Tag Archives: Goodness of God

St. Nikolai: On the Prayer of the Publican (I)

Publican and Pharisee Zoom Pharisee“God, I thank Thee that I am not as other men are.” A sinful man
dares to say this, in church, to God’s face! What is the Church, if not a place where the sick meet their physician? Those sick from sin come  to confess their sickness to God the Physician, and to find medicine and healing from Him who is the true Healer from all human suffering and weakness, and the Giver of all good things. Do the healthy go to hospital, to boast of their health to the doctor?

But this Pharisee did not come to the Temple with a whole and healthy soul, to boast of his health, but as a man seriously ill with unrighteousness who, in the delirium of his sickness, no longer knows he is ill. Once, when I was visiting a mental hospital, the doctor took me in front of a wire screen across the cell of the most seriously ill of his patients. “How do you feel?”, I asked him. He immediately replied: “How do you think I feel, among all these madmen?”Book St Nikolai Homilies

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, “Sunday of the Pharisee and the Publican: The Gospel on True and False Prayer” Homilies Volume 1: Commentary on the Gospel Readings for Great Feasts and Sundays Throughout the Year

Unseen Warfare: . . . it is inconceivable how the great Lord of hosts could grant such favours to our nothingness and worthlessness.

Jesus Good ShepherdIn order that you may move your will more easily to this one desire, in everything—to please (God and to work for His glory alone—remind yourself’ often, that He has granted you many favours in the past and has shown you His love. He has created you out of nothing in His own likeness and image, and has made all other creatures your servants; He has delivered you from your slavery to the devil, sending down not one of the angels but His Only-begotten Son to redeem you, not at the price of corruptible gold and silver, but by His priceless blood and His most painful and degrading death. Having done all this He protects you, every hour and every moment, from your enemies; He fights your battles by His divine grace; in His immaculate Mysteries He prepares the Body and Blood of His beloved Son for your food and protection. All this is a sign of God’s great favour and love for you; a favour so great that it is inconceivable how the great Lord of hosts could grant such favours to our nothingness and worthlessness.

+ From Unseen Warfare, St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

 

From Unseen Warfare: You must never be afraid . . . that the enemy is too strong against you, that his attacks are never ending . . .

Jesus SwordYou must never be afraid, if you are troubled by a flood of thoughts, that the enemy is too strong against you, that his attacks are never ending, that the war will last for your lifetime, and that you cannot avoid incessant downfalls of all kinds. Know that our enemies, with all their wiles, are in the hands of our divine Commander, our Lord Jesus Christ, for Whose honour and glory you are waging war. Since He himself leads you into battle, He will certainly not suffer your enemies to use violence against you and overcome you, if you do not yourself cross over to their side with your will. He will Himself fight for you and will deliver your enemies into your hands, when He wills and as He wills, as it is written: ‘The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee’ (Deut. xxii, 14).

+ From Unseen Warfare, St. Theophan the Recluse and St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain

St. Nikolai Velimirovich: About How God Whitens the Repentant Sinners

“Though your sins be like scarlet, they may be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

O, the boundless mercy of God! In His greatest wrath upon the faithless and ungrateful people, upon the people “laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters” (Isaiah 1:4), as “princes [rulers] of Sodom” (Isaiah 1:10) and upon the people who have become as the “people of Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:10) – in such wrath, the Lord does not abandon mercy but rather calls them to repentance. Just as after terrible lightnings, a gentle rain falls. Such is the Lord long-suffering [patient] and full of mercy and “neither will He keep His anger forever” [Psalm 102:9 (103:9)]. Only if sinners cease to commit evil and learn to do good and turn to God with humility and repentance they will become “white as snow.” The Lord is mighty and willing. No one, except Him, is able to cleanse the sinful soul of man from sin and, by cleansing, to whiten it. No matter how often linen is washed in water with ashes and soap, no matter how often it is washed and rewashed, it cannot receive whiteness until it is spread under the light of the sun. Thus, our soul cannot become white, no matter how often we cleanse it by our own effort and labor even with the help of all legal means of the law until we, at last, bring it beneath the feet of God, spread out and opened wide so that the light of God illumines it and whitens it. The Lord condones and even commends all of our labor and effort, i.e., He wants us to bathe our soul in tears, by repentance to constrain it by the pangs of the conscience to press it, to clothe it with good deeds and in the end of ends, He calls us to Him: “Come now,” says the Lord, “and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). That is, I will look at you and I will see if there is Me in you and you will look upon Me as in a mirror and you will see what kind of person you are.

O Lord, slow to anger, have mercy on us before the last wrath of that Dreadful Day.Book Prologue of Ohrid Volume 2

+ St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Homily for August 5 in The Prologue of Ohrid Volume II

St. John Chrysostom: Let us give thanks to God continually. . . .

Icon of St. John ChrysostomLet us give thanks to God continually. For, it is outrageous that when we enjoy His benefaction to us in deed every single day, we do not acknowledge the favor with so much as a word; and this, when the acknowledgment confers great benefit on us. He does not need anything of ours, but we stand in need of all things from Him.

In point of fact, thanksgiving adds nothing to Him, but it brings us closer to Him. For if, when we recall the benefactions of men, we are the more warmed by affection for them; much more, when we continually bring to mind the benefits of the Master towards us, shall we be more earnest with regard to His commandments.

For this cause Paul also said, Be ye thankful. For the best preservative of any benefaction is the remembrance of the benefaction, and a continual thanksgiving for it.

+ St. John Chrysostom, Homily 25, Homilies on the Gospel of St. Matthew

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Holy Unction: . . . As often as thou fallest arise, and thou shalt be saved . . .

Icon of JesusO God great and supreme, Who art adored by all created beings, Fountain of Wisdom, Abyss of Goodness in very truth unfathomable, and Sea illimitable of loving-kindness: do Thou, the same Master who lovest mankind, the God of things eternal and of wonders, to the understanding of Whom none among men by taking thought can attain, look down and hear us, Thine unworthy servants, and wheresoever in Thy great Name we shall bring this Oil, send Thou down the gift of thy healing, and remission of sins: and heal him (her) , in the multitude of Thy mercies. Yea, O Lord Who art easy to be entreated; Who alone art merciful and lovest mankind; Who repentest Thee of our evil deeds; Who knowest how that the mind of man is applied unto wickedness, even from his youth up; Who desirest not the death of a sinner, but rather that he should turn again and live; Who for the salvation of sinners didst become incarnate, yet still remain in God, and didst Thyself become a created being for the sake of thy creatures; Thou hast said: I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance; Thou didst seek the wandering sheep; Thou didst diligently seek out the lost piece of silver, and having found it, Thou didst say: He that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out; Thou didst not abhor the sinful woman who washed Thy precious feet with her tears; Thou didst say: As often as thou fallest arise, and thou shalt be saved; Thou art He who didst say: There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repenteth. Do Thou, O tender-hearted Master, look down from the height of Thy sanctuary, overshadowing us sinners, Who are also Thine unworthy servants, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, at this hour, and take up Thine abode in thy servant, N., who acknowledgeth his (her) iniquities, and draweth near unto Thee in faith; and accepting him (her), cleanse him (her) make him (her) pure from every sin; and abiding ever present with him (her), preserve him (her) all the remaining years of his (her) life; that, walking ever in Thy statues, he (she) may in no wise again become an object of malignant joy to the Devil; and Thy Holy Name may be glorified in him (her).

For Thy property it is to show mercy and to save us, O Christ-God; and unto Thee do we ascribe glory, together with they Father who is from every lasting, and Thine all-holy, and good, and life-giving Spirit, now, and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen.

+ Second Priest’s Prayer in the Office of Holy Unction

St. John of Kronstadt: . . . Do not help the Devil to spread his kingdom. . . .

Icon of St. John of KronstadtYou see very clearly that it is extremely difficult, and without God’s grace and your own fervent prayer and abstinence, impossible, for you to change for the better.  You feel within yourself the action of a multitude of passions: of pride, malice, envy, greediness, the love of money, despondency, slothfulness, fornication, impatience, and disobedience; and yet you remain in them, are often bound by them, whilst the long-suffering Lord bears with you, awaiting your return and amendment; and still bestows upon you all the gifts of His mercy.

Be then indulgent, patient, and loving to those who live with you, and who also suffer from many passions; conquer every evil by good, and, above all, pray to God for them, that He may correct them—that He may turn their hearts to Himself, the source of holiness.

Do not help the Devil to spread his kingdom. Hallow the name of your Heavenly Father by your actions; help Him to spread His Kingdom on earth. ‘For we are laborers together with God.’

Be zealous of the fulfillment of His will on earth, as it is in heaven. Forgive them that trespass against you with joy, as a good son rejoices when he has a chance of fulfilling the will of his beloved father.

+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ [paperback]  or  [hardback]

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St. Isaac the Syrian: A Prayer of Repentance

Icon of St. Isaac the Syrian“At the door of Your compassion do I knock, Lord; send aid to my scattered impulses which are intoxicated with the multitude of the passions and the power of darkness. You can see my sores hidden within me: stir up contrition—though not corresponding to the weight of my sins, for if I receive full awareness of the extent of my sins, Lord, my soul would be consumed by the bitter pain from them. Assist my feeble stirrings on the path to true repentance, and may I find alleviation from the vehemence of sins through the contrition that comes of Your gift, for without the power of Your grace I am quite unable to enter within myself, become aware of my stains, and so, at the sight of them be able to be still from great distraction.”

+ St. Isaac the Syrian, from The Prayers of St. Isaac the Syrian

St. Theophylact: Zacchaeus Sunday, Luke 19:1-10 from the Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke

zacchaeus_calling1-10. And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, who was a chief publican, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who He was, and could not for the crowd, because he was of little stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him: for He was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down: for today I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, He has gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.

For the Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. The Lord seizes the mightiest of the devil’s vessels and destroys his cities. See how the Lord not only makes publicans His disciples, but He even takes prisoner—in order to save him—the chief of publicans, Zacchaeus. No one doubts that a publican is an abomination: how much more so is the chief publican, who is foremost in wickedness? For the publicans derived their living from no other source than the tears of the poor. But even this chief publican is not despised by the Lord. In return only for showing eagerness to see Jesus he receives salvation. He desired to see Jesus, which is why he climbed up into the sycamore tree, but before he had caught sight of Jesus, the Lord had already seen him. In the same manner, the Lord always anticipates us if only He sees that we are willing and eager. When the Lord sees Zacchaeus, He urges him to come down quickly, for He intends to stay at his house. And Zacchaeus was not slow to obey—when Christ commands anything, we must not hesitate—but he came down and received Him joyfully, even though many people murmured.

Let us see how Zacchaeus reaped the benefit of Christ’s entrance into his house. He says, The half of my goods I give to the poor. Do you see his fervor? He began to disburse without stint, not giving just a little, but all that he had. Even what he held back, he held back so that he could give to those whom he had wronged. From this we learn that there is no benefit at all to a man who gives alms to others of money he has obtained unrighteously and ignores those whom he defrauded in obtaining that money. See what Zacchaeus does with this money: if he defrauded anyone he restores to him fourfold, thus remedying the harm he had done to each man he defrauded. This is true almsgiving. He not only remedies the harm, but he does so with increase. This is in accordance with the law, which commanded that that the thief make fourfold restitution (Ex. 22:1). If we consider well, we see that nothing at all remained of Zacchaeus’ money. Half he gave to the poor, and of the half that remained to him, he gave fourfold to those whom he had wronged. But since the living of the chief publican was derived from fraud and extortion, and since he paid back fourfold all that he had wrongly taken, it follows that he stripped himself of everything he had. From this we see that his thinking goes beyond the prescription of the law, for he had become a disciple of the Gospel, and he loved his neighbor more than himself. And what he promised to do, he did: he did not say, “I shall give half, and I shall restore fourfold,” but instead, Behold, I give and I restore. For he had heard the counsel of Solomon, Say not, Come back another time, tomorrow I will give (Prov. 3:28).

Christ proclaims to him the good tidings of his salvation. By this house He means Zacchaeus, for the Lord would not call a building without a soul a son of Abraham. It is clear that that the Lord named this living master of the house a son of Abraham, because Zacchaeus was like the patriarch in two respects: he believed and was counted righteous by faith, and with money he was magnanimous and generous to the poor. See that the Lord says that Zacchaeus is now a son of Abraham, and that in his present behavior the Lord sees the likeness to Abraham. The Lord did not say that Zacchaeus had always been a son of Abraham, but that he is now a son of Abraham. Before, when he was a chief publican and and tax collector, he bore no resemblance to that righteous man, and was not his son. To silence those who were complaining that the Lord went to be the guest of a sinful man, He says, The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

This is the explanation of the literal words; but it is easy to understand these things in another sense as well, for moral benefit. Anyone who is chief among many in wickedness is little in spiritual stature, for flesh and spirit are opposites to one another, and for this reason he cannot see Jesus for the crowd. Crowded in by a multitude of passions and worldly affairs, he is not able to see Jesus acting, moving and walking about. Such a man as this cannot recognize Christian acts for what they are—Christ acting and moving in us. But such a man, who never sees Jesus passing by and cannot perceive Christ in Christian acts, will sometimes change from negligence and come to his senses. Then he will climb up to the top of the sycamore-fig, passing by every pleasure and sweetness, as signified by the figs, and counting them as foolish and dead. Becoming higher than he was and making ascents in his heart (Ps. 83:6), he is seen by Jesus and can see Jesus, and the Lord says to him, Make haste, and come down, which means, “Through repentance you have ascended to a higher life; come down now through humility lest pride and high mindedness make you fall. Make haste, and humble yourself. If you humble yourself, I must abide at your house, for it is necessary that I abide in the house of a humble man. Upon whom shall I look, if not upon him who is humble and meek, who trembles at My words? (Is. 66:2) Such a man gives half of his goods to the destitute demons. For our substance is twofold: flesh and spirit. The righteous man imparts all his fleshly substance to the truly poor, the demons who are destitute of everything good. But he does not let go of his spiritual substance, for as the Lord likewise said to the devil concerning Job, Behold, I give into thine hand all that he has, but touch not his soul (Job 1:12). And if he has taken any thing from any man by false accusation, he restores it to him fourfold. This suggests that if a man repents and follows a path that is opposite to his former way of wickedness, he heals his former sins through the four virtues (courage, prudence, righteousness, and self-control), and thus receives salvation and is called  a son of Abraham. Like Abraham, he also goes out of his land and out of his kinship with his former wickedness and out of the house of his father (Gen. 12:1), meaning, he comes out from his old self and rejects his former condition. He himself was the house of his father, the devil. Therefore, when he went out of the house of his father, that is, when he went out of himself and changed, he found salvation, as did Abraham.

+ St. Theophylact, Zacchaeus Sunday, Luke 19:1-10, Explanation of the Gospel of St. Luke

 

St. Justin Popovich: In them [the Lives of the Saints] it is clearly and obviously demonstrated . . .

Icon of St. Justin PopovichIn them [the Lives of the Saints] it is clearly and obviously demonstrated: There is no spiritual death from which one cannot be resurrected by the Divine power of the risen and ascended Lord Christ; there is no torment, there is no misfortune, there is no misery, there is no suffering which the Lord will not change either gradually or all at once into quite, compunctionate joy because of faith in Him. And again there are countless soul-stirring examples of how a sinner becomes a righteous man in the lives of the Saints: how a thief, a fornicator, a drunkard, a sensualist, a murderer, and adulterer becomes a holy man─there are many, many example of this in the Lives of the Saints; how a selfish egoistical, unbelieving, atheistic, proud, avaricious, lustful, evil, wicked, depraved, angry, spiteful, quarrelsome, malicious, envious, malevolent, boastful, vainglorious, unmerciful, gluttonous man becomes a man of God─there are many, many example of this in the Lives of the Saints

By the same token in the Lives of the Saints there are very many marvelous examples of how a youth becomes a holy youth, a maiden becomes a holy maiden, an old man becomes a holy old man, how an old woman becomes a holy old woman, how a child becomes a holy child, how parents become holy parents, how a son becomes a holy son, how a daughter becomes a holy daughter, how a family becomes a holy family, how a community becomes a holy community, how a priest becomes a holy priest, how a bishop becomes a holy bishop, how a shepherd becomes a holy shepherd, how a peasant becomes a holy peasant, how an emperor becomes a holy emperor, how a cowherd becomes a holy cowherd, how a worker becomes a holy worker, how a judge becomes a holy judge, how a teacher becomes a holy teacher, how an instructor becomes a holy instructor, how a soldier becomes  holy soldier, how an officer becomes a holy officer, how a ruler becomes a holy ruler, how a scribe becomes a holy scribe, how a merchant becomes a holy merchant, how a monk becomes a holy monk, how an architect becomes a holy architect, how a doctor becomes a holy doctor, how a tax collector becomes a holy tax collector, how a pupil becomes a holy pupil, how an artisan becomes holy artisan, how a philosopher becomes a holy philosopher, how a scientist becomes a holy scientist, how a statesman becomes a holy statesman, how a minister becomes a holy minister, how a poor man becomes a holy poor man, how a rich man becomes a holy rich man, how a slave becomes a holy slave, how a master becomes a holy master, how a married couple becomes a holy married couple, how an author becomes a holy author, how an artist becomes a holy artist. . .

— St. Justin Popovich, Orthodox Faith & Life in Christ, “Introduction to the Lives of the Saints”