Beloved brothers and sisters in Our Risen Lord, God, and Only True Savior Jesus Christ,
CHRIST IS RISEN! TRULY HE IS RISEN! ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ! ΑΛΗΘΩΣ ΑΝΕΣΤΗ!
The Ladder of Divine Graces which experience has made known to those inspired by God
[From the Greek Philokalia]
The first step is that of purest prayer. From this there comes a warmth of heart, and then a strange, a holy energy, Then tears wrung from the heart, God-given. Then peace from thoughts of every kind, from this arises purging of the intellect, And next the vision of heavenly mysteries. Unheard-of light is born from this ineffably, And thence, beyond all telling, the heart's illumination. Last comes--a step that has no limit though compassed in a single line-Perfection that is endless. The ladder's lowest step Prescribes pure prayer alone. But prayer has many forms: My discourse would be long were I now to speak of them: And, friend, know that always Experience teaches one, not words. A ladder rising wondrously to heaven's vault: Ten steps that strangely vivify the soul. Ten steps that herald the soul's life. A Saint inspired by God has said: Do not deceive yourself with idle hopes that in the world to come you will find life If you have not tried to find it in this present world. Ten steps: a wisdom born of God. Ten steps: fruit of all the books. Ten steps that point towards perfection. Ten steps that lead one up to heaven. Ten steps through which a man knows God...
Please note: In the Greek Philokalia this poem appears without any introductory note, and nothing is known concerning its author. He lays particular emphasis upon the need for direct personal experience. Eternal life, he also insists, has to begin here and now, in this present world; but at the same time, like Saint Gregory of Nyssa, he sees perfection as an endless progress in the age to come, 'a step that has no limit'.
On May 12th Our Holy Orthodox Christian Church commemorates, honors and entreats the holy intercessions of the following Saints, Forefathers, Fathers, Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Preachers, Evangelists, Martyrs, Confessors, Ascetics, and Teachers of Our Holy Orthodox Christian faith: Saint Epiphanius, Bishop of Cyprus; Saint Germanos, Archbishop of Constantinople; Saint Hermogenes, Patriarch of Moscow; Saint Polyvius, Bishop of Cyprus; Saint Athanasia of the Smolensk Hodigitria Monastery; Saint Theodore of Kythera; New holy Martyr John of Wallachia; Saint Dionysius of St. Sergius Monastery.
SAINT EPIPHANIUS, BISHOP OF CYPRUS. St. Epiphanius was born a Jew, but, seeing the power of the Christian faith, was baptized with his sister, Callithrope. He became a monk at the age of twenty-six, in the monastery of Saint Hilarion. He later founded a monastery of his own, and became famed throughout Palestine and Egypt for his asceticism, his spiritual wisdom and the miracles he worked. Fleeing the praise of men, he went off to Egypt. On the way, he met St. Paphnutius the Great, who prophesied that he would be a hierarch on the island of Cyprus. And indeed, many years later, by God's providence, St. Epiphanius came to Cyprus, where he was unexpectedly chosen as bishop. He became bishop of the town of Salamis at the age of fifty, and governed the Church of God for thirty-six years. In all, he lived nearly ninety years on this earth, and entered into rest from this life to live eternally in the Kingdom of Christ.
+By the holy intercessions of Your Saints, O Christ Our God, have mercy on us and save us. Amen.
TODAY'S SACRED SCRIPTURAL READINGS ARE THE FOLLOWING:
Holy Epistle Lesson: Acts 12:1-11
Holy Gospel Lesson: St. John 8:31-42
FOR YOUR PERSONAL REFLECTION AND CONTEMPLATION
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to His abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (I Peter 1:3).
[The Philokalia is a collection of texts on prayer and the spiritual life, written between the 4th and 15th centuries by spiritual masters of the Orthodox Christian Tradition. First published in Greek in 1782, translated into Slavonic and later into Russian, the Philokalia has had a decisive influence upon the Orthodox Church during the last two centuries, and it continues to be read more and more widely.
"The Philokalia" is devoted to themes of universal significance: how we may develop our inner powers and awake from illusion; how we may overcome fragmentation and achieve wholeness; how we may attain contemplative stillness and union with God.]
A Gnomic Anthology
Here you will find, if you truly search, a flowing spring, a pure fount of moral teaching.
- No Christian believing rightly in God should ever be off his guard. He should always be on the look-out for temptation, so that when it comes he will not be surprised or disturbed, but will gladly endure the toil and affliction it causes, and so will understand what he is saying when he chants with the prophet: 'Prove me, O Lord, and try me' (Psalm 26:2). For the prophet did not say, 'Thy correction has destroyed me', but, 'it has upheld me to the end' (Psalm 18:35).
- The first step towards excellence is fear of God, the last is loving desire for Him.
- The first step towards perfection is spiritual knowledge put into practice and practice imbued with spiritual knowledge. For practice without such knowledge is of no value, and so is such knowledge when unaccompanied by practice.
- Practice where the body is concerned consists of fasting and vigil, where the mouth is concerned it consists of psalmody. But prayer is better than psalmody, and silence is more valuable than speech. In the case of the hands, practice is what they do uncomplainingly, and of the feet, it is what they do as soon as they are urged to do it.
- Where the soul is concerned, practice is self-control accompanied by simplicity, and simplicity animated by self-control.
- In the case of the intellect, practice is prayer in contemplation and contemplation in prayer.
- Mercy and truth precede all the other virtues. They in their turn produce humility and discrimination; for, according to the Fathers, discrimination comes from humility. Without discrimination, neither practice nor spiritual knowledge can fulfill its purpose.
- A courageous soul acts correctly when it is master of both practice and contemplation, like a woman who keeps two lamps burning throughout her life. But a soul debilitated by sensual pleasure fails to do what it should.
- Suffering deliberately embraced cannot free the soul totally from sin unless the soul is also tried in the fire of suffering that comes unchosen. For the soul is like a sword: if it does not go "through fire and water" (Psalm 66:12)-that is, through suffering deliberately embraced and suffering that comes unchosen--it cannot but be shattered by the blows of fortune.
- Trials and distress subsist in the soul; sensual pleasure and pain the body. Sensual pleasure gives rise to pain, and pain to sensual pleasure (for, wanting to escape the wearisome feeling of pain, we take refuge in sensual pleasure); while desire results in distress...
A LIST OF THE VIRTUES
The virtues are: moral judgment, self-restraint, courage, justice, faith, hope, love, fear, religious devotion, spiritual knowledge, resolution, strength, understanding, wisdom, contrition, grief, gentleness, searching the Scriptures, acts of charity, purity of heart, peace, patient endurance, self-control, perseverance, probity of intention, purposiveness, sensitivity, heedfulness, Godlike stability, warmth, alertness, the fervor of the spirit, meditation, diligence, watchfulness, mindfulness, reflection, reverence, shame, respect, penitence, refraining from evil, repentance, return to God, allegiance to Christ, rejection of the devil, keeping the Commandments, guarding of the soul, purity of conscience, remembrance of death, tribulation of soul, the doing of good actions, effort, toil, an austere life, fasting, vigils, hunger, thirst, frugality, self-sufficiency, orderliness, gracefulness, modesty, reserve, disdain of money, unacquisitiveness, renunciation of worldly things, submissiveness, obedience, compliance, poverty, possessionlessness, withdrawal from the world, eradication of self-will, denial of self, counsel, magnanimity, devotion to God, stillness, discipline, sleeping on a hard bed, struggle, attentiveness, virginity, heart-rending tears, compunction, silence, communion with God, sweetness of spiritual disposition, innocence, humility, gratitude, nobility, forbearance, brotherly love, dispassion, goodness, pure prayer, purity of soul…
[To acquire all of them is possible only through the grace of Him Who grants us victory over the passions.
A LIST OF THE PASSIONS
The passions are: harshness, trickery, malice, perversity, mindlessness, licentiousness, enticement, idleness, stupidity, flattery, silliness, lethargy, greed, injustice, sinfulness, lawlessness, passion, laziness, unbelief, lack of faith, idolatry, despondency, poverty of faith, fellowship of heresy, witchcraft, defilement, unchastity, self-elation, boastfulness, foulness, self-will, hatred, dishonor, hatred of one's brother, mockery, jealousy, envy, indecency, self-esteem, pride, deceit, magic, divination, sorcery, wrong belief, assent to evil, seduction, theft, making sport of others, heartlessness, frivolity, disobedience, excessive sleep, fantasy, heavy drinking, self-indulgence, pimping, adultery, sodomy, bestiality, incest, effeminacy, unbridled desire, burning lust, masturbation, usury, blasphemy, intolerance, haughtiness, mercilessness, insensitivity, hopelessness, spiritual paralysis, hatred of God despair, suicide, a falling away from God, irony, curiosity, ill-temper, depravity, mindless joy, hardness of heart, illicit gains, using foul language, satanic love, scorn for one's neighbor, mercilessness, lying... altogether 298 passions.
These, then, are the passions which I have found named in the Holy Scriptures. Saint John Climacus says, "In common with the godless and the unjust, the demons have but one purpose: to destroy the souls of those who accept their evil counsel. Yet sometimes they actually help men to attain holiness. In such instances they are conquered by the patience and faith of those who put their trust in the Lord, and who through their good actions and resistance to evil thoughts counteract the demons and bring down curses upon them."
With sincere agape In Our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God