Tag Archives: Psalms

St. Peter of Damaskos: As you lie in bed, repent of what you say in your heart . . .

Icon of St. Peter of Damascus“In the words of the psalmist, ‘As you lie in bed, repent of what you say in your heart’ (Ps. 4:4 LXX), that is, repent in the stillness of the night, remembering the lapses that occurred in the confusion of the day and disciplining yourself in hymns and spiritual songs (cf. Col. 3:16) – in other words, teaching yourself to persist in prayer and psalmody through attentive meditation on what you read. For the practice of the moral virtues is effectuated by meditating on what has happened during the day, so that during the stillness of the night we can become aware of the sins we have committed and can grieve over them.”

+ St. Peter of Damaskos, “Twenty-Four Discourses”, XXII Joy, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 3)

St. Raphael of Brooklyn: Instructions to Orthodox Christians with No Orthodox Clergy Nearby

Icon of St. Raphael of BrooklynAs to members of the Holy Orthodox Church living in districts beyond the reach of Orthodox Catholic clergy, I direct that the ancient custom of our Holy Church be observed, namely, in cases of extreme necessity, that is, danger of death, children may be baptized by some pious Orthodox layman, or even by the parent of the child, by immersion three times in the names of the (persons of the) Blessed Trinity, and in case of death such baptism is valid: — but, if the child should live, it must be brought to an Orthodox priest for the Sacrament of Chrismation.

In the case of the death of an Orthodox person where no priest of the Holy Orthodox Church can be had, a pious layman may read over the corpse, for the comfort of the relatives and the instruction of the persons present, Psalm 91 and Psalm 118, and add thereto the Trisagion (“Holy God, Holy Strong One,” etc). But be it noted that so soon as possible the relative must notify some Orthodox bishop or priest and request him to say the Liturgy and Requiem for the repose of the soul of the departed in his Cathedral or parish Church.

As to Holy Matrimony, if there be any parties united in wedlock outside the pale of the holy Orthodox Church because of the remoteness of Orthodox centers from their home, I direct that as soon as possible they either invite an Orthodox priest or go to where he resides and receive from his hands the holy Sacrament of Matrimony; otherwise they will be considered excommunicated until they submit unto the Orthodox Church’s rule.

I further direct that Orthodox Christians should not make it a practice to attend the services of other religious bodies, so that there be no confusion as to the teaching or doctrines. Instead, I order that the head of each household, or a member, may read the special prayers which can be found in the hours of the Holy Orthodox Service Book, and such other devotional books as have been set forth by the authority of the Holy Orthodox Church.

+ St. Raphael of Brooklyn
Letter to Clergy and Laity of the Syrian Greek-Orthodox Catholic Church in North America addressing the Orthodox relationship with the Episcopal Church

Issued late in the year 1912; from The Most Useful KNOWLEDGE for the Orthodox Russian-American Young People, compiled by the Very Rev’d Peter G. Kohanik, 1932-1934 (pp. 297-303).

Read Entire Letter Here

St. Ambrose of Milan: By the death of martyrs religion has been defended, faith increased, the Church strengthened; the dead have conquered, the persecutors have been overcome. . . .

Icon of All Saints“By the death of martyrs religion has been defended, faith increased, the Church strengthened; the dead have conquered, the persecutors have been overcome. And so we celebrate the death of those of whose lives we are ignorant. So, too, David rejoiced in prophecy at the departure of his own soul, saying: ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.’ He esteemed death better than life. The death itself of the martyrs is the prize of their life. And again, by the death of those at variance hatred is put an end to.”

+ St. Ambrose of Milan, On Belief in the Resurrection

St. Nicodemos: Having read Holy Scripture very carefully, you should also read the holy Fathers . . .

Icon of St. Nikodemus of Mt. Athos“Having read Holy Scripture very carefully, you should also read the holy Fathers who interpret the Scriptures. You will receive no less delight from reading the Fathers than you do from the Scriptures. The Fathers develop the hidden meanings in Scripture and with their own writings help us to understand what we did not before. Because of that philosophic axiom that all men by nature seek knowledge, we must say that great delight follows naturally when we learn about hidden and unknown matters. This is why there will be ineffable joy and gladness that will come to your soul from the interpretations and the words of the holy Fathers. You too will be shouting, as did David, those enthusiastic words in the Psalms.”

+ St. Nicodemos of the Holy Mountain, A Handbook of Spiritual Counsel

Fr. Seraphim Rose: This weekend, at the Sunday Vigil of the Prodigal Son . . .

By the rivers of Babylon, painting by Gebhard Fugel, circa 1920

By the rivers of Babylon, painting by Gebhard Fugel, circa 1920

This weekend, at the Sunday Vigil of the Prodigal Son, we will sing Psalm 136.[1]

“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion”.

In these words of the Lenten Psalm, we Orthodox Christians, the New Israel, remember that we are in exile. For Orthodox Russians, banished from Holy Russia,[2] the Psalm has a special meaning; but all Orthodox Christians, too, live in exile in this world, longing to return to our true home, Heaven.

For us the Great Fast is a session of exile ordained for us by our Mother, the Church, to keep fresh in us the memory of Zion from which we have wandered so far. We have deserved our exile and we have great need of it because of our great sinfulness. Only through the chastisement of exile, which we remember in the fasting, prayer and repentance of this season.

Do we remain mindful of our Zion?

“If I forget thee, O Jerusalem…”

Weak and forgetful, even in the midst of the Great Fast we live as though Jerusalem did not exist for us. We fall in love with the world, our Babylon; we are seduced by the frivolous pastimes of this “strange land” and neglect the services and discipline of the Church which remind us of our true home. Worse yet, we love our very captors – for our sins hold us captive more surely than any human master – and in their service we pass in idleness the precious days of Lent when we should be preparing to meet the Rising Sun of the New Jerusalem, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is still time; we must remember our true home and weep over the sins which have exiled us from it. Let us take to heart the words of St. John of the Ladder: “Exile is separation from everything in order to keep the mind inseparable from God. An exile loves and produces continual weeping.” Exiled from Paradise, we must become exiled from the world if we hope to return.

This we may do by spending these days in fasting, prayer, separation from the world, attendance at the services of the Church, in tears of repentance, in preparation for the joyful Feast that is to end this time of exile; and by bearing witness to all in this “strange land” of our remembrance of that even greater Feast that shall be when our Lord returns to take His people to the New Jerusalem, from which there shall be no more exile, for it is eternal.Book Father Seraphim Rose

+ Fr. Seraphim Rose, March 1965

Read about the life of Fr. Seraphim Rose

Footnotes:

[1] “By the Waters of Babylon” is the entire Psalm 136, sung to a plaintive melody, after the Polyelos Psalm during Matins. It is only sung in church the three Sundays that precede Great Lent: Sunday of the Prodigal Son, The Last Judgment (Meatfare) and Forgivensss (Cheesefare) It is significant that this same hymn is chanted at the beginning of the service of monastic tonsure.
[2] This homily was written in 1965, when the church in Russia was still under captivity to the Communist regime.

 

 

St. Basil the Great: . . . a psalm is the work of angels, a heavenly institution, the spiritual incense.

Icon of St. Basil the Great“A psalm implies serenity of soul; it is the author of peace, which calms bewildering and seething thoughts. For, it softens the wrath of the soul, and what is unbridled it chastens. A psalm forms friendships, unites those separated, conciliates those at enmity. Who, indeed, can still consider as an enemy him with whom he has uttered the same prayer to God?

So that psalmody, bringing about choral singing, a bond, as it were, toward unity, and joining the people into a harmonious union of one choir, produces also the greatest of blessings, charity. A psalm is a city of refuge from the demons, a means of inducing help from the angels, a weapon in fears by night, a rest from toils by day, a safeguard for infants, an adornment for those at the height of their vigor, a consolation for the elders, a most fitting ornament for women.

It peoples the solitudes; it rids the market place of excesses; it is the elementary exposition of beginners, the improvement of those advancing, the solid support of the perfect, the voice of the Church. It brightens the feast days; it creates a sorrow which is in accordance with God.

For, a psalm is the work of angels, a heavenly institution, the spiritual incense.”

— St. Basil the Great

St. Porphyrios: The soul is sanctified and purified through the study of the Fathers, . . .

Icon of St. Porphyrios“Our religion is perfectly and profoundly conceived. What is simple is also what is most precious. Accordingly, in your spiritual life engage in your daily contest simply, easily, and without force. The soul is sanctified and purified through the study of the Fathers, through the memorization of the psalms and of portions of Scripture, through the signing of hymns and through the repetition of the Jesus Prayer.

Devote your efforts, therefore, to these spiritual things and ignore all the other things.”

— St. Porphyrios, Wounded by Love

St. Maximos the Confessor: Many human activities, good in themselves, are not good because of the motive . . .

Icon of St. Maximos the Confessor“Many human activities, good in themselves, are not good because of the motive for which they are done. For example, fasting and vigils, prayer and psalmody, acts of charity and hospitality are by nature good, but when performed for the sake of self-esteem they are not good.”

+ St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love 2.35, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)

St. Seraphim of Sarov: One should nourish the soul with the word of God . . .

Icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov“One should nourish the soul with the word of God: for the word of God, as St. Gregory the Theologian says, is angelic bread, by which are nourished souls who hunger for God. Most of all, one should occupy oneself with reading the New Testament and the Psalter, which one should do standing up. From this there occurs an enlightenment in the mind, which is in the mind, which is changed by a Divine change.”

— St. Seraphim of Sarov, Spiritual Instructions

St. Maximos the Confessor: When the demons expel self-restraint . . .

Icon of St. Maximos the Confessor“When the demons expel self-restraint from your intellect and besiege you with thoughts of unchastity, turn to the Lord with tears and say, ‘Now they have driven me out and encircled me’ (Ps. 17:11. LXX); ‘Thou art my supreme joy: deliver me from those who encircle me’ (Ps. 32:7. LXX). Then you will be safe.”

+ St. Maximos the Confessor, Four Hundred Texts on Love 2.18, The Philokalia: The Complete Text (Vol. 2)