Let mercy outweigh all else in you

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Let mercy outweigh all else in you

St Issac the Syrian (also known as Isaac of Nineveh) was a seventh century monk and mystic. Like many pre-Schism saints, he is also revered by the Roman and Eastern-rite Catholic Churches. He was born on the Arabian Peninsula, near present-day Qatar.

A strict ascetic, the saint entered monastic life at a young age along with his brother, and studied the Scriptures in isolation for many years. Eventually elevated as bishop of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh, he abdicated this role after five months to return to the desert. He reposed around the year 700.

Holy Father Isaac, pray to God for us!

St John of Kronstadt on divine love

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St John of Kronstadt on divine love

“Great is Your love, O Lord: You have wholly spent Yourself out of love for me. I gaze upon the cross and marvel at Your love to me and to the world, for the cross is the evident token of Your love to us. ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (Jn. 15:13). Your life-giving Mysteries, Lord, serve as a perpetual glorious proof of Your love for us sinners; for this Your Divine Body was broken for me, for us all, and this Blood was poured out for me, for us all. Lord, I glorify the wonders accomplished by Your Holy Mysteries upon Your believers, to whom I have ministered Them; I glorify the innumerable cures of which I was witness; I glorify Their all-saving action in myself. I glorify Your mercy to me, revealed to me in Them and through Them, and Your life-giving power, acting in Them. Lord, in return for Your great love, grant that I may love You with all my heart, and my neighbor as myself, grant that I may also love my enemies, and not only those who love me.

-St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ; Holy Trinity Monastery pgs, 319-320)

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

Saint John of Kronstadt (1829-1908) is one of the most beloved Russian saints to whom thousands would come seeking his ascetic and pastoral advice. He served most of his life at St Alexander Nevsky’s Cathedral in Kronstadt outside St Petersburg. He wrote widely on many topics, especially on the profound existential need to cultivate transcendent Christian love and forgiveness.

On humility and pridefulness in prayer

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On humility and pridefulness in prayer

“If you become proud when you receive what you ask in prayer, then it is obvious that your prayer was not to God, and you did not receive help from Him, but the demons were working with you in order to exalt your heart; For when help is given from God, the soul is not exalted, but is all the more humbled, and she is amazed at the great mercy of God, how merciful He is to sinners.”

-St. Barsanuphius the Great

Barsanuphius of Palestine (+540), also known as Barsanuphius of Gaza, was a hermit of the sixth century. Born in Egypt, he lived in absolute seclusion for fifty years, and then near the monastery of Saint Seridon of Gaza in Palestine.

Beginning the New Year with Trust in God

Dec 31, 2012

One year ago today – on December 31, 2011 – His Holiness, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, offered the following words before serving the annual New Year’s moleben [supplicatory service] in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow.

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Following established tradition, New Year’s molebens are celebrated in churches of the Russian Orthodox Church on the threshold of the New Year. According to the Church’s Typikon, the year begins on September 1 (Old Calendar), but inasmuch as all our people, the whole country, and the entire world begin the New Year on January 1, the Church offers up special prayers for the coming year at this time.

We offer thanks to God for all the mercies that have been shown us in the past year. There were not only mercies, but there were also punishments – for our loving God also shows His care for people through punishment. Just as loving parents are sometimes required to punish their children in order to avert greater harm, so too does God frequently prevent us from performing more sinful deeds by leading us through trials. This relates to the lives of individuals, to the life of the country, and to the lives of the entire human race. It is enough to read the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, in which Divine Providence – both loving and punishing – is so clearly spoken of.

When we direct our gaze to the future, in human terms we certainly want the coming year to be easier, better, and more successful – and this is our legitimate and natural striving for happiness and well-being. But today very many people do not associate this well-being with God in any way. They think that they – and they alone – are the beginning and end of everything concerning them; they think that whether we will be happy or unhappy, healthy or sick, successful or unsuccessful all depends on us. But an impartial look at history – not just at human history, but at the histories of our own lives – can convince anyone that this is not the case.

We pass through events and trials in our lives during which none of our powers is enough for us to surmount them worthily, to escape misfortune, or to acquire that which our souls are seeking. Thinking people understand that things that are impossible with men are possible with God (cf. Luke 18:27), for He Himself spoke to us of this. Then we turn to the Lord in supplication, and how often He hears our prayer! Once again, it is impossible for us to prove this to people with hardened hearts. But this remains real proof of the power of human prayer, when those who pray receive an answer from God and can witness that God’s power has been shown to them and to their friends and relatives.

In fact, man’s entire religious life is based on God’s answer to our prayers: there would be no religious faith if there were no answer. One does not go to a well that has no water. We would not turn to someone if we knew for certain that he would neither answer nor help – no one would waste their time and energy on this. Would people really turn to God, would they really dedicate their lives to the Lord, if they had not heard His answer?

Here today, on the eve of the New Year, those who believe in God’s power have gathered in this church. In all the churches in our land, as well as beyond its borders, many are praying today that the Lord might incline His mercy to us all and make the coming year a year of His goodness. Let us all pray with firm faith for our relatives and friends, for ourselves, for physical and spiritual health, and for well-being.

Let us pray for our country, that by His mercy the unity of our people might be preserved so that, by joining forces, people might overcome the difficulties our country is presently undergoing.

Our Church will pray for all of historical Russia, because it is present in all its constituent countries.

We will pray that the coming year might be peaceful for all the peoples of Holy Russia, that the Lord might keep our Church in unity, peace, and that spiritual strength that alone capable of imbuing human life with the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We believe that the Lord, through His ineffable mercy, will incline His love and His kind providence upon us all. Amen.

Here is the embedded link to the source. For those unable to click on the embedded link, here it is, unembedded: http://www.pravmir.com/beginning-the-new-year-with-trust-in-god/

The ocean of God’s mercy

“We should often, if not daily, examine our souls, and repent of the sins that we find there.” – St Mark the Ascetic

“Let none fear death, for the death of the Saviour has set us free!” – St John Chrysostom

When compared to God’s love for us, our many sins are but rain drops disappearing into the infinite ocean of His mercy.

In baptism, we enter the Christian life through water, as the waves of faith and God’s grace wash over us, embracing us in the sea of His eternal love, pulling us on the tide of our mortal life toward the promise of eternal life with Him.

When we repent, our turning away from sinful paths often manifests physically in the shedding of heartfelt tears as the soul is pierced by the love of her Creator. Just as the ocean of God’s mercy envelops and blots out all our sins, so too are our tear drops of repentance washed away through the cleansing pool of His grace in genuine confession, by which, in obedience to the grace and direction of the Holy Spirit, we may continually be renewed, strengthened, transformed and made righteous anew.

In Christ, the sunrise is a metaphor for both birth, one’s physical entry into this world to begin this transitory life, and for the crowning sun of entry into eternal life through the body’s physical death. Likewise, the sunset heralds both the declining years of one’s human life, and the hopeful approach of life eternal beyond the ‘night’ of the grave.

When, at the end of this transitory life, we have shed countless tears, some of bitterness or despair, many more of repentance, humility and joy, we will then more fully discern the depth of God’s infinite grace and mercy for us. When we have been transformed through God’s grace and our ever-deepening faith, when we have poured out oceans of love for our Creator and all His creation, we feel called to return to His infinite, loving embrace. With radiant faces, joyous hearts, and illumined souls, those made righteous by grace, in faith, fall once more into this infinite ocean, entering unto eternal life as peacefully as gentle raindrops falling into the sea.

“As a handful of sand is thrown into the ocean, so are the sins of all flesh as compared with the mind of God. Just as a strongly flowing fountain is not blocked up by a handful of earth, so the compassion of the Creator is not overcome by the sins of His creatures. Someone who bears a grudge while he prays is like a person who sows in the sea and expects to reap a harvest.”
St. Isaac the Syrian (d. c. 700)

In Christ is our hope, our joy, our life- in this world and the next- and our very salvation- mystical and personal union with Him by the grace and power of His Holy Spirit!

“A life journey into the Heart of God”: Abbot Tryphon on the lifelong process of salvation

 AM I SAVED?
Therapeutic Tradition of the Church

Most of us have been asked the question, “are you saved?”, at least once in our life. Having its origin in the Protestant soteriology (doctrine of salvation), this question has clearly become part of our American cultural lexicon. The question is often asked by Evangelical Christians as a way of establishing whether we are fellow “born again” Christians, and therefore fellow believers.

Being able to answer in the affirmative clearly gives the “born again” Christian a sense of security. That one believes a single moment that a declaration of Jesus Christ as one’s savior, guarantees eternal life, would be comforting. Yet for the Orthodox Christian, the question can be disconcerting, even awkward, for we would never presume to think of ourselves as “saved”. We could say we are saved, being saved, and hope to be saved, but we would never be so presumptuous as to declare we are saved.Like our evangelical friends, we Orthodox Christians understood Christ’s death on the cross was accomplished for our salvation, and that salvation is a gift. We know that we are not saved by our works, and that we, “having been justified by faith (Romans 5:1)”, and are totally dependent on God’s mercy for our salvation. Yet we have a parting of the ways when it comes to the theology of redemption.As Orthodox Christians the moment we declare our faith in Christ, is the moment we begin our journey. The Holy Spirit imparts the gift of grace, and we begin to participate in the divine energies of God, that we might be transformed and made whole.

Only in Orthodoxy do we find a “therapeutic treatment” tradition. Like the Ancient Church, we believe that an intellectual acceptance of Christ as our Savior is only the beginning of a life journey into the Heart of God. At the moment we declare Christ as our savior, the therapy begins, and we are drawn into the hospital of the soul (the Church), wherein we begin the transformation that leads to deification. The analogous “treatment” of our personality begins at the moment of our declaration, but is completed only with our cooperation with God’s grace.

The Holy Scriptures make it clear that faith comes by hearing the Word and by experiencing “theoria” (the vision of God). We accept Christ in the beginning by hearing the Word and seek Him out in order to be healed. The attainment of theoria, saves man. Because evangelicals believe the acceptance of Christ saves man, the Orthodox concept of a “therapeutic tradition”, is foreign to them.

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we see the image of Christ who cures the wounded man by leading him to the Inn, which is the Church. Christ is the physician who cures, and the cure takes place within the hospital, which is the Church. We can not say that we are saved, for we have been given this life wherein we are to cooperate with God’s grace, and be transformed into His likeness, that we might be capable of spending eternity in His Divine Presence, without being burned.

With love in Christ,
-Abbot Tryphon

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Wherefore, my dearly beloved, (as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but much more now in my absence,) with fear and trembling work out your salvation. For it is God who worketh in you, both to will and to accomplish, according to his good will. And do ye all things without murmurings and hesitations; That you may be blameless, and sincere children of God, without reproof, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

— Philippians 2:12-15 (Douay-Reims 1899 American edition).

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.

St Anthony on the benefits of physical illness

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“I know from the teachings of the Holy Fathers that every temptation or illness is sent to us by God as a cure for our infirm soul. For if our body suffers, God forgives our past and present sins and prevents us from sinning in the future. That is why we should wholeheartedly thank the Lord God Who is so merciful to us and turns everything to our benefit and permits us to be ill. Thus, we shouldn’t grumble. This is the reason why I am trying, with the help of God, to endure my illness meekly.… I have never had as much time for reading soul-profiting books as I have now in my prolonged illness, and therefore I wonder—how shall I thank my God for all He has granted me!”- St. Anthony of Optina

“Cry out to Christ your God, Searcher of hearts. . .”

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“Woe is me, a sinner. What has happened to me? Why should I destroy myself so wrongly? I still have time for repentance.

The Lord calls me: Shall I procrastinate? How long, my soul, will you remain in your sins?  How long will you put off repentance?

Think of the judgment to come, cry out to Christ your God: Searcher of hearts, I have sinned; before Thou condemnest me, have mercy upon me!

At Thy awesome return, O Christ, may I not hear ‘I know you not’ (Matthew 25:12)! For we have placed our hope in Thee, our Savior, even though in our negligence we fail to keep Thy commandments.

But, we pray Thee, spare our souls. Alas, Lord, for I have grieved Thee and did not perceive it; yet behold, through Thy grace I have begun to perceive!”
-St Peter of Damascus