“The grace of the Holy Spirit which is given mystically to every Orthodox Christian when he is baptized acts and is manifested in proportion to our obedience to the commandments of the Lord.
That is, if a Christian obeys the commandments of the Lord more, grace acts with him more, while if he obeys them less, grace acts within him less.
Just as a spark, when covered in the ashes of fire becomes increasingly manifest as one removes the ashes, and the more fire wood you put the more the fire burns, so the grace that has been given to every Christian through Holy Baptism is hidden in the heart and covered up by the passions and sins, and the more a man acts in accordance with the commandments of Christ, the more he is cleansed of the passions and the more the fire of Divine grace lights in his heart, illumines and deifies him.”
+ St. Nikodemos of the Holy Mountain
Who did not meet the Lord when He, as a king, triumphantly entered into Jerusalem; and who did not cry out then, Hosanna to the Son of David! (Matt. 21:15)? But only four days passed, and the same crowd with the same tongues cried, Crucify Him, crucify Him! (John 19:6). An amazing change!
But why should we be surprised? Do we not do the very same thing, when upon receiving the Holy Mysteries of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we barely leave the Church before forgetting everything—both our reverence and God’s mercy toward us. We give ourselves over as before to self-pleasing deeds—at first small and then also large.
Perhaps even before four days have passed, although we do not cry, “Crucify Him!” we will crucify the Lord within ourselves. The Lord sees all of this and suffers. Glory to Thy longsuffering, O Lord!
St. Theophan the Recluse
And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to Thy word.
Those are earthly words, but like heavenly things, they are purer than tried silver, better than gold, of greater value than precious stones. This is the treasure which during five thousand years the heavens sought upon earth, and which one from before the heavenly throne was sent to reveal.
In truth, Archangel Gabriel not only brought unto the Virgin Mary the word of divine annunciation, but also awaited from her the word of compliance…He at length solves the question: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon Thee”, and then he received the desired answer, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to Thy word.” And now only is the long-sought treasure found…The heavenly embassy has attained its end. “And the Angel departed from her.”
What does this mean? What means it that the incarnation of the Son of God is preceded by Annunciation from heaven, Continue reading
Take your minds, my dears, to that sacred place where our Lord Jesus Christ’s Baptism was performed. And here appears to our gaze the picture of the Jordan event, deeply enlightening, wondrous, and full of Divine greatness.
When Jesus Christ turned thirty, He went to the Jordan, where John was baptizing the people, saying that He too came to be baptized. God revealed to John Who it was Who had come to him, and he exclaimed: I have need to be baptized of thee. But Christ answered: “Withhold Me not, for so shall we fulfill the will of God.” At these words He went down into the water, and when He was submerged, then then heavens were opened and the Holy Spirit alighted upon Him in the form of a dove, and the voice of God the Father was heard: This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.
John baptized the people with the baptism of repentance. But did the Sinless, Holy God-Man Jesus Christ really have sins, such habits? Obviously not. He had no sins. He had nothing of which to repent… Continue reading
Our life is child’s play, only not innocent, but sinful, because, with a strong mind, and with the knowledge of the purpose of our life, we neglect this purpose and occupy ourselves with frivolous, purposeless matters. And thus our life is childish, unpardonable play.
We amuse ourselves with food and drink, gratifying ourselves by them, instead of only using them for the necessary nourishment of our body and the support of our bodily life.
We amuse ourselves with dress, instead of only decently covering our body and protecting it from the injurious action of the elements.
We amuse ourselves with silver and gold, admiring them in treasuries, or using them for objects of luxury and pleasure, instead of using them only for our real needs, and sharing our superfluity with those in want. Continue reading
At one time, even fairly recently, the date July 17 in the so-called “new style,” was marked as a day of sorrow, because on this day the Russian people and the Russian diaspora remembered the great evil act when the Royal Family was brutally killed in the basement of Ipatiev House. This was a day of mourning, but no longer! Now the Royal Family has been glorified as a family of holy martyrs. Never forget that when the Church glorifies a saint, the act itself does not create the saint, it only declares to the people that this person or this group of people have been glorified in God.
In the collection of the Lives of Saints we see a wonderful example. Once there was a man who occupied a very lofty position, he was renowned and wealthy, but he left to join a monastery, to become a monk, and took up the life of the ascetics, in fasting, prayer and deprivation. Others lived nearby who shared his way of life, many of them were more severely ascetic than he. Yet the faithful began to flock to him, benefiting from his inspired spiritual discussions and guidance, and the Lord glorified him with the gift of sagacity and miracles. One of the monks asked his elder: why is this so? “This man is an ascetic, of course, but he is no better than the others, in fact, there are others who lead stricter ascetic lives, but are not granted the gifts of discernment or miraculous works, with such spiritual talents. Why did the Lord bestow these upon him, then?”
Let us spread before His feet not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in His grace, or rather, clothed completely in Him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before Him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the Conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of His victory.
St. Andrew of Crete on Palm Sunday
The great Stefan Nemanja, whose authorative words everyone unconditionally heeded to and at whom people and emperors trembled, became a monk and served the monks of the Holy Mountain [Athos] as an ideal example of meekness, humility, goodness and piety. Even his death was the death of a truly godly-man and spiritual leader. He became bedridden on February 7. He summoned St. Sava, placed his hands on him and blessed him saying: “My beloved child, the light of my eyes, comfort and protector in my old age! Behold the time of our separation has arrived. Behold the Lord is releasing me in peace. But you, my child, do not mourn because of our separation. For parting is the common cup of all and everyone; here we part from one another but we will meet there where there is no separation.” On February 12, St. Simeon asked Sava to clothe him in a burial cassock, to spread a mat on the ground, lay him there and place a stone under his head. He then summoned all the monks and asked their forgiveness. At dawn, on February 13, while the monks were chanting the Office of Matins in church and the voices were reaching the cell of the dying one, St. Simeon, once more his face radiated and he gave up his soul to his God.
The Prologue of Ohrid – Reflection
How important commemoration at the Liturgy is may be seen in the following occurrence: before the uncovering of the relics of St. Theodosius of Chernigov (1896), the priest-monk (the renowned Starets Alexis of Goloseyevsky Hermitage, of the Kiev-Caves Lavra, who died in 1916) who was conducting the re-vesting of the relics.
Becoming weary while sitting by the relics, dozed off and saw before him the Saint, who told him: “I thank you for laboring with me. I beg you also, when you will serve the Liturgy, to commemorate my parents” — and he gave their names (Priest Nikita and Maria). “How can you, O Saint, ask my prayers, when you yourself stand at the heavenly Throne and grant to people God’s mercy?” the priest-monk asked. “Yes, that is true,” replied St. Theodosius, “but the offering at the Liturgy is more powerful than my prayer.”
+ St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, Homily on Life after Death