Posts from the ‘Daily Nuggets’ Category

Elder Ephraim on ‘The Spiritual War’

I have seen this video before, but came upon it again today and have greatly enjoyed seeing it again. In it, the Elder speaks to a parish in Pittsburg about living the Christian life, which is often discussed in terms of spiritual warfare both in Holy Scripture and by the Fathers of the Church. I think that watching this video on the heels of Pascha is wonderful timing – reminding us of our high calling from Christ, bestowed upon mankind by His Holy Death and Resurrection. Let us hold tight to our dear Christ, and wage the warfare by His mercy. Christ is Risen!

In the video, there is an introduction by the parish priest, then Elder Ephraim will speak a bit in Greek, and the priest will translate into English. I love watching the Elder speak…his body language brings to my mind the word guileless. A delightful video which I hope you enjoy.

Post by Matthew Jackson

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Christian Love of the World

There are a great multitude of Scriptural quotations which mention “loving the world.” The tone of these various quotations varies, typically between the two extremes – either a call to love the world, or a call to hate/reject the world. Since we would definitely state dogmatically that the Scriptures present a uniform theology and understanding of man, how do we put these two seemingly opposing statements together and understand to what the Scriptures are actually calling us?

First, two representative quotations:
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:15)

“For God so love the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

These two quotes work nicely together in that both were penned by the same author. In his first Epistle, St. John commands the Christian community to “love not the world.” But in his Gospel he reminds us many times over that God does love the world. Since we are called to be like God, to put on the mind of Christ, it would follow then that we also are called to love the world, as our dearest Lord loves the world. So here we are told by St. John to love the world, yet not to love the world. How do we make sense of this dichotomy?

St. Augustine writes wonderfully about just this topic, and we can take a short quote from his writings to set in our minds a proper understanding of the Christian’s relationship to the world. St. Augustine writes,

“Therefore we [Christians] are both prohibited from loving in [the world] what it itself loves in itself, and we are commanded to love in it what it itself hates in itself, namely, the handiwork of God and the various comforts of His goodness.” -Blessed Augustine, Tractate 87 on the Gospel of St. John

So there we have it – our relationship with the world in simple terminology, while still maintaining the Biblical language of “love of the world.” We are told NOT to love those things which the world loves of itself. In other words, we are not to love self-will, power, control, passions, the flesh, sin…we are to reject those things that the world so easily latches onto, those things which bring immediate physical pleasure, but separate man eternally from God. In the world we ARE to love what God loves in the world, which are exactly those things that the world hates of itself. We are to love the beauty of the creation, the work of God in the world around us, the work of God in our lives. We see the world much like the New Testament parable – as a potter working with new clay, our Creator works to mold His creation so that mankind may come to know Him and to love Him. But it is exactly this movement that the world hates, but it requires a rejection of the individual and an acceptance of true personhood. We are only fulfilled and made human in Christ.

So the Christian is called to hate the sin and the passions and the fallenness of human society (the world), yet we are to deeply love our Lord’s creation, our brothers and sisters who walk on this earth, and our God for providing us with such a wonderful place to come to know, to love, and to grow in Him.

inspired by Fr. Paul Yerger’s homily from Sunday, September 30, 2012 – “Be ye separate” – 2 Cor. 6:17

Author Matthew Jackson

The Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God

On the 1st of October every year, we celebrate the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God. This is a very nice article on the Feast from oca.org.

The Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos: “Today the Virgin stands in the midst of the Church, and with choirs of Saints she invisibly prays to God for us. Angels and Bishops venerate Her, Apostles and prophets rejoice together, Since for our sake she prays to the Eternal God!”

This miraculous appearance of the Mother of God occurred in the mid-tenth century in Constantinople, in the Blachernae church where her robe, veil, and part of her belt were preserved after being transferred from Palestine in the fifth century.

On Sunday, October 1, during the All Night Vigil, when the church was overflowing with those at prayer, the Fool-for-Christ St Andrew (October 2), at the fourth hour, lifted up his eyes towards the heavens and beheld our most Holy Lady Theotokos coming through the air, resplendent with heavenly light and surrounded by an assembly of the Saints. St John the Baptist and the holy Apostle John the Theologian accompanied the Queen of Heaven. On bended knees the Most Holy Virgin tearfully prayed for Christians for a long time. Then, coming near the Bishop’s Throne, she continued her prayer.

After completing her prayer she took her veil and spread it over the people praying in church, protecting them from enemies both visible and invisible. The Most Holy Lady Theotokos was resplendent with heavenly glory, and the protecting veil in her hands gleamed “more than the rays of the sun.” St Andrew gazed trembling at the miraculous vision and he asked his disciple, the blessed Epiphanius standing beside him, “Do you see, brother, the Holy Theotokos, praying for all the world?” Epiphanius answered, “I do see, holy Father, and I am in awe.”

The Ever-Blessed Mother of God implored the Lord Jesus Christ to accept the prayers of all the people calling on His Most Holy Name, and to respond speedily to her intercession, “O Heavenly King, accept all those who pray to You and call on my name for help. Do not let them not go away from my icon unheard.”

Sts Andrew and Epiphanius were worthy to see the Mother of God at prayer, and “for a long time observed the Protecting Veil spread over the people and shining with flashes of glory. As long as the Most Holy Theotokos was there, the Protecting Veil was also visible, but with her departure it also became invisible. After taking it with her, she left behind the grace of her visitation.”

At the Blachernae church, the memory of the miraculous appearance of the Mother of God was remembered. In the fourteenth century, the Russian pilgrim and clerk Alexander, saw in the church an icon of the Most Holy Theotokos praying for the world, depicting St Andrew in contemplation of her.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor reflects that the protective intercession of the Mother of God was needed because an attack of a large pagan Russian fleet under the leadership of Askole and Dir. The feast celebrates the divine destruction of the fleet which threatened Constantinople itself, sometime in the years 864-867 or according to the Russian historian Vasiliev, on June 18, 860. Ironically, this Feast is considered important by the Slavic Churches but not by the Greeks.

The Primary Chronicle of St Nestor also notes the miraculous deliverance followed an all-night Vigil and the dipping of the garment of the Mother of God into the waters of the sea at the Blachernae church, but does not mention Sts Andrew and Epiphanius and their vision of the Mother of God at prayer. These latter elements, and the beginnings of the celebrating of the Feast of the Protection, seem to postdate St Nestor and the Chronicle. A further historical complication might be noted under (October 2) dating St Andrew’s death to the year 936.

The year of death might not be quite reliable, or the assertion that he survived to a ripe old age after the vision of his youth, or that his vision involved some later pagan Russian raid which met with the same fate. The suggestion that St Andrew was a Slav (or a Scythian according to other sources, such as S. V. Bulgakov) is interesting, but not necessarily accurate. The extent of Slavic expansion and repopulation into Greece is the topic of scholarly disputes.

In the PROLOGUE, a Russian book of the twelfth century, a description of the establishment of the special Feast marking this event states, “For when we heard, we realized how wondrous and merciful was the vision… and it transpired that Your holy Protection should not remain without festal celebration, O Ever-Blessed One!”

Therefore, in the festal celebration of the Protection of the Mother of God, the Russian Church sings, “With the choirs of the Angels, O Sovereign Lady, with the venerable and glorious prophets, with the First-Ranked Apostles and with the Hieromartyrs and Hierarchs, pray for us sinners, glorifying the Feast of your Protection in the Russian Land.” Moreover, it would seem that St Andrew, contemplating the miraculous vision was a Slav, was taken captive, and became the slave of the local inhabitant of Constantinople named Theognostus.

Churches in honor of the Protection of the Mother of God began to appear in Russia in the twelfth century. Widely known for its architectural merit is the temple of the Protection at Nerl, which was built in the year 1165 by holy Prince Andrew Bogoliubsky. The efforts of this holy prince also established in the Russian Church the Feast of the Protection of the Mother of God, about the year 1164.

At Novgorod in the twelfth century there was a monastery of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos (the so-called Zverin monastery) In Moscow also under Tsar Ivan the Terrible the cathedral of the Protection of the Mother of God was built at the church of the Holy Trinity (known as the church of St Basil the Blessed).

On the Feast of the Protection of the Most Holy Theotokos we implore the defense and assistance of the Queen of Heaven, “Remember us in your prayers, O Lady Virgin Mother of God, that we not perish by the increase of our sins. Protect us from every evil and from grievous woes, for in you do we hope, and venerating the Feast of your Protection, we magnify you.”

People Today Believe in God

“I have the suspicion that men today believe in God more than at any other time in human history. Men know the Gospel, the teaching of the Church, and God’s creation better than at any other time. They have a profound consciousness of His existence. Their atheism is not a real disbelief. It is rather an aversion toward somebody we know very well but whom we hate with all our heart, exactly as the demons do.” — A. Kalomiros, THE RIVER OF FIRE [taken from Slava Bogu (Слава Богу за всё) on Facebook]

The suspicion of Dr. Kalomiros expresses exactly what I have thought as well (caveat – I have not read the book from which the quote was taken, so I am merely making a few comments on the content of the quote). We live in an age when more people than ever have been exposed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. More people have exposure to the teachings of the Church; more people know more about Christian Faith and doctrine and life than ever before. Because of our various advances in science, we know more about the physical creation than ever before in human history. Not only do we know more now, but our knowledge increases exponentially year by year. As Kalomiros writes, people today have a “profound consciousness” of the existence of God. Our science has done nothing but prove, continually, that this magnificent creation could not be without a Creator. God is real, and more people know this today than ever before.

The problem is not knowledge – people do not fail to believe, but rather they hate what they know. The rampant “atheism” of today is not true disbelief, but is the same affliction that the demons deal with. The demons know God is real, but they choose to reject Him. Great numbers of our contemporaries reject God as well. He is rejected because of the life He calls us to live. If He were to be acknowledged, then a radical transformation would take place in peoples’ lives and in our society. In short, God is so rejected and reviled today because people want to do whatever brings them pleasure. People want to determine their own course in life, and to make all of their own decisions. The heartbreaking reality, however, is that in following this course people become slaves to their passions, instead of finding true freedom and personhood in Christ.

Even those of us who acknowledge our Lord and profess ourselves as Christians have to keep this in mind – the will of God is what we are called to seek and to submit to at all times. We are not to rely on our own will and our own wisdom, but to submit ourselves to God. Those who reject God do so for exactly this reason – it is a refusal to submit to anyone other than themselves. May He protect us all from this demonic pride. May God give us all the grace to truly seek Him in everything in our lives.

Author Matthew Jackson

Acquiring the Kingdom of Heaven

St. Ambrose of Optina also said: “St. Gregory Dialogist wrote about what price we have to pay to acquire the Kingdom of Heaven. It has no exact price. Every one has to give everything he has. The Apostle Peter gave his nets and received the heavenly kingdom; the widow gave two mites; whoever has a million dollars, let him give that; and whoever has nothing, let him give his freedom.”

What a powerful quote, especially the line “every one has to give everything he has.” In seeking the Kingdom of Heaven, we can hold nothing back for ourselves. We must give everything in our life to Christ. If I choose to follow Christ, everything then belongs to Him – my body, my mind, my soul, my possessions, my time, my money, everything is Christ’s. Let us struggle, then, to hold nothing back from our Lord. There is no part of our life which is hidden from Him, so everything should be offered freely to Him.

Author Matthew Jackson

On the Christian Occupation by Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Elder Joseph with his synodia (brotherhood)

“A true [Christian] must occupy himself day and night with the contemplation of God, whether he is eating, sleeping, working, or walking. God is the one closest to us, with Whom we may speak continuously. For God is in your sight; God is in your nous, in your speech, in your breath, in your food – wherever you look, God is there. In Him we live and move (Acts 17:28); He holds us in His bosom. So cry out constantly, ‘My dear God, do You like this? My dear God, is that Your will?’ Day and night, constantly speak to God with all the simplicity of a son towards his father. Then you feel the love of the Father and His divine protection. Then you love, since you are loved, and you are afraid lest you violate His divine will. You tremble lest you sadden your good Father, Who showed you so much love without any self-interest; it is for you that He died on the Cross.”

excerpt from “Monastic Wisdom,” p 242, Letter 48

Post by Matthew Jackson

On Distractions by St. John of Kronstadt

Fr. John said: “A strange illness has appeared in our days – the passion for distractions. Never before was there such a desire for distractions; people have forgotten how to lead a serious life for the good of others; they have no spiritual life and are bored. They exchange the profound content of a spiritual life for distractions! What madness! It is here that pastors must deploy their strength: they must re-introduce into life its lost meaning and give back to the people the knowledge of the true purpose of life.”

St. John reposed in 1908. Imagine how many more distractions we have today, and how much we have continued to give ourselves to these distractions. We have television, radio, internet – all of these things available wherever we are, even on our mobile telephones. We are a generation even more desirous of distractions! These distractions keep us from attending to the one thing meaningful – we give our time to distractions and then find that we have no time for prayer, spiritual readings, or growing closer to Christ. When we spend our time idly, we fail to spend that time growing in our knowledge of both God and of ourselves.

Let us struggle to heed the words of St. John – let us not exchange the pearl of great price, the one thing needful, the profound content of the spiritual life, for the passing and failing distractions of this fallen and sinful world.

Author Matthew Jackson