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Featured Reflections

October 21, 2015 + On the Benefits of Knowing Holy Scripture

by St. Theophan the Recluse ca. 1815-1894

Psalm 118:16 - On Thy statutes will I meditate; I will not forget Thy words.

St. Basil the Great bears witness that in his time children were made to memorize some psalms and parables. Do we do anything like that now? Is anything like that done by those who have taken up the yoke of asceticism? Yes, in many ways we have fallen behind the salutary practices of old. This, however, does not diminish the value of what is described in this verse. It means the following: Memorize verses of Scripture considered in the preceding text, and repeat what was memorized whenever the mind and speech are free. The Hebrew word corresponding to will meditate means "to turn over with delight in the mind and on the tongue" — as one might a piece of candy, for instance. Such an occupation could be offered to all who sincerely seek to please God in all.

Among us, amy of those living ascetic lives read the Psalter at home in their cells. This partly fulfills the lesson of our verse. And perhaps home prayers, personal and monastic, could be regarded as this type of activity. But more directly it means: to intentionally choose passages of the Holy Scriptures for memorizing and then repeating them in our minds.

October 14, 2015 + On How the Angels Do Battle for the Righteous

Homily by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him and delivers them (Psalm 34:7).

The angel of the Lord will do battle for those who fear God. This has been clearly shown many times, as has been recorded; and it has occurred numberless times that have not been recorded. The Archangel Michael took up arms for Joshua, the Son of Nun. An angel did battle for the righteous King Hezekiah and, in one night, destroyed the army of the Chaldeans. How many times have angels visited the Christian apostles and martyrs of in prison, strengthened them, and caused them to rejoice? The consolation of the righteous one comes from knowing that God is All-seeing, and sees his misfortune; that God is Omnipotent, and has power to save him from misfortune; that God is All-merciful, and will save him from misfortune. God will send His radiant angel to the aid of the righteous. The righteous one will not have to struggle against his tyrant, for the angel of God will do battle in his place. When God's angel takes up arms, what army dares confront him? What empire will wage war against him? In an earlier Psalm, the Prophet David says: No king is saved by the multitude of an army; a mighty man is not delivered by great strength. A horse is a vain hope for safety (Psalm 33:16-17).

October 7, 2015 + Prayer at Daybreak: To Be Said Each Day on Rising from Sleep

Elder Sophrony (+1993) of Essex, spiritual child of St Silouan the Athonite, gave this prayer to his own spiritual children, to be said 'on rising from sleep.' This version of the prayer is adapted from Hesychia and Theology by Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, who writes, 'If someone reads this prayer in the morning with contrition and attention, the whole day will be blessed.'

Eternal King without beginning, You who are before all worlds, my Maker, Who have summoned all things from non-being into this life: bless this day that You, in Your inscrutable goodness, give to me. By the power of Your blessing enable me at all times in this coming day to speak and act for You, to Your glory, in Your fear, according to Your will, with a pure spirit, with humility, patience, love, gentleness, peace, courage, wisdom and prayer, aware everywhere of Your presence.

Yes, Lord, in Your immense mercy, lead me by Your Holy Spirit into every good work and word, and grant me to walk all my life long in Your sight without stumbling, according to Your righteousness that You have revealed to us, that I may not add to my transgressions.

O Lord, great in mercy, spare me who am perishing in wickedness; do not hide Your face from me. And when my perverted will would lead me down other paths, do not forsake me, my Savior, but force me back to Your holy path.

September 30, 2015 + The Church of Christ is Alive and Free

A word to Orthodox Christians from Fr. George Calciu (+2006), offered by Fr. Seraphim Rose (+1982) is his lecture entitled "The Orthodox World-View"

The Church of Christ is alive and free. In her we move and have our being, through Christ Who is her Head. In Him we have full freedom. In the Church we learn of truth and the truth will set us free (John 8:32). You are in Christ's Church whenever you uplift someone bent down in sorrow, or when you give alms to the poor, and visit the sick. You are in Christ's Church when you cry out: "Lord, help me." You are in Christ's Church when you are good and patient, when you refuse to get angry at your brother, even if he has wounded your feelings. You are in Christ's Church when you pray: 'Lord, forgive him.' When you work honestly at your job, returning home weary in the evenings but with a smile upon your lips; when you repay evil with love—you are in Christ's Church. Do you not see, therefore, young friend, how close the Church of Christ is? You are Peter and God is building His Church upon you. You are the rock of His Church against which nothing can prevail....Let us build churches with our faith, churches which no human power can pull down, a church whose foundation is Christ....Feel for your brother alongside you. Never ask: 'Who is he?' Rather say: 'He is no stranger; he is my brother. He is the Church of Christ just as I am.'

September 23, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 6

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

Father Paisios always insisted by saying:

"When one of our brothers has a negative thought, we must try to kindly and humbly correct it. It is our duty to do so. Today many people, unfortunately including some of our spiritual fathers, instead of trying to correct falsified thoughts, they either consent to them, or even distort the positive ones. I will give you an example so you can understand the way they function:

Suppose a young man says to his spiritual father:
- A friend of mine did this and that to me.
And thus, he starts telling him his negative thoughts about his friend. His spiritual father, instead of trying to change his thoughts and make him love his friend again, views his problem from a social point of view, and wishing to be nice, says to him:

- Since you know what kind of person your friend is, do not pay attention to him. Just ignore him.
The young man may superficially feel better after listening to the words of his spiritual father, but his negative predisposition towards his friend is still inside him. Now, when his friend goes to the same spiritual father to tell him the same things, the spiritual father faces the problem in the same way. He once again regards the problem from a social point of view and calms him down. He lets him, however, keep inside him the negative thoughts he has for his friend.

September 16, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 5

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

The Elder started telling us:

- I know from experience that in this life people are divided in two categories. A third category does not exist; people either belong to one or the other. The first one resembles the fly. The main characteristic of the fly is that it is attracted by dirt. For example, when a fly is found in a garden full of flowers with beautiful fragrances, it will ignore them and will go sit on top of some dirt found on the ground. It will start messing around with it and feel comfortable with the bad smell. If the fly could talk, and you asked it to show you a rose in the garden, it would answer: "I don't even know what a rose looks like. I only know where to find garbage, toilets and dirt." There are some people who resemble the fly. People belonging to this category have learned to think negatively and always look for the bad things in life, ignoring and refusing the presence of good. 

Saving God's Creation: Another East-West Alliance

by Fr. George Morelli
SSJC-WR President's Message Summer 2015

Patriarch Bartholomew I and Metropolitan John of PergamumPatriarch Bartholomew I and Metropolitan John of PergamumAn exciting convergence of agreement between major Eastern and Western Churches has recently taken place on a critical contemporary moral issue: care for the environment. Orthodox Metropolitan John Zizioulas of Pergamum has labeled the issue in question existential ecumenism,i because it deals with the problem of living out our lives on earth and cosmos, the creation God has given us dominion over. (Gn 1: 28)

September 9, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 4

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

- When laymen listen to and believe in their own thoughts, they lose their minds, whereas monks are filled with illusions. A monk should not take tranquillizers; his medication is humbleness and repentance. This monk lacks both of these virtues. When these will fill his soul again, all his problems will be solved. Sometimes, he went on, when children behave badly towards their parents or insult them, they immediately start to be receptive to the devil's energies and become confused. By cursing or slandering their parents, they give the devil the right to interfere in their lives and control their actions. The same thing happens to monks, when they accept negative thoughts about their elder or the rest of the monks; this way, they give the right to the devil to fight them. When someone trusts his negative thoughts, he tends to disregard other people's advice. He can only listen to someone whom he absolutely trusts- after his own thoughts. For this reason, when he needs help, he can only accept it from the person he trusts the most. Concerning medication, that is tranquillizers, they may be of some assistance to people in serious conditions, that is, those who are filled with illusions, or are on the verge of losing their minds. If, for example, our fellow man's mental condition is seriously deteriorating, we should give him a certain dose of medication to stabilize it. At the same time, we must show him love and try to correct his negative thinking and persuade him not to listen to his own thoughts. As his condition is improving, the dose of his medication should also be reduced. This should last for a while.

August 26, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 2

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

Looking at this subject from a different point of view, Elder Paisios stressed and greatly emphasised the specific characteristic of love, that is, that “love is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor 13:4). He used to say that “we should never, even under the worst circumstances, allow a negative thought to penetrate our soul." The person, who, under all circumstances, is inclined to have positive thoughts, will always be a winner; his life will be a constant festivity, since it is constantly based on his positive thinking. Our acts depend on and are determined by the “machine” we have inside us, and not by the “material” we digest, or the environment we live in. I will give you an example, so you can better understand what I am trying to say:

If one has a machine that produces bullets and feeds it with the highest quality material, let’s say gold, the machine will still convert gold into bullets, golden but destructive bullets; if he feeds it with silver, then it will produce silver bullets; if he feeds it with iron, it will produce iron bullets, or if he feeds it with clay, it will produce clay bullets. In other words, no matter what material he feeds his machine, it still produces bullets, because it was made to manufacture these destructive products. If someone converts the machine into one that produces holy chalices instead of bullets, then whatever material he feeds it, it will always produces holy chalices. If he puts in the machine clay or iron, it will manufacture clay or iron chalices respectively.

September 2, 2015 + On Positive Thinking - Part 3

by St. Paisios the Athonite

"For perverse thoughts separate men from God" (Wis 1:3)

One afternoon, I went to visit the Elder. At the fence of his cell stood a man about thirty years old, waiting for him to open the door. When I arrived, Father Paisios opened his window and asked who it is. I replied:

- It's me, Father, and one layman, I said (and I told him his name).

- Tell the layman to leave, he replied.

Then, the layman said beggingly:
- Father, I really wish to see you.

The Elder answered reproachfully:
- Go, because you upset me as you only trust your own way of thinking and do not listen to what I tell you. Why are you coming here wasting your time?

And he told him to go away. Then, he came and opened the door for me to come in.
- He is a real burden, Father Paisios told me. He does not listen to my words. He comes, ask questions and leaves; after a short while, he comes back and asks me the same things over and over again. This happens because he always listens to his own thoughts; therefore, he forgets what I tell him or does not understand a word.

There was another young man who relied completely on his own thoughts and was led astray. One day, he visited Father Paisios, who told him:
- Do not listen to your thoughts, because you will end up losing your mind. Be careful, you have a very good machine, but its wheel faces the wrong direction. You have to turn it to the right direction, where the good thoughts are. Only you, yourself, can do this along with the help of God. Nobody else can do it for you, as you are free and self-dependent. You turn the wheel and your spiritual father will show you the direction.