Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos on the Prayer Rope

- Elder, what meaning does the prayer rope (komboschoini) have? 

- The prayer rope is an inheritance, a blessing, which was left to us by the Holy Fathers. And for this alone, it has great worth. You see, when someone's grandfather leaves him a meaningless object as an inheritance, he keeps it like a talisman, how much more should we keep the prayer rope as an inheritance of the Holy Fathers! 

In olden times, when there were no clocks, monks counted the time with prayer with the prayer rope, but the knots of the prayer rope were simple. Once, an ascetic was doing great struggles, many prostrations, etc. and the devil went and broke the knots of his prayer rope. The poor man then did prostrations after prostrations, because he couldn't count them, as the devil broke his prayer rope to further continue his struggle. Then, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him and taught him how to weave the knots, so that each knot might contain nine crosses. The devil afterwards, who trembles at the cross, could not break them. Thus the knots of the prayer rope have nine crosses, which symbolize the nine ranks of the Angels. 

- Elder, what do the 33, 50, 100 and 300 knots mean on prayer ropes? 

- Only the number 33 is symbolic, for it symbolizes the 33 years that Christ lived upon the earth. The other numbers simply help us count the prostrations that we do or how many times we say the prayer.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Fasting Guidelines

Just as there are times for feasting, there are also times set aside for fasting. During these periods, certain foods are prohibited. These are, in order of frequency of prohibition, meat (including poultry), dairy products, fish, olive oil and wine. Fruits, vegetables, grains and shellfish are permitted throughout the year. Of course, the Orthodox Church never reduces the practice of fasting to a legalistic observance of dietary rules. Fasting that is not accompanied by intensified prayer and acts of charity inevitably becomes a source of pride. The Church also recognizes that not everyone can fast to the same degree, and assumes that individual Christians will observe the fast prescribed for them by their spiritual fathers. 

The following are fasting days and seasons:

1. All Wednesdays and Fridays (Wednesdays in remembrance of the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot, Fridays in remembrance of Christ’s Crucifixion), except for those noted below;

2. The day before the Feast of Theophany (January 5)

3. Cheesefare Week (the last week before the Great Lent, during which meat and fish are prohibited, but dairy products are permitted even on Wednesday and Friday)

4. Great Lent (from Clean Monday through the Friday before Lazarus Saturday, olive oil and wine are permitted on weekends)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Yoga and Meditation

"....They are contrary to, and irreconcilable with, Orthodox Christian ascesis, especially with Prayer..."

Our times are times of extreme spiritual confusion and apostasy from the Will of God. The father of this condition is the devil, who uses the people that he seduces into fallacy in order to succeed in his homicidal plan. This confusion is cultivated mostly by groups belonging to the so-called "New Age of Aquarius". Their basic dogma is that "all religions are the same; all of them are paths that lead to the same objective" - so they say.  However our Lord Jesus Christ Himself refutes them, when He says in the Gospel: "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6).  Consequently, the paths to salvation are not many, but only one alone: Christ and His Church.

These heralds of confusion identify Christian prayer with yoga and meditation, which are techniques of oriental religions and occultism. With what will follow, I believe that this confusion will be cleared.

Ascesis has been legislated by our very Lord Himself, in the sacred Gospel.  Ascesis is the means for reaching the purpose of Christian living, which is to rid oneself of passions and become united with God (theosis by Grace).  Among the kinds of ascesis are fasting, night-vigils, prayer, sincere repentance and confession, humility; the severing of one's own will by being obedient to the will of God; by  not trusting our own nonexistent powers but only God's power; by attributing to God all good things and whichever progress we make on the path of virtue while putting the blame on ourselves for our sins. Along with these, we should add the study of God's word and the conscientious participation in the Sacraments of our Church - especially in the Sacrament of repentance and confession and the Sacrament of the Divine Eucharist.  Ascesis is not only for monks and clergy, but for every Christian, as clearly observed in the sacred Gospel and the lives of the saints of our Church.  This path of ascesis was the path followed by the millions of saints of our Faith.

Monday, August 22, 2016

An Introduction to the Orthodox Church

The Orthodox Church was founded by our Lord Jesus Christ and is the living manifestation of His presence in the history of the mankind. The most conspicuous characteristics of Orthodoxy are its rich liturgical life and its faithfulness to the apostolic tradition. It is believed by Orthodox Christians that their Church has preserved the tradition and continuity of the ancient Church in its fullness compared to other Christian denominations which have departed from the common tradition of the Church of the first 10 centuries. Today Orthodox Church numbers approximately 300 million Christians who follow the faith and practices that were defined by the first seven ecumenical councils. The word orthodox ("right belief and right glory") has traditionally been used, in the Greek-speaking Christian world, to designate communities, or individuals, who preserved the true faith (as defined by those councils), as opposed to those who were declared heretical. The official designation of the church in its liturgical and canonical texts is "the Orthodox Catholic Church" (gr. catholicos = universal). 

The Orthodox Church is a family of "autocephalous" (self governing) churches, with the Ecumenical (= universal) Patriarch of Constantinople holding titular or honorary primacy as primus inter pares (the first among equals). The Orthodox Church is not a centralized organization headed by a pontiff. The unity of the Church is rather manifested in common faith and communion in the sacraments and no one but Christ himself is the real head of the Church. The number of autocephalous churches has varied in history. Today there are many: the Church of Constantinople (Istanbul), the Church of Alexandria (Egypt), the Church of Antioch (with headquarters in Damascus, Syria), and the Churches of Jerusalem, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania and America

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sorrows: Why They Are Sent and How to Endure Them

Sometimes sorrows are sent to us for the purpose of testing our faith and loyalty to God, and for strengthening us in this faith and loyalty. Many people, when living peacefully, think that they love God with all their hearts. The apostle Peter declared that he would never renounce his Lord; the other disciples wanted to follow Him unto death. But when the time of tribulation came - Peter renounced his Lord and Master; the disciples dispersed. And it was at this point that they realized, despite their heart- felt grief, that they had not yet reached the state in which they would find themselves later on, when they joyously suffered martyrdom and disgrace for Christ.

Without testing even iron looks like steel, pewter looks like silver, bronze looks like gold and plain glass looks like crystal, but tempering shows their true worth. The same happens with people: many appear to be meek and humble, simple and good, religious, etc., while tribulations often reveal them to be malicious, and proud, and cruel-hearted, and greedy, and envious, etc. Tribulations come in the form of loss and deprivation, grief, illness, disgrace, and those who endure the trials are found to be dependable candidates for the Kingdom of God, while those who are unable to endure are not dependable, because they still contain a large admixture of evil. Through suffering and woe in their lives, virtuous people become even more fortified in their virtue.

“Like a goldsmith, upon throwing gold into the furnace, leaves it to melt in the fire until he sees it attain the greatest purity, - says St. John Chrysostom, - so does the Lord allow the souls of men to suffer tribulations until they become pure and shining, and until they acquire great benefit from these temptations. If the goldsmith knows exactly how long he must keep the gold melting in the furnace and when to take it out, and never allows the gold to remain until it is spoiled or burned; even more so does God know, and when He sees that we have become purer, He delivers us from our tribulations, lest we stumble and fall. Let us not grumble and be faint of heart when something unexpected occurs, but let us allow the Lord to purify our soul as long as He wants; for He does it with great mercy and for our benefit.”

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Transfiguration (Metamorphosis) of our Saviour

From the 6th to the 15th of August, for eight consecutive days, the Church celebrates the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ.

A little while before His voluntary Immaculate Passion and His death on the Cross, Christ isolated Himself for prayer on top of a hill (a mountain, as it is given geographically in Palestine), which is known by the name Tabor. With Him were present His three exceptionally loved and trustworthy Disciples, namely Peter, James and John.

If we are to accept the opinion of Eusebious of Caesaria, which Saint Nikodemus the Hagiorites also agrees with, as well as other Holy Fathers of the Church, this event must have taken place forty days before His Passion. However, the exact number of days, for us, is not of great significance. What is important is the reality of the event itself.

"And while He was praying, the appearance of His countenance was altered" writes the Evangelist Luke "and His raiment became dazzling white"(Luke 9:29). According to Matthew and stated more explicitly: "And He was transfigured before them and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light" (Matthew 17:2). Likewise appeared, in front of the eyes of the Disciples, Moses and Elijah, who were conversing with Jesus, they were overshadowed by a bright mist, a luminous cloud. And from this mist, a voice was heard, which said: "This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased! Listen to Him!"

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil the Great



PRIEST: Blessed is the kingdom of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages.



PRIEST: In peace let us pray to the Lord.

PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy.

PRIEST: For the peace of God and the salvation of our souls, let us pray to the Lord.

PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy.

PRIEST: For peace in the whole world, for the stability of the holy churches of God, and for the unity of all, let us pray to the Lord.

PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy.