Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Monasticism: The Apostolic Life by Abbot Paisios of Arizona

From a Presentation by the Very Reverend Abbot of St. Anthony’s Monastery, Archimandrite Paisios, to the San Francisco Diocese clergy conference at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery in Florence, Arizona. Spring, 1998.

Many Christians during the first centuries of the Church were moved by a holy zeal to forsake the world and distribute almost all their belongings to the poor or to a common treasury, and then lived a secular life, praying and reading the Holy Scriptures. They usually lived not far from their own families. By doing handicrafts, they earned what they needed for their basic living necessities. They distributed the little money that was left over to the poor. These people were called “ascetics.” This way of life developed even more during the following years, and from this mode of living the monastic life was born. Women who wanted and desired to dedicate themselves completely to God confessed before witnesses that they desired a life of virginity and thenceforth lived—in the beginning—with their parents, who provided for their livelihood. Later it was customary for the virgins to live together in “Parthenons,” Pachomios the Great organized monasticism for women more perfectly and founded many monasteries for men and many for women.

The monastic life was called the “apostolic life” in the ancient church.  It imitated – and still imitates – the life of the first Christians, who lived under the direct or indirect spiritual direction of the Apostles.  In essence, it is a life of repentance and purification of the heart from our passions, while fulfilling the commandments of the Lord.  The beatitudes of the Lord find their fulfillment in monasticism, and more generally in ascesis, just as in the time of the ancient church.

The ascetical life of the monasteries is just like the ascetical life of the first Christians.  We find in the Acts of the Apostles that the faithful “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers… All who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.  Continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food. . .” (Acts 2:42-46) And later we find another similar testimony: “The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common.” (Acts 4:32)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Homily of Pentecost Sunday by St. Athanasius, Archbishop of Alexandria

Light, Radiance and Grace Are in the Trinity and from the Trinity (from the Synaxarion of the Lenten Triodion and Pentecostarion)

It will not be out of place to consider the ancient Tradition, teaching and faith of the catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the Apostles and guarded by the Fathers.  For upon this faith of the Church is built, and if anyone were to lapse from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name.

We acknowledge the Trinity, holy and perfect, to consider, to consist of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  In this Trinity there is no intrusion of any alien element or of anything from outside, nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being.  It is wholly creative and energizing reality, self-consistent and undivided in Its active power, for the Father makes all things through the Word and in the Holy Spirit, and in this way the unity of the Holy Trinity is preserved. 

Accordingly, in the Church, one God is preached, one God who is “above all things and through all things and in all things.” God is “above all things” as Father, for He is principal and source; He is “through all things” through the Word; and He is “in all things” in the Holy Spirit.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Memorial Service



PEOPLE: Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments.

The choir of Saints has found the fountain of life and the door of Paradise. May I also find the way through repentance. I am the lost sheep: O Savior, call me back and save me. 

PEOPLE: Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments.

Of old, You created me from nothing and honored me with Your divine image. But when I disobeyed Your commandment, You returned me to the earth from which I was taken. Lead me back again to Your likeness, so that the ancient beauty may be refashioned.

PEOPLE: Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments.

I am an image of Your ineffable glory, though I bear the scars of my transgressions. Take pity on me, the work of Your hands, Master, and cleanse me by Your compassion. Grant me the desired homeland for which I long, making me again a citizen of Paradise.

PEOPLE: Blessed are You, O Lord, teach me Your commandments.

Give rest, O God, to Your servant(s), and place him (her, them) in Paradise where the choirs of the Saints and the righteous, O Lord, will shine as the stars of heaven. To Your departed servant(s) give rest, O Lord, overlooking all his (her, their) offenses.

PEOPLE: Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Let us devoutly praise the threefold radiance of the one God as we sing: Holy are You, the Father without beginning, the co-eternal Son, and the divine Spirit. Illumine us who worship You in faith and deliver us from the eternal fire.

PEOPLE: Both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Rejoice, gracious Lady, who gave birth to God in the flesh for the salvation of all, and through whom the human race has found salvation. Through you, pure and blessed Theotokos, may we find Paradise.

PEOPLE: Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia. Glory to You O God. (3)


PEOPLE: With the Saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul(s) of Your servant(s) where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sighing, but life everlasting.


PEOPLE: Among the spirits of the righteous perfected in faith, give rest, O Savior, to the soul(s) of Your servant, keeping it (them) in the blessed life which is from You, O loving One.

PEOPLE: In your place of rest, O Lord, where all Your saints repose, give rest also to the soul of Your servant, for You alone are immortal.

PEOPLE: Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

PEOPLE: You are our God who descended into Hades and loosened the pains of those who were held captive. Grant rest also, O Savior, to the soul of Your servant.

Both now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

You the only pure and spotless Virgin, who ineffably gave birth to God, intercede for mercy and forgiveness of the soul of your servant(s).

PRIEST: Have mercy upon us, O God, according to Your great mercy; we pray to You, hear us and have mercy.

PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy. (3)

PRIEST: Again we pray for the repose of the soul(s) of the departed servant(s) of God (Name) and for the forgiveness of all his (her, their) sins, both voluntary and involuntary.

PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy. (3)

PRIEST: May the Lord God grant his (her, their) soul(s) rest where the righteous repose. For the mercies of God, the kingdom of heaven, and the forgiveness of his (her, their) sins. 

PEOPLE: Grant this, O Lord.

PRIEST: Let us pray to the Lord.

PEOPLE: Lord, have mercy.

PRIEST: O God of spirits and of all flesh, You trampled upon death and abolished the power of the devil, giving life to Your world. Give rest to the soul(s) of Your departed servant(s) (Name) in a place of light, in a place of green pasture, in a place of refreshment, from where pain, sorrow, and sighing have fled away. As a good and loving God, forgive every sin he (she, they) has (have) committed in word, deed, or thought, for there is no one who lives and does not sin. You alone are without sin. Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your word is truth.

PRIEST: For You are the resurrection, the life, and the repose of Your departed servant(s) (Name), Christ our God, and to You we offer glory, with Your eternal Father who is without beginning and Your all-holy, good, and life-creating Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages.



PRIEST: Glory to You, O God, our hope, glory to You.

Lord of the living and the dead, the immortal King and Risen Christ, our true God, through the intercessions of His all-pure and spotless holy Mother; of the holy, glorious, and praiseworthy Apostles; of our venerable and God-bearing Fathers; of the holy and glorious forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; of His holy and righteous friend Lazaros, who lay in the grave four days; and of all the saints; place the soul(s) of His servant(s) (Name), departed from us, in the dwelling place of the righteous; give rest to him (her, them) in the bosom of Abraham; and number him (her, them) among the saints and have mercy on us, as a good God who loves mankind.


PRIEST: May your memory be eternal, brother worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory. (3)


PRIEST: May your memory be eternal, sister worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory. (3)


PRIEST: May their memories be eternal, sisters and brothers worthy of blessedness and everlasting memory. (3)


PEOPLE: Eternal be his (her, their) memory. Eternal be his (her, their) memory. May his (her, their) memory be eternal. (3)

PRIEST: Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ, our God, have mercy on us and save us.


Friday, May 26, 2017

Struggling Against Carnal Passions

In struggling against bodily passions, my brother, a different method should be used than in struggling against the others. If you want things to proceed in the right order, know that you should do one thing before you are tempted by these passions, another thing during temptation and yet another when it is over.

Before temptation, attention should be concentrated on the causes, which habitually give birth to temptation or which excite passion. The rule here is to use every means to avoid all occasions, which may upset the calm of your body, especially meeting people of the other sex. If you are forced to converse with such a person, let the conversation be short, and preserve not only modesty but a certain sternness of countenance; let your words be friendly, but reserved rather than forthcoming.

‘Never trust thine enemy’ (Ecclesiasticus xii. 10) says the wise Sirach. So never trust your body; for as iron produces rust by itself, so the corrupted nature of the body produces evil stirrings of lust. “For like as iron rusteth, so is his wickedness’ (Ecclesiasticus xii. 10). I repeat again, do not trust yourself in this respect, even if you no longer feel and have not felt for some time this sting of your flesh.

For this thrice-cursed wickedness sometimes achieves in one hour or one moment what it has not done for many years, and always makes its preparations for attack silently. Know that the more the flesh pretends to be your friend and gives no cause for suspicion, the greater the harm it inflicts later, and often strikes to death.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Why Did the Holy Spirit Appear as Fire?

You have heard that the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in tongues of fire. But why did the Holy Spirit, co-eternal with the Father and the Son, appear as fire? Why as tongues of fire? Why does He sometimes appear as a dove and at other times as a flame? Why did He descend as a dove upon the Only-begotten Son, but as a flame upon the disciples? The Holy Spirit appears as fire because, in the words of the holy Apostle Paul, God is an ethereal, indescribable, and invisible fire: “For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). God is also called fire because He destroys the rust of sins.

But the Lord sends fire down to earth when with the breath of the Holy Spirit He enflames the hearts of mortal men. And the earth lights up when a heart of flesh, that is cold in its iniquitous pleasures, abandons the desires of the modern world and becomes enflamed with love for God. Thus the Spirit very properly appeared as fire, because from every heart in which He chooses to dwell, He dispels the numbness of ice and enflames such a heart with a desire for eternal life. And the reason He appeared in tongues of fire was because the Spirit is co-eternal with the Son, while the Son is the Word of the Father; thus, just as the tongue is in close proximity to the word, so the Holy Spirit appeared in flaming tongues, in order to show the Spirit’s particular closeness to the Word of the Father. Furthermore, the Spirit also appeared in tongues of fire because He causes everyone in whom He dwells to be ardent and cogent. 

Church teachers possess tongues of fire, because in their sermons on the need to love God they kindle the hearts of their listeners. This flame was acquired from the mouth of the Lord Himself by those who said: “Did not our heart burn within us, while He talked with us… and while He opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32), because from the spoken word the spirit is kindled, its cold rigidity is dispelled, the soul begins to burn with lofty aspirations, and distances itself from earthly desires. Celestial commandments are never heeded with a cold heart, but with a heart burning with the fire of inner love for them.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Our Ascended Lord: The Saving Swallow Who Opened the Way to the Eternal Spring

When swallows run short of food and the cold weather is coming, they set off to warm climes, where there is plenty of sun and food. One swallow flies ahead, testing the air and showing the way, while the rest of the flock follows after. When our souls run short of food in the material world, and when the cold of death draws near—ah, is there a swallow like that one, to take us to a warm place, where there is plenty of spiritual warmth and food? Is there such a place? Is there, oh, is there such a swallow? Outside the Christian Church, there is no one who can give any sort of reliable answer to this. The Church alone knows and knows with certainty. 

It has seen that part of Paradise for which our souls yearn in the frozen twilight of this earthly existence. It has also seen this blessed swallow, the first to fly to that yearned-for place, dispersing the darkness and cutting through the heavy atmosphere between earth and Heaven with its powerful wings, opening the way to the flock behind it. Apart from this, the Church on earth can tell one of the innumerable flocks of swallows that have followed the first Swallow and flown off with it to that blessed land, a land abounding with all good things—the land of eternal Spring.

You will see from this that, by this saving Swallow, I am thinking of the ascended Lord Jesus Christ. 
Has He not said of Himself that He is theWay? Did He not Himself say to His Apostles: “I go to prepare a place for you...and if I go...I will receive you unto Myself”(St. John 14:2–3)? And did He not say to them before this:

“And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me” (St. John 12:32)?

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Feast of Mid-Pentecost and the Pentecostarion

The fifty days following Pascha until the Feast of Pentecost are known as the period of the Pentecostarion in the Orthodox Church. At the mid-point between these great feasts of Pascha and Pentecost, on the twenty-fifth day which is always a Wedneday, is one of the most beloved feasts for the most devout Orthodox Christians known quit simply as Mid-Pentecost. Mid-Pentecost is to the Pentecostarion what the Third Sunday of Great Lent which honors the Holy Cross is to the period of Great Lent. It is a day which helps us focus on the central theme of the entire period. Whereas the mid-point of Great Lent reminds us to bear up the Cross of Christ bravely so that we may daily die with Christ in order to experience the Resurrection of our Lord, so also the mid-point of the Pentecostarion enlightens us regarding the theme of the fifty days following Pascha - which is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit poured out as a gift upon all the faithful who partake of the living water which is Christ Himself.

The central theme woven throughout the period of the Pentecostarion therefore is water. This becomes the central theme of the period because it is the central theme of the Gospel of John which we read in its entirety during the Pentecostarion and which naturally flows into the Acts of the Apostles which is also read during this period in its entirety. This theme appears for the first time on Pascha itself in the joyous Canon of the Feast of Feasts written by Saint John the Damascene when he invites us to "drink a new drink," not "brought forth from a barren rock," as in the Old Testament under Moses, but which rather "springeth forth from the grave of Christ." Then during the Paschal Divine Liturgy the priest processes with the Gospel and chants loudly from Psalm 67:27 saying: "In the congregations bless ye God, the Lord from the well-springs of Israel."

When Renewal or Bright Week is over the Church wisely sets up two Sundays in which to abolish all doubts concerning the Resurrection of Christ, that of the Sunday of Saint Thomas and the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing Women. This is done in order to ensure that we all partake of the living water that only the risen Lord can give. The following three Sundays, as we approach Pentecost, the theme of water becomes more and more central in the hymns of the Church. Thus we are found one Sunday at the Sheep's Pool with the Paralytic, then at the Well of Jacob with the Samaritan Woman, and finally at the Pool of Siloam with the Blind Man. During this festive period we hear concerning the "living water" which if one partakes of "he will never thirst".