Great Lent – Friday of the 1st Week

image (1)1st Friday of Great Lent
Step 4: On blessed and ever-memorable obedience
(day 3 of 5 on this topic)

35. I must not fail to adorn the crown of this step with this emerald. Once I started a discussion on silence with some of the most experienced elders in the community. With a smile on their faces and in jovial mood they said to me in a friendly way: ‘We, Father John, being material, live a material life, preferring to wage war according to the measure of our weakness, and considering it better to struggle with men, who are sometimes fierce and some times penitent, than with demons who are continually raging and up in arms against us!’

40. Once one of the brothers was expelled by him for slandering his neighbour to him and calling him a windbag and gossip. The expelled man did not leave the gates of the monastery for a whole week, begging to be granted entry and forgiveness. When that lover of souls learnt of this, and heard that this brother had had nothing to eat for six days, he told him: ‘If you have a resolute desire to live in the monastery, I will degrade you to the rank of a penitent.’ And when the penitent gladly accepted this, the pastor ordered him to be taken to the separate monastery for those who were mourning over their falls. And that was done. But since we have mentioned that monastery, I shall now speak about it briefly. [I will not paste here anything from this section of the other monastery, called The Prison.]

42. To admire the labours of the saints is good; to emulate them wins salvation; but to wish suddenly to imitate their life in every point is unreasonable and impossible.

49. He who is not submissive in speech, clearly will not be so in act either. For he who is unfaithful in little is also unfaithful in much, and is intractable. He labours in vain, and he will get nothing from holy obedience but his own doom.

53. By resolving to make one’s confession, the soul is thereby held from sinning as by a bridle. For what we do not confess, that we do fearlessly as though in the dark.

64. If everything depends on habit, and follows upon it, then still more do the virtues depend on habit, for they have God as their great collaborator.

For the complete selection of postings from this Great Lent, click here.

[Quotations from: The Ladder of Divine Ascent, published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (ISBN 0943405033), which is based on Archimandrite Lazarus Moore’s translation]

Great Lent – Thursday of the 1st Week

icons1st Thursday of Great Lent
Step 4: On blessed and ever-memorable obedience
(day 2 of 5 on this topic)

About Abbacyrus
4:29. Let us hear and wonder at the wisdom of God found in earthen vessels. When I was in the same monastery, I was amazed at the faith and patience of the novices, and how they bore rebukes and insults from the superior with invincible fortitude, and some times even expulsion; and endured this not only from the superior but even from those far below him. For my spiritual edification I questioned one of the brothers called Abbacyrus who had lived fifteen years in the monastery. For I saw that almost all greatly maltreated him, and those who served drove him out of the refectory almost every day because the brother was by nature just a little too talkative. And I said to him: ‘Brother Abbacyrus, why do I see you being driven out of the refectory every day, and often going to bed without supper?’ He replied: ‘Believe me, Father, my fathers are testing me to see whether I am really a monk. But they are not doing this in real earnest. And knowing the great man’s aim and theirs, I bear all this without getting depressed; and I have done so now for fifteen years. For on my entry into the monastery they themselves told me that those who renounce the world are tested for thirty years. And rightly, Father John, for without trial gold is not purified.’

4:30. This heroic Abbacyrus lived in the monastery for two years after my coming there, and then passed to the Lord. Just before his death he said to the Fathers: ‘I am thankful, thankful to the Lord and to you. For having been tempted by you for my salvation, I have lived for seventeen years without temptations from devils.’ The just shepherd duly rewarded him and ordered him, as a confessor, to be buried with the local saints.

For the complete selection of postings from this Great Lent, click here.

[Quotations from: The Ladder of Divine Ascent, published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (ISBN 0943405033), which is based on Archimandrite Lazarus Moore’s translation]

Lenten Reading Recommendation – The Orthodox Understanding of Salvation

The Orthodox Understanding of SalvationDr. Christopher Veniamin was one of my professors when I studied at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary in South Canaan, PA. In fact, he was my favorite professor. Over my years at school, and afterward, I got to know Dr. Christopher, and I consider him a friend.

I will not try to write out several paragraphs about him, nor even about this book I am recommending – I will paste below some excerpts from his website about both of those things. But I will say that this is a magnificent book. Written by a scholar, but accessible for everyone, and opening up for the reader the most important of life’s questions – salvation in Christ.

Dr. Veniamin speaking at St. Peter Orthodox Church in Madison, MS.

Dr. Veniamin speaking at St. Peter Orthodox Church in Madison, MS.


THE ORTHODOX UNDERSTANDING OF SALVATION: “THEOSIS” IN SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION
About the book, from the Mount Thabor website:
Veniamin’s talks and articles, hitherto available in relatively little-known theological journals and periodicals, which pertain to the fundamental question of the purpose of human existence, to Salvation, as understood in the age-old and unbroken tradition of the Orthodox Christian Faith – the faith of the Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs and Saints of our Lord, God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

This is a scholarly work, which aims to initiate the reader into the fundamental theological presuppositions of Patristic theology. The juxtaposition of works delivered to diverse audiences is deliberate, inasmuch as it is designed to demonstrate that the same principles are applicable to the sermon and theological treatise alike, that in the Orthodox Christian tradition there is no separation between ethics and doctrine, but rather that Christian living and theology are one indivisible reality, because Christ – the measure of all things human and divine, created and uncreated – is One. Divided into two parts, Praxis and Theoria, this book covers a wide range of topics, based on key Scriptural passages and the writings of some of the greatest masters of the Christian spiritual life, all of which are held together by criteria which are born not of speculation but of the face to face encounter with the living God.

Dr. Veniamin signing books after a talk at St. Peter Orthodox Church in Madison, MS.

Dr. Veniamin signing books after a talk at St. Peter Orthodox Church in Madison, MS.

About the author, Dr. Christopher Veniamin (also from the Mount Thabor website): Dr. Christopher Veniamin was born and raised in London, England, of Greek Cypriot parents, is a spiritual child of Elder Sophrony of Essex, and Professor of Patristics at St. Tikhon’s Seminary, in Pennsylvaia, USA. He is a graduate of the School of Theology in the University of Thessalonica, and holds the doctorate in Theology from Oxford University, where he studied under the Most Revd Dr. Kallistos Ware, Metropolitan of Diokleia. His doctoral thesis, “The Transfiguration of Christ in Greek Patristic Literature: From Irenaeus of Lyons to Gregory Palamas,” was a diachronic study of the meaning of the Transfiguration in Patristic theology, spanning a period of some thirteen centuries.

Professor Veniamin has produced numerous articles ranging in subject from the Apocryphal writings of the New Testament to Euthanasia, he is the publisher of the seminal works of Archimandrite Zacharias Zacharou (The Enlargement of the Heart, The Hidden Man of the Heart, and Remember Thy First Love), and has edited and translated, from the original Greek into English, the first complete edition of the sermons of Gregory Palamas (Saint Gregory Palamas: The Homilies), for which he also wrote the introduction and scholia.

In case you missed the links above, the book can be purchased here: THE ORTHODOX UNDERSTANDING OF SALVATION: “THEOSIS” IN SCRIPTURE AND TRADITION

Great Lent – Tuesday of the 1st Week

Ice in MS on the 2nd day of Great Lent 2015

Ice in MS on the 2nd day of Great Lent 2015

1st Tuesday of Great Lent
Step 2: On detachment
Step 3: On exile or pilgrimage

2:8. Let us pay close attention to ourselves so that we are not deceived into thinking that we are following the strait and narrow way when in actual fact we are keeping to the wide and broad way. The following will show you what the narrow way means: mortification of the stomach, all-night standing, water in moderation, short rations of bread, the purifying draught of dishonour, sneers, derision, insults, the cutting out of one’s own will, patience in annoyances, unmurmuring endurance of scorn, disregard of insults, and the habit, when wronged, of bearing it sturdily; when slandered, of not being indignant; when humiliated, not to be angry; when condemned, to be humble. Blessed are they who follow the way we have just described, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

2:11. If anyone thinks he is without attachment to some object, but is grieved at its loss, then he is completely deceiving himself.

3:1. Exile means that we leave forever everything in our own country that prevents us from reaching the goal of the religious life. Exile means modest manners, wisdom which remains unknown, prudence not recognized as such by most, a hidden life, an invisible intention, unseen meditation, desire for humiliation, longing for hardship, constant determination to love God, abundance of charity, renunciation of vainglory, depth of silence.

3:7. Have you become an exile from the world? Do not touch the world any more; because the passions desire nothing better than to return.

3:9. Run from places of sin as from the plague. For when fruit is not present, we have no frequent desire to eat it.

3:12. It is better to grieve our parents than the Lord. For He has created and saved us, but they have often ruined their loved ones and delivered them up to their doom.

3: 26. A dream is a movement of the mind while the body is at rest. A phantasy is an illusion of the eyes when the intellect is asleep. A phantasy is an ecstasy of the mind when the body is awake. A phantasy is the appearance of something which does not exist in reality.

3:27. The reason why we have decided to speak about dreams here is obvious. When we leave our home and relatives for the Lord’s sake, and sell ourselves into exile for the love of God, then the devils try to disturb us with dreams, representing to us that our relatives are either grieving or dying, or are captive for our sake and destitute. But he who believes in dreams is like a person running after his own shadow and trying to catch it.

For the complete selection of postings from this Great Lent, click here.

[Quotations from: The Ladder of Divine Ascent, published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (ISBN 0943405033), which is based on Archimandrite Lazarus Moore’s translation]

Great Lent – Monday of the 1st Week

imageIt is a long standing tradition for Orthodox Christians (and particularly monastics) to read the spiritual classic The Ladder of Divine Ascent over the weeks of Great Lent. The Ladder was written by the ascetic, monastic, and abbot St. John Climacus around 600 AD, and has been a staple of spiritual reading for many generations.

I know that many of my readers are not Orthodox Christians, and so I’ve decided to post some of the gems that stick out to me during this particular Lent – perhaps they’ll be meaningful to some of you as well.


General information:
St. John Climacus

The Ladder of Divine Ascent

1st Monday of Great Lent
Step 1: On renunciation of the world

3. God belongs to all free beings. He is the life of all, the salvation of all—faithful and unfaithful, just and unjust, pious and impious, passionate and dispassionate, monks and seculars, wise and simple, healthy and sick, young and old—just as the diffusion of light, the sight of the sun, and the changes of the weather are for all alike; ‘for there is no respect of persons with God’.

5. All who have willingly left the things of the world, have certainly done so either for the sake of the future Kingdom, or because of the multitude of their sins, or for love of God. If they were not moved by any of these reasons their withdrawal from the world was unreasonable. But God who sets our contests waits to see what the end of our course will be.

11. To lag in the fight at the very outset of the struggle and thereby to furnish proof of our coming defeat is a very hateful and dangerous thing. A firm beginning will certainly be useful for us when we later grow slack. A soul that is strong at first but then relaxes is spurred on by the memory of its former zeal. And in this way new wings are often obtained.

21. Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me: ‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’ I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant towards anyone; do not hate any one; be sure you go to church; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness; and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.’

[Quotations from: The Ladder of Divine Ascent, published by Holy Transfiguration Monastery (ISBN 0943405033), which is based on Archimandrite Lazarus Moore’s translation]