Tag Archives: Living in the World

St. John Maximovitch: God’s grace always assists those who struggle, but this does not mean that a struggler is always . . .

Icon of St. John the WonderworkerGod’s grace always assists those who struggle, but this does not mean that a struggler is always in the position of a victor. Sometimes in the arena the wild animals did not touch the righteous ones, but by no means were they all preserved untouched.

What is important is not victory or the position of a victor, but rather the labor of striving towards God and devotion to Him.

Though a man may be found in a weak state, that does not at all mean that he has been abandoned by God. On the cross, the Lord Jesus Christ was in trouble, as the world sees things. But when the sinful world considered Him to be completely destroyed, in fact He was victorious over death and hades. The Lord did not promise us positions as victors as a reward for righteousness, but told us, “In the world you will have tribulation — but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33).

The power of God is effective when a person asks for the help from God, acknowledging his own weakness and sinfulness. This is why humility and the striving towards God are the fundamental virtues of a Christian.

+ St. John Maximovitch

St. Leonid of Optina: Beware of passionate attachments to the world. . . .

St. Leonid of Optina“Beware of passionate attachments to the world. Although they deceive you with peace and comfort, they are so fleeting that you do not notice how you are deprived of them, and in their place come sorrow, longing, despondency, and no comfort whatsoever.”

+ St. Leonid of Optina

St. John of Kronstadt: . . . These living examples, which are so numerous, are capable to strengthen the wavering faith of every Christian in the Lord and in the future life. . . .

Icon of All SaintsWhen your faith in the Lord, either during your life and prosperity, or in the time of sickness and at the moment of quitting this life, grows weak, grows dim from worldly vanity or through illness, and from the terrors and darkness of death, then look with the mental eyes of your heart upon the companies of our forefathers, the patriarchs, prophets, and righteous ones:

St. Simeon, who took the Lord up in his arms, Job, Anna the Prophetess, and others; the Apostles, prelates, venerable Fathers, martyrs, the disinterested, the righteous, and all the saints.

See how, both during their earthly life and at the time of their departure from this life, they unceasingly looked to God and died in the hope of the resurrection and of the life eternal, and strive to imitate them.

These living examples, which are so numerous, are capable to strengthen the wavering faith of every Christian in the Lord and in the future life.

Those Christian communions who do not venerate the saints and do not call upon them in prayer lose much in piety and in Christian hope. They deprive themselves of the great strengthening of their faith by the examples of men like unto themselves.Book St John Kronstadt My Life in Christ

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

St. Simeon the New Theologian: The aim of all those who live in God is to . . .

Icon of St. Symeon the New Theologian“The aim of all those who live in God is to please our Lord Jesus Christ and become reconciled with God the Father through receiving the Holy Spirit, thus securing their salvation, for in this consists the salvation of every soul. If this aim and this activity is lacking, all other labour is useless and all other striving is in vain. Every path of life which does not lead to this is without profit.”

+ St. Simeon the New Theologian, Philokalia

St. Ignatius of Antioch: The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power. When he is hated by the world, he is beloved of God. . . .

Icon of St. Ignatius of Antioch“Only request in my behalf both inward and outward strength, that I may not only speak, but [truly] will, so that I may not merely be called a Christian, but really found to be one. For if I be truly found [a Christian], I may also be called one, and be then deemed faithful, when I shall no longer appear to the world. Nothing visible is eternal. ‘For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal’ [2 Cor 4:18]. The Christian is not the result of persuasion, but of power. When he is hated by the world, he is beloved of God. For says [the Scripture], ‘If ye were of this world, the world would love its own; but now ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it: continue in fellowship with me’ [John 15:19].”

+ St. Ignatius of Antioch, Epistle to the Romans, Chapter 3 (Pray Rather that I May Attain to Martyrdom)

St. John Chrysostom: Let us not then make ourselves unworthy of entrance into the bride-chamber . . .

Icon of St. John ChrysostomLet us not then make ourselves unworthy of entrance into the bride-chamber: for as long as we are in this world, even if we commit countless sins it is possible to wash them all away by manifesting repentance for our offenses: but when once we have departed to the other world, even if we display the most earnest repentance it will be of no avail, not even if we gnash our teeth, beat our breasts, and utter innumerable calls for succor, no one with the tip of his finger will apply a drop to our burning bodies, but we shall only hear those words which the rich man heard in the parable ‘Between us and you a great gulf has been fixed.’ [Luke xvi. 26]

Let us then, I beseech you, recover our senses here and let us recognize our Master as He ought to be recognized. For only when we are in Hades should we abandon the hope derived from repentance: for there only is this remedy weak and unprofitable: but while we are here even if it is applied in old age itself it exhibits much strength. Wherefore also the devil sets everything in motion in order to root in us the reasoning which comes of despair: for he knows that if we repent even a little we shall not do this without some reward. But just as he who gives a cup of cold water has his recompense reserved for him, so also the man who has repented of the evils which he has done, even if he cannot exhibit the repentance which his offenses deserve, will have a commensurate reward. For not a single item of good, however small it may be, will be overlooked by the righteous judge. For if He makes such an exact scrutiny of our sins, as to require punishment for both our words and thoughts, much more will our good deeds, whether they be great or small, be reckoned to our credit at that day.

Wherefore, even if thou art not able to return again to the most exact state of discipline, yet if thou withdraw thyself in a slight degree at least from thy present disorder and excess, even this will not be impossible: only set thyself to the task at once, and open the entrance into the place of contest; but as long as thou tarriest outside this naturally seems difficult and impracticable to thee. [Matt. xxv. 34; 249 Luke xvi. 26]. For before making the trial even if things are easy and manageable they are wont to present an appearance of much difficulty to us: but when we are actually engaged in the trial, and making the venture the greater part of our distress is removed, and confidence taking the place of tremor and despair lessens the fear and increases the facility of operation, and makes our good hopes stronger.

For this reason also the wicked one dragged Judas out of this world lest he should make a fair beginning, and so return by means of repentance to the point from which he fell. For although it may seem a strange thing to say, I will not admit even that sin to be too great for the succor which is brought to us from repentance. Wherefore I pray and beseech you to banish all this Satanic mode of thinking from your soul, and to return to this state of salvation.

+ St. John Chrysostom, An Exhortation to Theodore After His Fall, Letter 1

 

St. Anthony the Great: One should not say that it is impossible to reach a virtuous life . . .

Icon of St. Anthony the Great“One should not say that it is impossible to reach a virtuous life; but one should say that it is not easy. Nor do those who have reached it find it easy to maintain. Those who are devout and whose intellect enjoys the love of God participate in the life of virtue; the ordinary intellect, however, is worldly and wavering, producing both good and evil thoughts, because it is changeful by nature and directed towards material things. But the intellect that enjoys the love of God punishes the evil which arises spontaneously because of man’s laziness.”

+ St. Anthony The Great

St. Philaret of Moscow: A fish that is alive swims against the flow of water. . . .

Icon of St. Philaret of Moscow“A fish that is alive swims against the flow of water. One that is dead floats down with the water. A true Christian goes against the current of sinful age. A false one is swept away by its swiftness.”

+ St. Philaret of Moscow, Orthodox Life Vol. 63 No. 3 May-June 2012

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. John of Kronstadt: How will it be with us in the future life . . .

Icon of St. John of Kronstadt“How will it be with us in the future life, when everything that has gratified us in this world: riches, honors, food and drink, dress, beautifully furnished dwellings, and all attractive objects—how will it be, I say, when all these things leave us—when they will all seem to us a dream, and when works of faith and virtue, of abstinence, purity, meekness, humility, mercy, patience, obedience, and others will be required of us?”

— St. John of Kronstadt