps. 136:3). “By the waters of Babylon” tears alone are possible and necessary (Ps. 136:1).

This is the general rule for practicing the Jesus Prayer, derived from the Sacred Scriptures and the works of the Holy Fathers, and from certain conversations with genuine men of prayer. Of the particular rules, especially for novices, I deem the following worthy of mention.

St. John of the Ladder counsels that the mind should be locked into the words of the prayer and should be forced back each time it departs from it (Step XXVIII, ch. 17). Such a mechanism of prayer is remarkably helpful and suitable. When the mind, in its own manner, acquires attentiveness, then the heart will join it with its own offering—compunction. The heart will empathize with the mind by means of compunction, and the prayer will be said by the mind and heart together. The words of the prayer ought to be said without the feast hurry. even lingering, so that the mind can lock itself into each word. St. John of the Ladder consoles and instructs the coenobitic brethren who busy themselves about monastic obediences and encourages them thus to persevere in prayerful asceticism: “From those monks who are engaged in performing obediences,” he writes, “God does not expect a pure and undistracted prayer. Despair not should inattention come over you! Be of cheerful spirit and constantly compel your mind to return to itself! For the angels alone are not subject to any distraction” (Step IV, ch. 93). “Being enslaved by passions, let us persevere in praying to the Lord: for all those who have reached the state of passionlessness did so with the help of such indomitable prayer. If, therefore, you tirelessly train your mind never to stray from the words of the prayer, it will be there even at mealtime. A great champion of perfect prayer has said: ‘I had rather speak five words with my understanding … than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue’ (I Cor. 14:19). Such prayer,” that is, the grace-given prayer of the mind in the heart, which shuns imaginings, “is not characteristic of children; wherefore we who are like children, being concerned with the perfection of our prayer,” that is, the attentiveness which is acquired by locking the mind into the words of the prayer, “must pray a great deal. Quantity is the cause of quality. The Lord gives pure prayer to him who, eschewing laziness, prays much and regularly in his own manner, even if it is marred by inattention” (The Ladder, Step XXVI11, ch. 21).

Novices need more time in order to train themselves in prayer. It is impossible to reach this supreme virtue shortly after entering the monastery or following the first few steps in asceticism. Asceticism needs both time and gradual progress, so that the ascetic can mature for prayer in every respect. In order that a flower might bloom or the fruit grow on a tree, the tree must first be planted and left to develop; thus also does prayer grow out of the soil of other virtues and nowhere else. The monk will not quickly gain mastery of his mind, nor will he in a short time accustom it to abide in the words of the prayer as if enclosed in a prison. Pulled hither and thither by its acquired predilections, impressions, memories and worries, the novice’s mind constantly breaks its salvific chains and strays from the narrow to the wide path. It prefers to wander freely, to stroll in the regions of falsehood in association with the fallen spirits, to stray aimlessly and mindlessly over great expanses, though this be damaging to him and cause him great loss. The passions, those moral infirmities of human nature, are the principal cause of inattentiveness and absentmindedness in prayer. The more they are weakened in a man, the less is he distracted in spirit when praying. The passions are brought under control and mortified little by little by means of tn~e obedience, as well as by self-reproach and humility—these are the virtues upon which successful prayer is built. Concentration, which is accessible to man, is granted by God in good time to every struggler in piety and asceticism who by persistence and ardor proves the sincerity of his desire to acquire prayer.

The Russian hieromonk Dorotheus, a great instructor in spiritual asceticism, who was in this respect very much like St. Isaac the Syrian, counsels those who are learning the Jesus Prayer to recite it aloud at first. The vocal prayer, he says, will of itself turn into the mental.

“Mental prayer,” he continues, “is the result of much vocal prayer, and mental prayer leads to the prayer of the heart. The Jesus Prayer should not be said in a loud voice but quietly, just audibly enough that you can hear yourself.,’ It is particularly beneficial to practice the Jesus Prayer aloud when assailed by distraction, grief, spiritual despondency and laziness. The vocal Jesus Prayer gradually awakens the soul from the deep moral slumber into which grief and spiritual despair are wont to thrust it. It is also particularly beneficial to practice the Jesus Prayer aloud when attacked by images, appetites of the flesh, and anger; when their influence causes the blood to boil. It should be practiced when peace and tranquillity vanish from the heart, and the mind hesitates, becomes weak, and—so to speak—goes into upheaval because of the multitude of unnecessary thoughts and images. The malicious princes of the air, whose presence is hidden to physical sight but who are felt by the soul through their influences upon it, hearing as they mount their attack the name of the Lord Jesus—which they dread—will become undecided and confused, and will take fright and withdraw immediately from the soul. The method of prayer which the hieromonk suggests is very simple and easy. It should be combined with the method of St. John of the Ladder: the Jesus Prayer should be recited loud enough that you can hear yourself, without any hurry, and by locking the mind into the words of the prayer. This last, the hieromonk enjoins upon all who pray by Jesus’ name.

The method of prayer propounded by St. John of the Ladder should be adhered to even when one is practicing the method which was explained by the divine St. Nilus of Sora, in the second homily of his monastic constitution. The divine Nilus borrowed his method from the Greek Fathers, Symeon the New Theologian and Gregory of Sinai, and simplified it somewhat. Here is what St. Nilus says: “Experience will soon confirm as correct and very beneficial for mental concentration the recommendation of these holy fathers regarding restraint in breathing, i.e. that one should not breathe with great frequency.” Some, without understanding this method, exaggerate its importance and restrain their breath beyond reasonable measure, thereby injuring their lungs and at the same time inflicting harm upon their souls by assenting to such a mistake. All impulsive and extreme actions are but obstacles to success in prayer, which develops only when nurtured by the tranquil, quiet and pious disposition of both soul and body. “Whatever is immoderate comes from the demons,” says St. Pimen the Great.

The novice who is studying the Jesus Prayer will advance greatly by observing a daily rule comprising a certain number of full prostrations and bows from the waist, depending upon the strength of each individual. These are all to be performed without any hurry, with a repentant feeling in the soul and with the Jesus Prayer on the lips during each prostration. An example of such prayer may be seen in the “Homily on Faith” by St. Symeon the New Theologian. Describing the daily evening prayers of the blessed youth George, St. Symeon says: “He imagined that he was standing before the Lord Himself and prostrating himself before His holy feet, and he tearfully implored the Lord to have mercy upon him. While praying, he stood motionless like a pillar and bade his feet and the other parts of his body to stay still, especially the eyes, which were restrained from moving curiously in all directions. He stood with great fear and trepidation and denied himself sleep, despondency and laziness.” Twelve prostrations suffice in the beginning. Depending upon one’s strength, ability and circumstances, that number can be constantly increased. But when the number of prostrations increases, one should be careful to preserve the quality of one’s prayer, so that one not be carried away by a preoccupation with the physical into fruitless, and even harmful, quantity. The bows warm up the body and somewhat exhaust it, and this condition facilitates attention and compunction. But let us be watchful, very watchful, lest the state pass into a bodily preoccupation which is foreign to spiritual sentiments and recalls our fallen nature! Quantity, useful as it is when accompanied by the proper frame of mind and the proper objective, can be just as harmful when it leads to a preoccupation with the physical. The latter is recognized by its fruits which also distinguish it from spiritual ardor. The fruits of physical preoccupation are conceit, self-assurance, intellectual arrogance: in a word, pride in its various forms, all of which are easy prey to spiritual deception. The fruits of spiritual ardor are repentance, humility, weeping and tears. The rule of prostrations is best observed before going to sleep: then, after the cares of the day have passed, it can be practiced longer and with greater concentration. But in the morning and during the day it is also useful, especially for the young’ to practice prostrations moderately—from twelve to twenty bows. Prostrations stimulate a prayerful state of the mind and mortify the body as well as support and strengthen fervor in prayer.

These suggestions are, I believe, sufficient for the beginner who is eager to acquire the Jesus Prayer. “Prayer,” said the divine St. Meletius the Confessor, “needs no teacher. It requires diligence, effort and personal ardor, and then God will be its teacher.” The Holy Fathers, who have written many works on prayer in order to impart correct notions and faithful guidance to those desiring to practice it, propose and decree that one must engage in it actively in order to gain experiential knowledge, without which verbal instruction, though derived from experience, is dead, opaque, incomprehensible and totally inadequate. Conversely, he who is carefully practicing prayer and who is already advanced in it, should refer often to the writings of the Holy Fathers about prayer in order to check and properly direct himself, remembering that even the great Paul, though possessing the highest of all testimonies for his Gospel—that of the Holy Spirit—nevertheless went to Jerusalem where he communicated to the apostles who had gathered there the Gospel that he preached to the gentiles, “lest by any means,” as he said, “I should run, or had run, in vain ” (Gal. 2:2).

Translated by Stephen Karganovic from The Alphabet of Orthodox Life, Belgrade, 1974. This appeared in Orthodox Life, vol. 28, no. 5, Sept.-Oct. 1978, pp. 9-14. Reprinted with permission. For more information see the outstanding Jesus Prayer Library.

St Nicodemus the Hagiorite on Constantinople’s Right to Hear Appeals

In the Ukrainian tomos and elsewhere recently, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has asserted a universal right to hear appeals from bishops and clergy anywhere in the Orthodox world, on the basis of Canons 9 and 17 of the Council of Chalcedon. While Constantinople often likes to give the impression that this purported right is uncontested, historically it has been resisted just as often as it has been asserted. In his Rudder, St Nicodemus the Hagiorite (d. 1809) gives a long footnote to Canon 9 of the council, presented in its entirety below (Greek text after the jump) demonstrating on historical, logical and canonical grounds that Constantinople does not possess the right to hear appeals from other patriarchates, but that only an ecumenical council is the final judge in such cases. In particular, St Nicodemus notices that then, just as now, Constantinople’s claim seems to be motivated by its peculiar polemical yet highly-imitative relationship to Rome. Among other points he makes is that ecclesiastical legislation from the time of Justinian– that is, a century after the Council of Chalcedon– clearly state that there is no right to appeal the ruling of a patriarch, a law that would have been inconceivable had Canon 9 been understood as granting Constantinople the right to hear appeals against the other patriarchs.

Canon 9 of Chalcedon reads as follows:

If any cleric has a suit against a cleric, he is not to leave his own bishop and have recourse to civil courts, but is first to argue the case before his own bishop, or at least with consent of the bishop himself let justice before whomever both parties choose. If anyone infringes this, he is to be subject to the canonical penalties. If a cleric has a suit against his own, or another, bishop, he is to plead his case before the council of the province. If a bishop or cleric is in dispute with the metropolitan of the same province, he is to have recourse to the exarch of the diocese or to the see of Imperial Constantinople and plead his case there.

[From: Richard Price and Michael Gaddis, trans. The Acts of the Council of Chalcedon, vol. 3 (Liverpool: Liverpool UP): 97]

Commenting on it, St Nicodemus states:

Like bees round a hive, various opinions have surrounded this part of the present Canon. For our own authorities, being opposed to the rule and authority of the Pope, and desirous to honor the patriarch of Constantinople, have inclined to exaggeration. Hence Macrius the bishop of Ancyra understands by “exarchs of the diocese” the other Patriarchs, while to the Patriarch of Constantinople he refers the final appeal, and he wants him to be the chief and supreme judge over all the Patriarchs. Macarius was followed also by Alexias [i.e., Anna Comnena] in her History, and by Nicholas the bishop of Methone in writing against the principle of the Pope. The Papists, again, wish to establish the monarchial status of the Pope, following our authorities and concede that the Bishop of Constantinople is chief judge over all, because the Bishop of Rome is chief even of the Bishop of Constantinople according to the Canons. So the Bishop, or Pope, of Rome is the ultimate and common judge over all the patriarchs, and ahead of even the Patriarch of Constantinople in respect of judicature; accordingly, it is to him that any appeal must be taken from the four Patriarchs of the inhabited earth. These Papists are Bessarion the apostate, Binius, and Belarminus. Pope Nicholas, again, in writing against Photius to Emperor Michael represents the Canon as meaning the Bishop of Rome by the phrase “Exarch of the Diocese,” and that word “Diocese” which it employs in the singular number is meant to be taken to have a plural meaning of “dioceses,” just as, for instance, where it says “there went up a mist from the earth” (Genesis 2:6), instead of saying “there went up mists from the earth.” And that the canon says that anyone having a dispute with the Metropolitan ought to have it tried first and chiefly before the Exarch of the Diocese, that is to say, the Bishop of Rome, though by concession and on secondary grounds it may be tried before the Bishop of Constantinople.

All these men, however, are wandering far astray from the truth. For the fact that the Bishop of Constantinople has no authority to officiate in the dioceses and parishes of other Patriarchs, nor has he been given by this Canon to grant a decision in reference to an appeal on the part of the whole Church (which means a change of judicature from any court to another and higher court, in accordance with or according to Book IX of the Basilica, Title I), is plain—first, because in Act 4 of this Council held in Chalcedon the Bishop of Constantinople named Anatolius was blamed by the rulers as well as by the whole Council for overstepping his boundaries and taking Tyre from its Bishop, namely, Photius, and handing it over to Eusebius, the bishop of Berytus, and for deposing and excommunicating Photius. Notwithstanding that he offered many pretexts, in spite thereof whatever he had done was annulled and invalidated by the Council, and Photius was justified, and he received back the bishoprics of Tyre. That is why Isaac the Bishop of Ephesus told Michael, the first of the Palaeologi, that the Bishop of Constantinople does not extend his authority over the Patriarchates of the East (according to Pachymeres Book 6, ch. 1).

Secondly, because the civil and imperial laws do not state that only the judgment and decision of the Bishop of Constantinople is not subject to appeal, but merely says indefinitely that no appeal can be taken from the decision of any Patriarch or of the Patriarchs in the plural. For Justinian Novel 123 says to let the Patriarch of the Diocese ordain or prescribe those things which are consistent with the ecclesiastical Canons and with the laws, no party having any right to object to his decision. And Leo the Wise in the first title of his Legal Epitome says that the court of the Patriarch is not subject to appeal, while he is described by another as the source of ecclesiastical decisions; for it is from him that all courts derive their authority, and they can be resolved into him again. Even Justinian too, in Book 3, ch. 2, of his Ecclesiastical Compilation, says: “Let the competent Patriarch examine the decision without fearing an appeal”; and in Book 1, Title 4, of his Ecclesiastical Injunction: “The decisions of Patriarchs cannot be appealed”; and again, in Book 1, Title 4, ch. 29: “It has been made a law by the Emperors preceding us that no appeal can be taken from the decisions rendered by Patriarchs.” So, considering the fact that according to these emperors, who agree with the sacred Canons, the decisions of all Patriarchs are insusceptible of appeal, or, in other words, they cannot be carried to the court of any other Patriarch for review, how can the Patriarch of Constantinople grant them a hearing? And if the present canon of the 4th or even c. XVII of this Council had intended the Bishop of Constantinople to entertain appeals over the heads of the rest of the Patriarchs, how could the emperors have decreed the diametrically opposite and contrary view, at a time when they well knew that civil laws at variance with the Canons were null and void?

Thirdly, because if we grant in accordance with the foregoing Papists that the Bishop of Constantinople can judge the Patriarchs, and that he can review their decisions and judgments, since the Canon makes no exception of which or which Patriarch, he is therefore as a logical inference to be considered to have the right to judge himself and also the Bishop of Rome as well, and thus the Bishop of Constantinople becomes the first and the last and the common judge of all the Patriarchs and even of the Pope himself. So, then, with the inventions by means of which they are trying to establish the monarchic office of the Bishop of Rome, they are wrecking and demolishing it with the very same arguments.

Fourthly, because no one, even though he be a Metropolitan or a Patriarch, has any right to impose anything on churches outside his jurisdiction, excepting only the ones subject to him, according to Apostolic Canons XXXIV and XXXV, canons VI and VII of the 1st, canons III and VIII of the 2nd, canons XX, XXXVI and XXXIX of the 6th, and canons III, XI and XII of Sardica, and canon IX of Antioch, as well as others: this being so, how can the present Canon and the others have ordained the opposite and contrary of all these?

Fifthly, because if the Bishop of Constantinople had received any such privilege, how is it that the Patriarchs of Constantinople, when quarreling oftentimes with the Pope, did not claim any such right, but merely insisted that the priorities were equal? Or, be that as it may, how is it that no other Christian amid their quarrels and differences ever called the Bishop of Constantinople greater than the Bishop of Rome? So the Lord liveth, He liveth!

The true explanation of the canon is this. The Exarch of the Diocese, according to Balsamon, is not the Metropolitan of the province (since a Diocese comprises many provinces and metropolis), but the Metropolitan of the Diocese; nor the Patriarch, for, as canon VI of the Second Ecumenical Council says, if anyone dishonors all the Bishops of the Diocese, which is the same thing as saying the Exarch of the Diocese, which indeed the present canon does say: whereas a Synod of the Diocese and an Exarch of the Diocese occupies a different from that held by each Patriarch together with the bishops subject to him. So the Exarch of a diocese is the Metropolitan of the diocese who has some privilege over and above the other Metropolitans of the same diocese. But this privilege of Exarchs is not today in effect. For though certain Metropolitans are called Exarchs, yet other Metropolitans in their dioceses are not subject to them. So it appears, from what the same Balsamon says, that in those times the Exarchs of dioceses were certain others (among whom, according to Zonaras, were those of Caesarea, Cappadocia, Ephesus, Thessalonica and Corinth) who wore polystavriain their churches. These polystavria were in reality chasubles embroidered with many crosses, as Balsamon says, on page 447 of the Juris Graecoromanus. Nevertheless, that privilege ceased to be exercised either immediately or not long after this Fourth Ecumenical Council was held. That explains why Justinian fails to mention it in what he says concerning disputes between clergymen, notwithstanding that he enumerates the other courts or tribunals of clergymen.

So it is evident that the Canon means that if any bishop or clergyman has a dispute or difference with the Metropolitan of an exarchy, let him appeal to the Exarch of the diocese; which is the same thing as saying that clergymen and metropolitans subject to the throne of Constantinople must have their case tried either before the Exarch of the diocese in which they are situated, or before the Bishop of Constantinople, as before a Patriarch of their own. I did not say that if any clergyman has a dispute or difference with the Metropolitan of some other diocese, or if a Metropolitan has a dispute or a difference with the Metropolitan of any diocese or parish whatever, they must be tried before the Bishop of Constantinople. Nor did I say, Let him apply first to the Exarch of the diocese, or to the Bishop of Constantinople, as Pope Nicholas above garbles and misexplains the Canon; but, on the contrary, it left it to the choice of the ones to be judged to determine with equal rights whether they should go to the Exarch of the diocese or to the Bishop of Constantinople and be tried in precisely the same manner and equally well either before the one or before the other. That is why Zonaras too says that the Bishop of Constantinople is not necessarily entitled to sit as judge over all Metropolitans, but over those who are judicially subject to him (interpretation of canon XVII of the present 4th Council). And in his interpretation of canon V of Sardica the same authority says: “The Bishop of Constantinople must hear the appeals only of those who are subject to the Bishop of Constantinople, precisely as the Bishop of Rome must hear the appeals only of those who are subject to the Bishop of Rome.” Now, however, that the Synod and the Exarch of the diocese are no longer active or in effect, the Bishop of Constantinople is the first and sole and ultimate judge of the Metropolitans under him, but not of those under any of the rest of the Patriarchs. For it is only an ecumenical council that is the ultimate and most common judge of all Patriarchs, as we have said, and there is none other.

In view of the fact that, as we have stated, these Exarchs mentioned by the Canon were long ago displumed, those who are now called Exarchs, as representatives sent abroad by the Church, are names for ecclesiastical services.

[From: The Rudder, trans. D. Cummings (Chicago: Orthodox Christian Educational Society, 1957): 253-255, lightly edited for formatting and accuracy of translation; emphasis added]


Irmos: The prophet heard of Thy coming, O Lord, and was afraid that Thou wast to be born of a Virgin and appear to men, and he said, ‘I have heard the report of Thee and am afraid.’ Glory to Thy power, O Lord.
Refrain: Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me. TROPARIA
Watch, O my soul, and take courage like the Great Patriarch Jacob of old, that thou mayest acquire action with spiritual understanding, and be named Israel, ‘the mind that sees God’; and so shalt thou penetrate the impassable darkness through contemplation, and obtain a great treasure as thy reward.
By fathering the twelve Patriarchs, the Great Patriarch Jacob established a mystical ladder of active ascent for thee, O my soul; wisely setting his sons as the steps at each level of ascent.
Thou hast rivaled the hated Esau, O my soul, for thou hast given up the birthright of thy first beauty to the deceiver thus forsaking thy father’s blessing. Twice then, hast thou fallen, once in action and once in understanding; Repent now, thou wretched soul.
Esau was known as Edom because of his raging love for women; for burning always with desires and stained with sensual pleasures, he was named ‘Edom’ which means the red-hot heat of a sin-loving soul.
Thou hast heard of Job, O my soul, who was justified on a dung heap; yet thou hast not imitated his courage nor hast thou shown any firmness of will in the face of thy trials and temptations but hast proved cowardly and weak.
He that once sat upon a throne now lies naked on a dung heap, covered with his sores. He that had many children and was once admired by all is suddenly bereft of children and is left without a home; yet for him the dung heap is a palace, and his sores a chain of pearls.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
To the Trinity: I confess Thee as undivided in Essence, unconfused in Persons, One Triune Divinity, co-reigning and co-enthroned! And to Thee, I raise the great Thrice-holy hymn that is sung on high.
Now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Theotokion: Thou givest birth and art a virgin, and in both thou remainest a virgin by nature. He Who is born renews the laws of nature, and the womb gives birth without travail. When God so wills, the order of nature is overruled, for He does whatsoever He wills.

Irmos: Out of the night watching early for Thee, enlighten me I pray, O Lover of man, and guide me in Thy commandments and teach me O Savior, to do Thy will.
Refrain: Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me. TROPARIA
Thou hast heard, O my soul, of the basket of Moses and how he was carried on the waves of the river as if in an ark; and so he avoided the execution of Pharaoh’s bitter decree.
Thou hast heard, O wretched soul, of the midwives who were ordered to put to death in infancy the fruit of manly chastity. Be then like Moses who survived, and ponder wisdom.
Thou, O wretched soul, hast not struck and killed the lustful mind of the Egyptian, as did Moses. How then, shalt thou dwell in that desert where all passions are slain through repentance?
Moses the great went to dwell in the desert; Come then, O my soul, and emulate his life that thou mayest also behold through contemplation, the vision of God in the bush not consumed by the fire.
Imagine, O my soul, the rod of Moses, which divided the sea and dried up the abyss as an image of the Divine and Holy Cross. Through the Cross thou canst also accomplish great things.
While Aaron offered to God a fire that was pure and undefiled, Hophni and Phineas brought to Him, as didst thou, O my soul, a strange sacrifice and a polluted life.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
To the Trinity: We glorify Thee, O Trinity, as One God! Holy, Holy, Holy, art Thou, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; simple Essence and Unity worshipped for ever.
Now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.
Theotokion: From thee, O Virgin undefiled and maiden Mother, has God the Creator of the ages, become vested in my human flesh, uniting to Himself the nature of man.


On Repentance . St John of Shanghai and SanFrancisco.

On Repentance.

Open to me the doors of repentance, O Giver of Life!

Repentance is expressed by the Greek word, metanoia. In the literal sense, this means a change of mind. In other words, repentance is a change of one’s disposition, one’s way of thinking; a change of one’s inner self. Repentance is a reconsideration of one’s views, an alteration of one’s life.

How can this come about? In the same way that a dark room into which a man enters is illumined by the rays of the sun. Looking around the room in the dark, he can make out certain things, but there is a great deal he does not see and does not even suspect is there. Many things are perceived quite differently from what they actually are. He has to move carefully, not knowing what obstacles he might encounter. When, however, the room becomes bright, he can see things clearly and move about freely.

The same thing happens in spiritual life.

When we are immersed in sins, and our mind is occupied solely with worldly cares, we do not notice the state of our soul. We are indifferent to who we are inwardly, and we persist along a false path without being aware of it.

But then a ray of God’s Light penetrates our soul. And what filth we see in ourselves! How much untruth, how much falsehood! How hideous many of our actions prove to be, which we fancied to be so wonderful. And it becomes clear to us which is the true path.

If we then recognize our spiritual nothingness, our sinfulness, and earnestly desire our amendment — we are near to salvation. From the depths of our soul we shall cry out to God: “Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy according to Thy Great mercy!” “Forgive me and save me!” “Grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother!”

As Great Lent begins, let us hasten to forgive each other all hurts and offenses. May we always hear the words of the Gospel for Forgiveness Sunday: If ye forgive men their debts, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their debts, neither will your Father forgive your debts (Matt. 6:14-15).

On remembrance of death by St John Climacus


On remembrance of death.

1. Every word is preceded by thought. And the remembrance of death and sins precedes weeping and mourning. Therefore, this subject comes in its proper place in this chapter.

2. The remembrance of death is a daily death; and the remembrance of our departure is an hourly sighing or groaning.

3. Fear of death is a natural instinct that comes from disobedience; but terror at death is evidence of unrepented sin. Christ fears death,4 but does not show terror, in order to demonstrate clearly the properties of His two natures.

4 St. Matthew xxvi, 37.

4. As of all foods bread is the most essential, so the thought of death is the most necessary of all works. The remembrance of death amongst those in the midst of society gives birth to distress and frivolity, and even more—to despondency. But amongst those who are free from noise it produces the putting aside of cares, and constant prayer and guarding of the mind. But these same virtues both produce the remembrance of death and are also produced by it.

5. As tin is distinct from silver although it resembles it in appearance, so for the discerning there is a clear and obvious difference between the natural and supernatural fear of death.

6. A true sign of those who are mindful of death in the depth of their being is a voluntary detachment from every creature and complete renunciation of their own will.

7. He who with undoubting trust daily expects death is virtuous; but he who hourly yields himself to it is a saint.

8. Not every desire for death is good. Some, constantly sinning from force of habit, pray for death with humility. And some, who do not want to repent, invoke death out of despair. And some, out of self-esteem consider themselves dispassionate, and for a while have no fear of death. And some (if such can now be found) through the action of the Holy Spirit long for their departure.

9. . Some inquire and wonder: ‘Why, when the remembrance of death is so beneficial for us, has God hidden from us the know ledge of the hour of death?’—not knowing that in this way God wonderfully accomplishes our salvation. For no one who foreknew his death would at once proceed to baptism or the monastic life; but everyone would spend all his days in iniquities, and only on the day of his death would he approach baptism and repentance. From long habit he would become confirmed in vice, and would remain utterly incorrigible.

10. Never, when mourning for your sins accept that cur1 which suggests to you that God is tender hearted (this thought is useful only when you see yourself being dragged down to deep despair). For the aim of the enemy is to thrust from you your mourning and fearless fear.

11. He who wishes ever to retain within him the remembrance of death and judgment and God, and at the same time yields to material cares and distractions, is like a man who is swimming and wants to clap his hands.

12. A vivid remembrance of death cuts down food; and when in humility food is cut, the passions are cut out too.

13. Insensibility of heart dulls the mind, and abundance of food dries the fountains of tears. Thirst and vigil afflict the heart, and when the heart is afflicted the waters flow. The things we have said will seem cruel to epicures and incredible to the indolent; but a man of action will readily test them, and he who has found them out by experience will smile at them. But he who is still seeking will become more gloomy.

14. Just as the Fathers lay down that perfect love knows no sin, so I for my part declare that a perfect sense of death is free from fear.

15. There are many activities for an active mind. I mean, meditation on the love of God, on the remembrance of God, on the remembrance of the Kingdom, on the remembrance of the zeal of the holy martyrs, on the remembrance of God Himself present, according to him who said, ‘I saw the Lord before me,’2 on remembrance of the holy and spiritual powers, on remembrance of one’s departure, judgment, punishment and sentence. We began with the sublime, but have ended with things that never fail.

1 I.e. the devil. 2 Psalm xv, 8.

16. An Egyptian monk once told me: ‘After I had established in my heart the remembrance of death, whenever need arose and I wanted to comfort the clay a little, this remembrance prevented me like a judge. And the wonderful thing was that, even though I wanted to thrust it away, I was quite unable to do so.’

17. Another who lived here in the place called Thola, often went into ecstasy at the thought of death; and the brothers who found him would lift him and carry him off scarcely breathing, like one who had fainted or had an epileptic fit.

18. And I cannot be silent about the story of Hesychius the Horebite. He passed his life in complete negligence, without paying the least attention to his soul. Then he became extremely ill, and for an hour he left his body. And when he came to himself he begged us all to leave him immediately. And he built up the door of his cell, and he stayed in it for twelve years without ever uttering a word to anyone, and without eating anything but bread and water. And, always remaining motionless, he was so wrapt in spirit in what he had seen in his ecstasy that he never changed his place but was always as if out of his mind, and silently shed hot tears. But when he was about to die, we broke open the door and went in, and after many questions this alone was all we heard from him: ‘Forgive me! No one who has acquired the remembrance of death will ever be able to sin.’ We were amazed to see that one who had before been so negligent was so suddenly transfigured by this blessed change and transformation. We reverently buried him in the cemetery near the fort1 and after some days we looked for his holy relics, but did not find them. So by his true and praiseworthy repentance the Lord showed us that even after long negligence He accepts those who desire to amend.

19. Just as some declare that the abyss is infinite, for they call it a bottomless place, so the thought of death brings chastity and activity to a state of incorruption. The above-mentioned saint confirms the truth of what has been said. For such men, unceasingly adding fear to fear, do not stop until the very strength of their bones is spent.

20. Let us rest assured that the remembrance of death, like all other blessings, is a gift of God; since how is it that often when we are at the very tombs we are left tearless and hard; and frequently when we have no such sight, we are full of compunction?

21. He who has died to all things remembers death, but who ever is still tied to the world does not cease plotting against himself.

22. Do not wish to assure everyone in words of your love for them, but rather ask God to show them your love without words. Otherwise time will not suffice you for both intimacies and compunction.

23. Do not deceive yourself, rash worker, as if one time can make up for another. For the day is not sufficient to repay in full its own debt to the Lord.

24. It is impossible, someone says, impossible to spend the present day devoutly unless we regard it as the last of our whole life. And it is truly astonishing how even the pagans2 have said something of the sort, since they define philosophy as meditation on death.

This is the sixth step. He who has mounted it will never sin again. Remember thy last end, and thou shalt never sin.3

1 Justinian built a fort on Mount Sinai as well as a church and monastery (Procopius, De aedificiis, V, viii). Today the fort is represented by the actual monastery; cf. E. A. Sophocles, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (1887), Kastron, Clim. P.G., 88, 79A, 812B, ‘now the Monastery of Mount Sinai’.

2 Gk. Hellēnes.

3 Ecclesiasticus vii, 36.