On the power and selfless bonds of friendship

To have a friend is to have another self; it is concord and harmony, which nothing can equal.

In this,one is the equivalent of many. For if two, or ten, are united, none of them is merely one any longer, but each of them has the ability and value of ten; and you will find the one on the ten, and the ten in the one. If they have an enemy, attacking not one, but ten, he is defeated, for he is struck, not by one, but by ten .

Has one fallen into want? Still he is not desolate; for he prospers in his greater part; that is to say in the nine, and the needy part is protected; that is, the smaller part by that which prospers.

Each one of them has twenty hands, and twenty eyes, and as many feet. For he sees not with his own eyes alone, but with those of others; he walks not with his own feet, but with those of others; he works not with his own hands, but with those of others. He has ten souls, for he alone is not concerned about himself, but those other nine souls are concerned about him.

And if they are a hundred, the same thing will take place again, power will be increased.

-St Anthusa, the mother of St John Chrysostom, in a letter to her son, “On Ideal Friendship”

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The Eastern Orthodox and Eastern-rite Catholic Churches venerate St John (lived 347-407) as one of the Three Holy Hierarchs, while in the Roman Catholic Church he is revered as a great Doctor of the Church. During his tumultuous tenure as Patriarch of Constantinople, he ran afoul of the Empress Eudoxia after criticizing her for her vanity, haughtiness and indifference to the plight of the city’s poor. He offended the imperial capital’s wealthy political elites by turning over their lavish gifts to him to the poor and exhorting them to repent of their dissolute lifestyles.
Extremely eloquent and persuasive as a preacher, he earned his epithet meaning “the golden mouthed” from his numerous homilies and his masterful writings as a practiced ascetic and leading theologian. He is the principal author of the Divine Liturgy which bears his name. The Liturgy of St John Chrysostom is the most widely used liturgical form in the world today following the Novus Ordo ‘ordinary form’ of the Roman Mass. Among both Eastern Orthodox and Eastern-rite Catholics, this Byzantine liturgical form is the most widely celebrated.

On genuine friendship

“For what would a genuine friend not do? What pleasure would he not create for us? What benefit? What safety? Though you were to name a thousand treasures, there is nothing comparable to a real friend.”

-St Anthusa, mother of St. John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (d. 407), in a letter to her son, “On Ideal Friendship”.

Blessed Saint Herman of Alaska on Christian love and joy

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Saint Herman of Alaska (1756-1837) was one of the first Russian Orthodox missionaries to the New World, celebrating the first Orthodox Liturgy in the Americas on the Kodiak Archipelago’s Spruce Island in 1794. From 1808-1818 the saint lived there in a tiny hermitage. He is considered by Orthodox Christians to be the patron saint of the Americas.

“A true Christian is made by faith and love toward Christ. Our sins do not in the least hinder our Christianity, according to the word of the Savior Himself. He deigned to say: not the righteous have I come to call, but sinners to salvation; there is more joy in heaven over one who repents than over ninety righteous ones. Likewise concerning the sinful woman who touched His feet, He deigned to say to the Pharisee Simon: to one who has love, a great debt is forgiven, but from one who has no love, even a small debt will be demanded. From these judgments a Christian should bring himself to hope and joy, and not in the least accept an inflicted despair. Here one needs the shield of faith.”

—Letters of St. Herman of Alaska

Wisdom from Abbot Tryphon on fighting lust and the passions

LUST
Waging War against the Passions of the Flesh

Since the eyes and the ears are the doors of the soul, an Orthodox Christian must not leave the body without attention. Unlike the practice of Gnosticism, which teaches the separation of soul and body, with the physical world being evil and something to be overcome, historic Christianity teaches the unity the body and soul, with the physical world being transformed and made anew in Christ. This means that, while caring about one’s soul, an Orthodox Christian must not leave the body without attention.

The body is given over to temptation, which is rooted in the mind. As Christians we know that we must never play with temptations, for in doing so we have already fallen half-way. Thus, an Orthodox Christian who takes his salvation seriously would never partake in seductive dances, or enter into flirtation as though it were a sport, for he would know this to be a dangerous game.

Temptations gain hold when we entertain dirty thoughts and ideas, sometimes by allowing our eyes and ears to entertain things that can overcome our will, causing us to fall. It is much easier to stop a temptation in the beginning, than to do battle with a seductive idea once it has gained entry. A person who wants to prevent a burglary makes every effort to prevent a burglar from gaining entrance in the first place. Like taking precautions that will prevent a burglary, we must never allow ourselves to entertain temptations, for that would be like inviting a criminal into your home with the intent of trying to talk him out of steal from you.

Many are convinced that sexual needs are so insurmountable in strength, as to make it impossible to resist. This is only the case when we habitually give in to the passions, and avoid using the tools given to us by the Church to bring our body into submission. If we observe the periods of fasting, especially the Wednesday and Friday days of abstinence, eat moderate amounts of food, avoid the overuse of alcohol, and say no to drugs, we will have taken a big step forward in our struggle with lust. Remember, a healthy body contributes to the health of the soul.

Finally, it is good to take to heart the advice of Saint Ephraim of Syria, “Think about the good so as not to think about the bad.” Guard against spending time with people whose jokes and story-telling are occasions for sinful thoughts, and avoid bad company, for “Bad company corrupts good character (1 Corinthians 15:33).”

With love in Christ,

-Abbot Tryphon
ImageThe Very Reverend Igumen Abbot Tryphon is the spiritual leader at All Merciful Saviour monastery located on Vashon Island in Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington State. The monastery is within the canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The monastery’s widely acclaimed and popular Facebook page can be found here. Abbot Tryphon’s popular blog can be accessed here.

“Know Who You Really Are”

THE REAL YOU
Know Who You Really Are

We are all surrounded by fictional characters, persons who are the invention of filmmakers, promoters, and even self-inventors. It is ignorance of our true nature as children of God that keeps us living as fictional characters, unaware of our own true purpose, the one God has chosen for us. When we stop relying on our own goodness, and stop deluding ourselves into thinking we do not need God, we can cast our entire focus on discovering our true self.

It is an ignorance of our true nature that is the base cause of so many living as though they were actors on a stage, afraid of what they might see if they were honest about themselves. True self-awareness can only come when we are open to letting Christ into our lives, totally. Continuing to live comfortably behind the mask of self-delusion, we are content to live in a carnal world, where we think happiness has its base in partying, making money, having sex, eating and drinking, living in the best house, and “looking good”.

We become a Hollywood promoter, living behind the mask of our own invention, fearing we will be less interesting to others if we are outwardly religious. We fail to realize it is not enforced austerity and deprivation that is required, but a submission in love to Christ that brings us new found freedom to be true to ourselves. Our new path leads to unspeakable joy and enduring peace.”Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
(C. S. Lewis).
With love in Christ,
Abbot Tryphon
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The Very Reverend Igumen Abbot Tryphon is the spiritual leader at All Merciful Saviour monastery located on Vashon Island in Puget Sound near Seattle, Washington State. The monastery is within the canonical jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. The monastery’s widely acclaimed and popular Facebook page can be found here. Abbot Tryphon’s popular blog can be accessed here.

On divine awe

Divine awe has nothing to do with trepidation – by which I mean, not the tremulousness induced by joy, but the trepidation induced by wrath or chastisement or the feeling of desertion by God.

On the contrary, divine awe is accompanied by a tremulous sense of jubilation arising from the prayer of fire that we offer when filled with awe.

This awe is not the fear provoked by wrath or punishment, but it is inspired by wisdom, and is also deserted as ‘the beginning of wisdom’ (Ps. 111:10).

Awe may be divided into three kinds, even though the fathers speak only of two: the awe of beginners, that of the perfect, and that provoked by wrath, which should properly be called trepidation, agitation or contrition.

-St Gregory of Sinai

St Gregory of Sinai (1260-1346) was a monk at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai in Egypt who was instrumental in preserving the tradition of hesychia on Mount Athos and bringing it to Bulgaria.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine, named in honor of the third century Great Martyr of Alexandria, is one of the holiest sites for Orthodox Christians. It is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt. On this site the Prophet and Hebrew patriarch Moses, traditionally viewed by Christians, Jews and Muslims as the author of the Pentateuch, received the first Ten Commandments from God. Erected by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565), the monastery also encloses the Chapel of the Burning Bush.

On divine love

Patience, forgiveness and joy are the three greatest characteristics of divine love. They are characteristics of all real love – if there is such a thing as real love outside divine love. Without these three characteristics, love is not love. If you give the name ‘love’ to anything else, it is as though you were giving the name ‘sheep’ to a goat or a pig.

-St. Nikolai Velimirovic

Saint Nikolai Velimirovic of Ohrid and Žiča lived from 1881-1956. He served as bishop of Ohrid and of Žiča in the Serbian Orthodox Church and was an influential theological writer and a highly gifted orator who came to be widely regarded as The New Chrysostom.

St Nektarios on Christian courtesy

A Christian must be courteous to all. His words and deeds should breathe with the grace of the Holy Spirit, which abides in his soul, so that in this way he might glorify the name of God. The graceful speech of a Christian is characterized by delicateness and politeness. This fact, born of love, produces peace and joy.”
-St Nektarios of Aegina

Born in Thrace, Saint Nektarios of Aegina, Greek: Άγιος Νεκτάριος Αιγίνης lived from 1846-1920. He served as Metropolitan of Pentapolis and was praised as a wonder-worker by the people of Pentapolis and Aegina, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople officially recognized Metropolitan Nektarios as a glorified Saint in 1961.

The Holy Spirit and the waves of God’s righteousness

There are several signs that the energy of the Holy Spirit is beginning to be active in those who genuinely aspire for this to happen and are not just putting God to the test – for, according to the Wisdom of Solomon, ‘It is found by those who do not put it to the test, and manifests itself to those who do not distrust it’ (cf. Wisd.1:2).

In some it appears as awe arising in the heart, in others as a tremulous sense of jubilation, in others as joy, in others as joy mingled with awe, or as tremulousness mingled with joy, and sometimes it manifests itself as tears and awe. For the soul is joyous at God’s visitation and mercy, but at the same time is in awe and trepidation at His presence because it is guilty of so many sins.

Again, in some the soul, at the outset, experiences an unutterable sense of contrition and an indescribable pain, like the woman in Scripture who labors to give birth (cf. Rev. 12:2). For the living and active Logos – that is to say, Jesus – penetrates, as the apostle says, to the point at which soul separates from body, joints from marrow (cf. Heb. 4:12), so as to expel by force every trace of passion from both soul and body.

In others it is manifest as an unconquerable love and peace, shown towards all, or as a joyousness that the fathers have often called exultation – a spiritual force and an impulsion of the living heart that is also described as a vibration and sighing of the Spirit who makes wordless intercession for us to God (cf. Rom. 8:26).

Isaiah has also called this the ‘waves’ of God’s righteousness (cf. Isa. 48:18), while the great Ephrem calls it ‘spurring’. The Lord Himself describes it as ‘a spring of water welling up for eternal life’ (John 4:14) – He refers to the Spirit as water – a source that leaps up in the heart and erupts through the ebullience of its power.

-St Gregory of Sinai

St Gregory of Sinai (1260-1346) was a monk at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai in Egypt who was instrumental in preserving the tradition of hesychia on Mount Athos and bringing it to Bulgaria.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine, named in honor of the third century Great Martyr of Alexandria, is one of the holiest sites for Orthodox Christians. It is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt. On this site the Prophet and Hebrew patriarch Moses, traditionally viewed by Christians, Jews and Muslims as the author of the Pentateuch, received the first Ten Commandments from God. Erected by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565), the monastery also encloses the Chapel of the Burning Bush.

St Gregory of Sinai on noetic prayer

Noetic prayer is an activity initiated by the cleansing power of the Spirit and the mystical rites celebrated by the intellect.

Similarly, stillness is initiated by attentive waiting upon God, its intermediate stage is characterized by illuminative power and contemplation, and its final goal is ecstasy and the enraptured flight of the intellect (νους) towards God.

-St Gregory of Sinai

St Gregory of Sinai (1260-1346) was a monk at St Catherine’s Monastery on Mt Sinai in Egypt who was instrumental in preserving the tradition of hesychia on Mount Athos and bringing it to Bulgaria.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine, named in honor of the third century Great Martyr of Alexandria, is one of the holiest sites for Orthodox Christians. It is located at the foot of Mount Sinai, Egypt. On this site the Prophet and Hebrew patriarch Moses, traditionally viewed by Christians, Jews and Muslims as the author of the Pentateuch, received the first Ten Commandments from God. Erected by order of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527-565), the monastery also encloses the Chapel of the Burning Bush.