My beloved spiritual children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
THE ORTHODOX TRADITION
by Saint Paisios of Mount Athos (Source: With Pain and Love for Contemporary Man)
"Jesus Christ Is the Same, Yesterday and Today and For Ever" (Hebrews 13:8)
Geronda, people often talk about "Church renewal" as if the Church is getting old and needs to be rejuvenated!
--The Church...getting old? Not quite. If you have a bit of piety and some good sense, you will not find satisfaction in novelties; this is why we see some people return to antiquity. They cannot, for example, be touched by modern icons, because they realize the value that an old icon has. And this only takes a bit of good sense. Now imagine if in addition to that, one has real piety! This should tell you how wrong they are who are calling for "renewal" and for all kinds of changes!
Today, even those who try to remain faithful to Tradition, who fast, abstain from work on Sundays and feast days, and are generally pious, are subjected to ridicule, "This fellow is out of touch! He lives in the past!" And if you dare say something, they will go on, "You are totally out of it! We don't do things this way anymore!" And soon enough Tradition and fasting and piety are turned into myths and fairy tales. But do you remember what the Gospel says? "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." There are those who cannot be faithful to Tradition; the least they can do is to say, "Forgive me Lord, I have sinned!" And God will be merciful. But that's not what happens. The piety and devotion of others make them aware of their own weaknesses and they try to impose their way to make up for that. It's like taking a possessed person and putting him in a spiritual environment. He will not be able to sit still or find rest, because he will be under pressure. Something similar happens in this case. These people are checked by their conscience; they know something is wrong and try to suppress it. And so they come up with all these marks. They take old values and call them "status quo" and try to replace moral order with disorder. People act in perverse ways! When they see spiritual beauty, they take it as ugliness. Spiritual beauty becomes for them secular ugliness. Take, for example, a monk and cut his hair and beard short; you'll see how ugly he will look! Well, those who have a secular mind will not see that; they will find him beautiful.
Just turn around and see how they fight the Church and try to destroy her. Let's say that they don't believe in God, and what they preach is atheism. But why do they refuse to recognize the many good things that the Church has to offer and are always against Her? This is really malicious. Why don't they acknowledge that the Church actually protects children, keeps them from turning into little hooligans and teaches them to become good human beings? What these people do it exactly the opposite. They push children on an evil path; they give them free license to destroy them, "to be prudent, to show respect to other people and be chaste, and grow up to be good and wholesome human beings." In Russia, in a church, an old lady was praying on her knees, next to a pillar. A young woman, a great scientist, goes up to her and says, "All these are old fashioned." And the old woman turned to her and replies, "Right here, at this very pillar where you now see me weeping, you too will weep one day. The things of your world will come and go, and one day it too will come to pass, but Christianity will never go away, it shall never come to pass."
Respect for Tradition
When Holy Martyrs did not know how to explain the doctrines of the Church, they would often say, "What I believe is what the Holy Fathers have taught." That was enough to lead them to martyrdom. You see, they could not defend their faith with arguments and persuade those that persecuted them, but they trusted the Holy Fathers. He would reason to himself, "How can I not trust the Holy Fathers? They were far more experienced and virtuous and holy than we are. How can I accept this nonsense and not protest when people insult the Holy Fathers?" We must trust Holy Tradition. The problem today is that so many embrace European courtesy and try to appear nice. They want to be viewed as open-minded and tolerant and end up bowing to the two-horned devil. "We don't need many religions," they say, "one, universal religion will do." This way they want to level everything. Some of my visitors actually think this way. "Those of us who believe in Christ should form one religion," they once told me. "What you are suggesting," I replied, "is that we take eighteen carat gold that has been purified and separated from copper and mix it with copper again. Does this make any sense? Ask a jeweler, 'Does it make sense to mix base metals with gold?' So many have struggled to keep our Orthodox dogma pure and make it shine." The Holy Fathers were right to forbid relations with heretics. But today people don't see that, "We should pray together with the heretic, the Buddhist, the fire-worshipper, even the demon-worshipper," they say. "The Orthodox should participate in joint conferences and prayer sessions. It's important that we are present." What kind of presence are they talking about? They try to approach everything with logic and end up justifying the unjustifiable. If we follow the European spirit, we'll end up putting spiritual matters under a Common Market.
A few among the Orthodox, who are rather superficial individuals, seeking self-promotion in a self-appointed "mission", organize conferences with the heterodox to create a stir. They are supposedly promoting Orthodoxy, but all they do is bring in the heterodox and make a "mixed salad". This gets the super-zealots angry and they go to the other extreme; they blaspheme against the Mysteries of the New Calendar Orthodox, and so on and thoroughly scandalize souls who are full of devotion and Orthodox sensitivity. The heterodox on the other hand, come to these conferences, behave as if we all have to learn from them, and then take whatever good spiritual material they find in Orthodoxy, process it in their lab, add their own color and label and present it as an original idea. And there are all kinds of strange people who are moved by such ventures, and end up spiritually damaged. The time will come, however, when the Lord will bring forth great figures like Saint Mark the Eugenikos and Saint Gregory Palamas. They will gather together all our scandalized brothers and sisters, to confess the Orthodox faith and secure the Orthodox Tradition, bringing great joy to the Mother Church.
If we lived in the spirit of the Church Fathers, we would be full of spiritual health, and become the envy of the heterodox; they would then abandon their ill-conceived beliefs and be saved without the need of preaching. As things stand now, our Patristic Tradition does not move them, because what they are looking for is continuity; they want to see in us the presence of that spirit, a living relationship to our Saints. It's the duty of all the Orthodox to give the heterodox good reason to wonder, to lead them to realize their errors, so that they don't find rest in false beliefs. This way they will not be deprived of the many blessings of Orthodoxy in this life, and of the abundant and eternal blessings of God in the next. A group of young Catholic men came to my Kalyvi. They were very eager and interested to learn more about Orthodoxy. "Please tell us something that will help us spiritually," they said. "Look," I replied, "Go and take a look at Church History and you will see how in the past we were united and then you took your own way and ended up where you are. Do this and you will be helped. When you are done, come back and we'll have plenty to talk about."
"...When I first when to the Holy Mountain, I met a very old and pious man, who was the Elder of a small fellowship of monks. Such was his reverence for his own Elders and spiritual predecessors, that he would keep everything they passed on to him; thus he kept not only their kalymmauchia (the monastic coverings), but also the forms used to make them. He also kept old books and manuscripts of all kinds, carefully wrapped and locked in a bookcase to protect them for dust. "I am not worthy to read these books," he would say; "I just read the simple books, the Gerontikon, the Saint John of the Ladder (Climakus)." One day, this young monk came to stay with him--he eventually left the Holy Mountain. He would tell him things like, "What are you going to do with all this junk?" He wanted to throw away the casts or burnt them. The poor old man started weeping, "This one is from my Elder," he would plead, "why are you bothered by it? We have so many rooms; can't you find a corner to put them?" He was so full of reverence, that he kept everything: the books, the heirlooms, the kalymmauchia, even those worn out casts! You see, if we have respect for the small things, we will respect the big things even more. But where small things are not respected, big things will not be respected either. This is how the Holy Fathers preserved the tradition of the Church.
A personal note: I hear some of you, who are on the email list of the parish, are wondering why is Father George sending out this daily spiritual message? Is it really necessary? Does he not have anything better to do?
I consider this opportunity to introduce you to the holy writings of the Holy Father and Mothers of the Church, as a personal blessing. But it is also a blessing to those of you who, with an open heart, receive them. By receiving them in faith and humility, the grace of God is bestowed upon you. An Orthodox Christian believer is always hungry and thirsty for inspiring divine words. The Holy Fathers and Holy Mothers of the Church were God-bearers. Christians who lived Christ and yet, they perceived themselves as the 'sinner of sinners.'
The sacred writings of these holy men and women, who truly lived the authentic spiritual ascesis, life, devotion, charity, love, philanthropy, faith, obedience, sacrifice, prayer, etc. survived for centuries under some very difficult circumstances, and continue to inspire, teach, guide, encourage, and bring comfort to millions of us today.
If you truly approach them with reverence, faith, trust and a sincere broken spirit, they will bring healing to your soul and body. If you are looking for inner peace, if you are looking for hope, for courage, for enlightenment, you will find them in these holy writings. The holy writings are there for the taking.
This does not mean that you should, in any way, neglect to study the Holy Scripture; all of the Saints, Holy Fathers, Holy Mothers, Holy Ascetics, Holy Confessors, Holy Martyrs, constantly read and knew the Holy Scripture and implemented the divine message of the Gospel in their pious and virtuous lives.
I was also informed recently, that we have a number of our brothers and sisters in Christ, who feel alone, neglected, and forgotten at times. When they receive the inspiring messages from the Saints of Our Church, feel comforted and are reassured of God's love. You see, hardly anyone has any spiritual books at home. They cannot find these holy writings and books in the local library. Some of them, because of their infirmity or disability, are not able to leave their home. These daily messages help them to be nourished spiritually.
Now you know how important this ministry is to our people.
Furthermore, I was informed last year, that, there are thousands of people, from as far as Australia, Brazil, Europe, etc., that turn to our parish website to read these spiritual messages. Glory be to God Eternal!
MY BLESSING TO ALL OF YOU
The Grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of god and Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Glory Be To GOD For All Things!
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God