Monday, July 1, 2019

Love - English Orthodox Web 12



English Orthodox Web 12


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The phrase, "I love you"

Saint Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia, Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+1991)

The phrase, "I love you", is a humble thing to say. It is not simply said though. It is gained silently with the personality that you fashion. You fashion it, and the other may be mad at you. You are working and look as to ultimately hide it. But the other senses it and is attracted by it. If you love and you don't seek the love of others, all will come close to you. It is a mystery. Mystically you will love and they will understand it, and even while far away, they will send you their good feelings. Do you understand this? ... It is natural what I am telling you: to love selflessly!




Saints Quotes on Love

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
—St Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 13:4

The proof of love is in the works. Where love exists, it works great things. But when it ceases to act, it ceases to exist.
—St. Gregory the Great

He alone loves the Creator perfectly who manifests a pure love for his neighbor.
—St. Bede the Venerable

If you have love for the whole world, the whole world is beautiful.
—Mother Gavriella the Missionary, the "Ascetic of Love" (+1992)

This is my last will and testament: raise your prayers for everyone; your prayers will move the mountains. Love each other.
—St. Gabriel the New Confessor of Georgia (+1995)

My worst hell is to realize that I have saddened a beloved person.
—Blessed Elder Epiphanios Theodoropoulos (+1989)

What is the mark of love for your neighbor? Not to seek what is for your own benefit, but what is for the benefit of the one loved, both in body and in soul.
—St. Basil the Great

I no longer fear God, but I love Him. For love casts out fear.
—St Anthony the Great

In this time of fasting and prayer, brethren, let us with all our hearts forgive anything real or imaginary we have against anyone. May we all devote ourselves to love, and let us consider one another as an incentive to love and good works, speaking in defense of one another, having good thoughts and dispositions within us before God and men. In this way our fasting will be laudable and blameless, and our requests to God while we fast will be readily received.
—St. Gregory Palamas, excerpt from Homily Seven: "On Fasting"


-Let us accept another as he is-

Blessed Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery, Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+2019)

Let us accept another as he is. One will insult me, of course. Another will praise me, certainly. Another will offer me half a glass of water, doubtlessly. Let us not meddle in the life of another. When they will ask for our love, let us give it as God gives it, “over both the righteous and the unrighteous.”




Love for all

Met. Georges Khodr

[The Gospel] speaks to us about our love for all, even our enemies, and makes love something that does not seek anything in return when it says "be merciful even as your Father in heaven is merciful."

Christianity is merciful. We must realize its essence in order to make use of it, for it not to remain just a slogan, something we brag about in front of people. The question posed to us every day is: what is the source of our love? By what power are we able to love? It is not within us foundationally, since man tends toward ruthlessness and revenge. Man is hostile and hostility is ingrained in us. Man is inclined to antagonize people and the Lord asks of us something beyond nature. He insists that we love and that we love always, the we love our enemies. He tells us that it is possible, but not from the dust from which we were shaped. It is, however, possible from the Holy Spirit if it flows upon us from His bounty.

Christianity alone teaches love. You can wander all over the world and read all the books and teachings, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone is what has revealed love in all its great dimensions that we know. It is what made love unconditional-- that is, independent of people's emotions. Jesus says to love people whether they love you or hate you. Your love is not focused on flesh and blood or people's emotions. Love is not from you or from them. It comes from your Father in heaven. Love is possible in Christianity alone. Elsewhere there is compassion and mercy. In the Gospel of Jesus love is perfect, constant, unceasing. Love comes to us from God's heart and it remains in us as long as God is in our hearts.It is what changes the face of the world and that to which the world aspires. It is the end of everything. If someone obtains it, he does not strive for anything else. The development that people talk about, the advancement that they seek, has the goal in the end of people living in love. If we realize love, we have arrived at the goal of human development and advancement and we have no need for anything else.

"Love one another as I have loved you." This is the secret of the entire process: "As I have loved you." That is-- I have loved you unto death. I have revealed to you that God is love and that if you are in Him, then you love. But if He is hidden from you or if your sins have hidden Him from you, then you are not able to love. Love found its perfection in Christ's death. A person who as faith in Christ's death, in His perfect sacrifice, then this is a person who loves because he knows that the other person before him is weak and in need of treatment.

Since Christ is the Physician of humankind, He made those who belong to Him physicians for people. If a sick person is brought to a physician, the physician might not know his name. He might not see his face and ask about his identity, his religion, his race, or his background but he has before him a sick person that he treats. Then another sick person comes and he treats him with the same care and attention. In this way each of us is a sick person. Each of us is spiritually sick and the other person, the person in front of us or near us-- our neighbor, our friend or our enemy-- has been appointed a physician by God to give him attention and care. So it does not matter for us whether or not they spoke ill of us, whether or not they beat us, whether or not they treated us unjustly. The person before us was put there by God for care. Love in Christianity is care.

Christ came to save people but He wants each one of us to follow up on the mission of salvation, to be a savior to those around us. Christ is not only active from heaven: all of us are His hands and His eyes and He has given us the Gospel so that within us and at our hands it will become a glorious reality. In this way, if we love people, then they feel that God loves them. We love so that people may draw near, not only to us but to God. We do not love in order to be loved ourselves. We love so that God may be loved.

Met. Georges Khodr
Notes on Arab Orthodoxy




Saint Augustine of Hippo,
North Africa (+430)
on Love

* Love is the beauty of the soul.

* Since love grows within you, so beauty grows. For love is the beauty of the soul.

* God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.

* What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.


If God is loving, 
why does he send people to Hell?

God does not send anyone to Hell. By his very nature, God is holy and cannot overlook sin, yet he desires that all should come to know him through faith. However, God does not compel us to love him, for forced love is not love at all. Thus Hell is something that humans choose voluntarily, through their rejection of God.


True love is like the flame of a candle

Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos of Athens, Greece (+1989)

True love is like the flame of a candle. However many candles you light from the flame, the initial flame remains unaffected. It doesn’t lessen at all. And every freshly lit candle has as much flame as the others do.

—Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos of Athens, Greece (+1989)

(Taken from Elder Epiphanios in “Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit”, Protecting Veil Press)




All things around us 
are droplets of the love of God

St Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia, 
Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+1991)

Take delight in all things that surround us. All things teach us and lead us to God. All things around us are droplets of the love of God — both things animate and inanimate, the plants and the animals, the birds and the mountains, the sea and the sunset and the starry sky. They are little loves through which we attain to the great Love that is Christ. Flowers, for example, have their own grace; they teach us with their fragrance and with their magnificence. They speak to us of the love of God. They scatter their fragrance and their beauty on sinners and on the righteous.




Box full of kisses

Some time ago, a man punished his 3-year-old daughter for wasting a roll of gold wrapping paper. Money was tight and he became infuriated when the child tried to decorate a box to put under the Christmas tree.

Nevertheless, the little girl brought the gift to her father the next morning and said, “This is for you, Daddy.”

The man became embarrassed by his overreaction earlier, but his rage continue when he saw that the box was empty. He yelled at her; “Don’t you know, when you give someone a present, there is supposed to be something inside?”

The little girl looked up at him with tears in her eyes and cried;

“Oh, Daddy, it’s not empty at all. I blew kisses into the box. They’re all for you, Daddy.”

The father was crushed. He put his arms around his little girl, and he begged for her forgiveness.

Only a short time later, an accident took the life of the child.

Her father kept the gold box by his bed for many years and, whenever he was discouraged, he would take out an imaginary kiss and remember the love of the child who had put it there.

Love is the most precious gift in the world.


"If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?" (Matthew 4:46)


Hieromonk Alexis Trader

People like those that like them. Being liked is intrinsically rewarding. It means we fit in; it puts us in a good mood, and even props up our self-esteem. So we smile at those who smile at us, we listen to those who listen to us, and we are interested in those who are interested in us. And all of this, as good as it feels and as right as it seems, is unrelated to virtue, the spiritual life, and holiness. It is just part of being human, which entails maintaining social relationships that are in our own best self-interest. Psychologists call this egoistic altruism. That description is not particularly flattering, but our Lord’s description is even more humbling, for He notes that such love is exhibited even by the most unscrupulous extortionists of His age who are usually grouped together with sinners and prostitutes. Loving those who love us may makes us feel good about them and about ourselves, but we should not deceive ourselves into thinking that therefore we are good Christians or virtuous people. We already have our reward for the love we give in so many ways.

According to Saint John Chrysostom, we are not only no different from publicans when we love only those who love us, but we are also worse than they are when instead of loving our enemies, we despise them and hate them, for we have the example of Christ loving His enemies and praying for them as well as the command of Christ that we love our enemies and pray for them, and yet we disregard the Lawgiver in order to follow the promptings of our passions and the whims of our will (To Demetrios on Compunction, PG 47.400). Elsewhere, Saint John notes that some Christians do not even manage to love those who love them. In which case, he asks, “is there even hope for salvation?” What the sacred father suggests that we do is to “subdue our thought” (δασμάσωμεν ἡμῶν τὸν λογισμόν), which is much like a wild animal that needs to be made tame or put under a yoke, so that it can work with us instead of fight against us, so that it can help us instead of hinder us (Homily 4 on Genesis, PG 53.47). In other words, when a thought of enmity raises its hateful head, we tame that thought, saying NO, and then bringing to mind our loving and humble Lord. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on me. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on him. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy on her. Whatever the case may be.

To subdue our thought, Saint John Chrysostom also instructs us “to prepare our thought” so that we “look at our enemies in a way that is tame,” (Homily 10 on Genesis, PG 53.93) which implies being ready to cooperate with them rather than struggle with them, being flexible around them rather than rigid, being gentle and meek, rather than callous and authoritarian. It means opening our hearts to them by opening our thoughts to the expansive love of Christ from which nothing can separate us, “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature” (Romans 8:38-39), unless we separate ourselves from Him by choosing not to love our enemies.

Saint Ephraim the Syrian teaches that loving those who love you, the love of the publicans, is the love of the dinner table to which friends are invited, but not enemies. For the Saint, to think of such love as though it were the love of Christ is pure delusion. The love Christians seek is “without hypocrisy, without blame, without moral stain, and without comparison. It bears all things and leads to every good thing. The Lord showed it to us, saying, ‘that one lay down his life for his friends,’ for the Lord taught this and did this, laying down his own soul not only for His friends, but also for His enemies. Indeed, God so loved the world that He gave His beloved Son for us. Regarding this love, the Apostle Paul full of divine love said: love does no ill to the neighbor, does not render evil for evil, insult for insult, but is always slow to anger, is always kind, is not jealous, is not irritable, does not take into account wrong doings, does not rejoice in injustice, but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Such love never fails” (Saint Ephraim the Syrian, On love,volume 5 of the collected works).




The Three Girls of the Trinity

"The Three Girls of the Trinity were aflame with zeal for the trinity of virtues: Hope, Faith and Love, and were enrolled together with the same name, to be called towards tortures".

—Exaposteilaron Hymn from the feast of Sts. Sophia, Faith, Hope and Love




About Love

Blessed Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery, Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+2019)

* Love consists in the ability to give joy to another, to deprive myself so that another has more, to sacrifice myself so that another is comfortable, feels secure in his life.

* God wants us to be in our daily life in such way that others love us and feel our joy. They should feel that they can communicate with us, they can tell us their happiness, their sorrow, their problems. They should feel that we are hearts that live close to one another and that we can help one another.




O Divine Love

Poem of Saint Nektarios 
of Aegina Island, Greece (+1920)
O Divine Love, come, I entreat you,
From all my soul and within my heart,
And a divine dwelling-place, O Christ, make me
And from every stain, O cleanse me.

O Divine Love, godly love
I ask You to fill my soul
With divine eros. O Divine Love,
Fervently I entreat you, to grant to me, Your servant.

O Divine Love, I entreat You,
To grant love to those who ask of You,
For Your love is to fulfull
Your Divine Law, O sweet Love.

O Divine Love, who alone fills
The whole world and preserves it,
You are the law of the heavens,
You are the law of the earthly.

Your Kingdom is love,
In which reigns joy and peace,
In which reigns blessedness,
The eros of the Divine and rejoicing.




Twenty Practical Suggestions for Humility

Fr. Stephanos Anagnostopoulos, Greece
Did they forget you? They don’t even pick up the phone? It doesn’t matter.

Were they unjust to you? Forget about it.

Do they despise you? Rejoice.

Do they condemn you? Don’t fight back.

Do they ridicule you? Don’t respond.

Do they curse you? Be silent and pray.

Do they not let you speak? Do they cut you off? Don’t be sad.

Do they speak evil of you? Don’t fight back.

Do your children, your relatives and your own people take away your rights? Don’t complain.

Do they get angry with you? Remain peaceful.

Do they rob you openly? Be blind to it.

Do they mock you? Forbear it.

Do they not listen to your advice, especially your children? Fall to your knees and pray.

Are you upset with your spouse? You are to blame, not the other.

Were you to blame? Ask forgiveness.

You weren’t to blame? Again ask forgiveness.

Do you have health? Glorify God.

Do you have sickness? Do you have cancer, depression? Are you suffering, tortured, in pain? Glorify God.

Complaining, unemployment, poverty in the house? Fasting. Vigil. Prayer.

For everyone and for everything, prayer. Much prayer. Much prayer. Fasting and prayer, for “these kinds of passions and demons do not come out but with fasting and prayer.”

May we all, my brethren, and first of all myself, follow these humble suggestions, that we may be sure that we will be saved.




The person who loves God...

Saint Maximos the Confessor (+662)

The person who loves God cannot help loving every man as himself, even though he is grieved by the passions of those who are not yet purified. But when they amend their lives, his delight is indescribable and knows no bounds. A soul filled with thoughts of sensual desire and hatred is unpurified. If we detect any trace of hatred in our hearts against any man whatsoever for committing any fault, we are utterly estranged from love for God, since love for God absolutely precludes us from hating any man.



How to preserve a relationship?

Fr. Andrew Konanos, Greece

Your life has become a routine. You feel that a person close to you has become boring. You have studied him or her for so many years. You are used to them, but you are tired of them. This is what you think. What is this person really like? You know them well for sure. Just as usual, they reveal something new to you. Something that you did not know, some beautiful part of their soul. If you understand this, you will see they have many more capabilities. Then your interest in them will be awakened in the depths of your soul. Your relationship will become new and fresh again. Any relationship can be pleasant: with your spouse, your children, and your co-workers.

As holy fathers suggested, it is enough for everyone to look at oneself philosophically. That is, to examine oneself, wonder, if Christ reflects in one, then say: «Why was Jesus like that, and I am completely different? What do I have? What do I lack? Why am I so fussy? Why is everyone around me to blame? Why are my wings broken? After all, I am still so young! Future is ahead! I cannot go on like this!”

So, find your calling. Search. Pay attention to your charisma. Listen closely to your heart’s desires and profound wishes. I pray that you awaken, that a spark ignites within your soul and turns into a flaming aspiration that will change your days and weeks, that you find an incentive to live.

I wish you this: some kind of change, an inspiration. By the prayers of all our saints. With the blessing of the Most Pure Theotokos, Her maternal love. I wish your heart to always beat, carrying the living Blood of Christ. The Life-Giving Blood, as we said earlier. So that you would live and rejoice, not being stagnate and not wasting your days pointlessly, spending them without happiness and joy. You are worthy of happiness. Joy suits you. Your soul yearns for Christ. All this I wish you. And I pray for the realization of all this. You can do it all!

Your power is in prayer. I think the greatest mystery of all the saints of our Church and all those mighty souls, who managed to overcome great problems, trials, inconveniences and hardships, was in prayer. Prayer… We claim that we pray, but is it truly so? Judging by myself and some people who trust me, I have no idea if we actually pray or if it is just empty talk.

In Greek, the word “prayer” (προσευχή) has a preposition προς, indicating the direction of prayer. The question is, where is it actually directed? Maybe to ourselves? Perhaps through ourselves we talk to our own selves? Or is there really a way from our “self” to God? Maybe through prayer, we personally contact with God? If we actually had this contact, much would be different… How important it is to say, “I am in contact with God”, that is, with Him, Who is the truth, light, bliss, power, glory, hope, joy, health and wealth.

From the book “There are difficulties in marriage…” by Archimandrite Andrew (Konanos)

Translated by Kirill Nikolaev





About Love

Saint Luke of Crimea, the doctor (+1961)

* Where does condemnation come from? From pride, by the fact that many perceive themselves as higher and better than others. We furthermore condemn out of malice, out of hate, by the fact that, in our heart, there is very little love.

* Great is the embrace of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is so great that we cannot comprehend it. The Lord has in His embrace all those who suffer in their life from trials and worries. What depth does His heart have, and how great is His love, such that He grants rest to all those who labor and are heavy-laden, and grants them consolation, and the strength to endure trials and to not loose hope when they are wronged in their life!



Cultivate love towards the Person of Christ

Saint Amphilochios of Patmos Island, 
Greece (+1970)

Please put this commandment into practice:  Cultivate love towards the Person of Christ to such an extent that, when you pronounce His name, tears fall from your eyes. Your heart must really be aflame. Then He will become your teacher. He will be your Guide, your Brother, your Father, and your Elder.




The "Beatitudes" of St. Paisios of Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+1994)

Note: Truly beautiful and astonishing are these "Beatitudes" of St. Paisios the Athonite, modeled after the Beatitudes of Christ and the lives and writings of the Saints. May we be humbled by his love, sacrifice and self-denial, on behalf of God and his fellow man. May we not despair of our weakness and sinfulness, but make a small effort, through the discretion and guidance of our spiritual fathers to make a change for the better, through the intercessions of such a great saint of our century!
The "Beatitudes" of St. Paisios the Athonite

1. Blessed are those who love Christ more than all the worldly things and live far from the world and near God, with heavenly joys upon the earth.

2. Blessed are those who manage to live in obscu­rity and acquired great virtues but did not acquire even a small name for themselves.

3. Blessed are those who manage to act the fool and, in this way, protected their spiritual wealth 

4. Blessed are those who do not preach the Gospel with words, but live it and preach it with their silence, with the Grace of God, which betrays them.

5. Blessed are those who rejoice when unjustly ac­cused, rather than when they are justly praised for their virtuous life. Here are the signs of holiness, not in the dry exertion of bodily asceticism and the great number of struggles, which, when not carried out with humility and the aim to take off the old man, create only illusions.

6. Blessed are those who prefer to be wronged rather than to wrong others and accept serenely and silently injustices. In this way, they reveal in practice that they believe in “one God, the Father Almighty” and expect to be vindicated by Him and not by human beings who repay in this life with vanity.

7. Blessed are those who have been born crippled or became so due to their own carelessness, yet do not grumble but glorify God. They will hold the best place in Paradise along with the Confessors and Martyrs, who gave their hands and feet for the love of Christ and now constantly kiss with devoutness the hands and feet of Christ in Paradise.

  8. Blessed are those who were born ugly and are de­spised here on earth, because they are entitled to the most beautiful place in Paradise, provided they glorify God and do not grumble.

  9. Blessed are those widows who wear black in this life, even unwillingly, but live a white spiritual life and glorify God without complaining, rather than the mis­erable ones who wear assorted clothes and live a spot­ted life.

10. Blessed and thrice blessed are the orphans who have been deprived of their parents’ great affection, for they managed to have God as their Father already from this life. At the same time, they have the affection they were deprived of from their parents in God’s savings bank “with interest”.

11. Blessed are those parents who avoid the use of the word “don’t” with their children, instead restraining them from evil through their holy life – a life which chil­dren imitate, joyfully following Christ with spiritual bravery.

12. Blessed are those children who have been born “from their mother’s womb”(Mt. 19:12) holy, but even more blessed are those who were born with all the inherited passions of the world, struggled with sweat and up­rooted them and inherited the Kingdom of God in the sweat of their face (Cf. Gen. 3:19).

13. Blessed are those children who lived from in­fancy in a spiritual environment and, thus, tirelessly ad­vanced in the spiritual life.
Thrice blessed, however, are the mistreated ones who were not helped at all (on the contrary, they were pushed towards evil), but as soon as they heard of Christ, their eyes glistened, and with a one hundred and eighty degree turn they suddenly made their soul to shine as well. They departed from the attraction of earth and moved into the spiritual sphere.

14. Fortunate, worldly people say, are the astronauts who are able to spin in the air, orbit the moon or even walk on the moon.
Blessed, however, are the immaterial “Paradise-nauts”, who ascend often to God and travel about Paradise, their place of permanent abode, with the quickest of means and without much fuel, besides one crust of bread.

15. Blessed are those who glorify God for the moon that glimmers that they might walk at night.
More blessed, however, are those who have come to understand that neither the light of the moon is of the moon, nor the spiritual light of their soul of them­selves, but both are of God. Whether they can shine like a mirror, a pane of glass or the lid of a tin can, if the rays of the sun do not fall on them, it is impossible for them to shine.

16. Fortunate, worldly people tell us, are those who live in crystal palaces and have all kinds of conven­iences.
Blessed, however, are those who have managed to sim­plify their life and become liberated from the web of this world’s development of numerous conveniences (i.e. many inconveniences), and were released from the frightening stress of our present age.

17. Fortunate, worldly people say, are those who can enjoy the goods of the world.
Blessed, however, are those who give away every­thing for Christ and are deprived even of every hu­man consolation for Christ. Thus it is that they man­age to be found night and day near Christ and His di­vine consolation, which many times is so much that they say to God: “My God, Thy love cannot be en­dured, for it is great and cannot be fit within my small heart”.

18. Fortunate, worldly people say, are those who have the greatest jobs and the largest mansions, since they possess all means and live comfortably.
Blessed, however, according to the divine Paul, are those who have but a nest to perch in, a little food and some coverings99• For, in this way, they’ve managed to become estranged from the vain world, using the earth as a footstool, as children of God, and their mind is con­stantly found close to God, their Good Father.

19. Fortunate are those who become generals and government ministers in their head by way of heavy drinking (even if just for a few hours), with the world­ly rejoicing over it.
Blessed, however, are those who have put off the old man and have become incorporeal, managing to be earthly angels with the Holy Spirit. They have found Paradise’s divine faucet and drink from it and are con­tinually inebriated from the heavenly wine.

20. Blessed are those who were born crazy and will be judged as crazy, and, in this way, will enter Paradise without a passport.
Blessed and thrice blessed, however, are the very wise who feign foolishness for the love of Christ and mock all the vanity of the world. This foolishness for Christ’s sake is worth more than all the knowledge and wisdom of the wise of this world.

I beg all the Sisters to pray for God to give me, or rather take from me my little mind, and, in this way, se­cure Paradise for me by considering me a fool. Or, make me crazy with His love so I go out my self, outside of the earth and its pull, for, otherwise my life as a monk has no meaning. I became externally white as a monk. As I go I become internally black by being a negligent monk, but I justify myself as one unhealthy, when I hap­pen to be so; other times, I excuse myself again for be­ing ill, even though I am well, and so I deserve to be thoroughly thrashed. Pray for me. 

May Christ and Theotokos be with you,

With love of Christ, Your Brother, Monk Paisios

(“Timiou Stavrou”, December 2, 1972). 




When you love Christ

Saint Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia, 
Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+1991)

And what is Paradise? Christ. When you love Christ, then, despite your sense of sinfulness and your weaknesses, you have the certainty that you have surpassed death, because you are in communion with the love of Christ. And may God make us worthy to see the Face of the Lord, both from the earth, and from there, where we will go.




Blessed Elder Sophrony of Essex, England (+1993) on the Love and Pain of the Holy Virgin Mary Mother of God

Our Holy Virgin Mary Mother of God (Theotokos) was pained much more than all other women, much more than all other mothers in the world, because no one else was struck, to no one else was done evil like that which was done to Her, the greatest evil of the whole world. They crucified Her Son.

And seeing Him upon the Cross, She was pained so much in her heart...Because of this She can understand every painful existence, and She suffers together with every human who is pained, because She exactly knows what "pain" means. When the soul is seized by the love of God, then, O, how gracious, beloved and joyous is everything! Love, however, goes together with sorrow, and the deeper the love is, even greater is the sorrow.

The Holy Virgin Mary Mother of God never sinned, not even in thought, and She never lost grace, and even She had such great sorrows. When she stood beside the Cross, then Her sorrow was impassable like the ocean, and the pains of Her soul were incomparably greater than the pain of Adam after the expulsion from Paradise, because Her love was incomparably greater than the love of Adam in Paradise.

And though She survived it, She survived only with divine power, with the strength of the Lord, because His will was for the Theotokos to later see the Resurrection, and later, after His Ascension, that She might remain the consolation and joy of the Apostles and of the new Christian people. We do not reach the fullness of the love of the Theotokos, and because of this we cannot fully conceive of the depth of Her sorrow.

Her love was perfect. She loved her Son and God incomparably, but She also loved the people with great love. And what did She sense, then, when they whom She herself loved so greatly and whom She so greatly pained for their salvation, when She saw them crucifying her beloved Son?

This we cannot conceive of, because our love for God and man is small. However, the love of Panagia was incomparable and inconceivable, thus incomparable also was her pain, which remains inconceivable to us.

The Theotokos did not relate in the Scriptures Her thoughts, nor her love for Her Son and God, nor the sorrows of Her soul at the hour of the Crucifixion, because even then they couldn't conceive of it. Her love for God was stronger and more fervent than the love of the Cherubim and Seraphim, and all the powers of the Angels and Archangels were amazed with Her.




There’s little love, average love and perfect love

Blessed Elder Ephraim of Katounakia, Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+1998)

Like Christ’s love, His sufferings were so great that we can’t understand them, since we love the Lord so little. But those who love more can understand the Lord’s sufferings more deeply. There’s little love, average love and perfect love. The more perfect the love, the more perfect the knowledge.




Marriage and Virginity in Christ

Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos 
of Athens, Greece (+1989)

How crafty the devil is! To young people who managed to unite in Christian marriage he whispers, “How much better you would be if you went to the monastery and lived the heavenly spiritual pleasures, far from the cares of family life which sever you and keep you down!” While to those who went to the monastery, as they desired the life of virginity in Christ, he whispers, “How much better you would be, if you got married and made your home a temple of God, living the joys of marital life, far from ascetic mortification and the loneliness which depresses you!” And if the married one became a monk and the monk married, he would tell them the opposite. All this to throw the person into despair and to pull him from the path of salvation. For the path of salvation is both blessed marriage and virginity in Christ.

Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos of Athens, Greece (+1989)

(Taken from Elder Epiphanios in “Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit”, Protecting Veil Press)




Quotes of 
Saint Sophia of Kleisoura, 
Greece (+1974)
on Love

*Don't say many words, may they be few and blessed. Love God, and your heart will shine like the sun.

*Let us have Love, humility and patience in temptations. Pride is a bad thing... it sends the soul to hell...

*Have fear of God... Have Love... Have compassion.


Homily of Metropolitan Avgoustinos Kantiotes on the Holy Unmercenaries: Young scientists performing acts of love

Blessed Elder Augoustine Kantiotes, 
Bishop of Florina, Greece (+2010)

The sinful man, my beloved, (in other words, he who does not sense his sins and does not repent, because we are all sinners), who does not repent according the Holy Scriptures resembles an old an unworked field, which is full of wild weeds, thorns and serpents. He is a land "in danger of being cursed", as the Apostle Paul says (Hebrews 6:8). As opposed to this, the saint is like a worked field, like the "good earth" from the Parable of the Sower, where the Sower reaps a harvest from some 30-fold, some 60-fold, some 100-fold (Matthew 13:8, Mark 4:8). The saint is a chosen garden of God. And just as it is pleasant to walk in a garden, so pleasant it is to read the lives of the saints, they are spiritual gardens.

A spiritual garden are the saints which we celebrate today, the Holy Unmercenaries Kosmas and Damian. And just as we gather flowers when we go to a garden in order to make a beautiful bouquet, thus today, reading through the life of these saints, we will cut a few spiritual flowers in order to weave a crown.

The first flower--the first lesson which we take from the life of Sts. Kosmas and Damian, is love, as the Apostle Paul relates in today's Epistle reading (I Corinthians 12:27-13:8). They had love between them. They were brothers, from one mother and one father. But is this enough?

Love of blood relatives is not steadfast. We have many examples: brothers, who were born from the same mother and nursed on the same milk and raised in the same house, who later each go their separate ways. The Holy Scriptures tell us that Cain and Abel were brothers, but Cain murdered Abel and killed him. Since then, there is enmity between brethren. Yesterday in Florina, one brother threw out of their father's house his brother with five children. The day before yesterday, again, there came to the Metropolis someone else who was saying beautiful words, and I started to believe that he was a good man. But later someone else told me: "Didn't you ask him, how long has it been since you spoke to your brother? They lived in the same village, their homes were close by, but Christmas would come, Holy Friday would come, Pascha would come, great days, and he wouldn't even say a 'Good morning' to him." I said, "Is that true? Do you appear to be a Christian but don't speak with your brother?" He replied, "I talk to everyone, but to my brother, no." "But why?" "I won't speak with him, no matter what anyone says." I tried to reconcile them, but it remained impossible.

The Holy Unmercenaries were brothers, but that which united them was not blood, nor money, nor anything else physical. It was Christ Who united them. Satan divides, Christ unites. And Christ took these two brothers and made them one soul and one heart. They were beloved in life, and beloved in death, in martyrdom, and beyond the grave into eternity. They had love, not so much love from between family members and blood, but more so love from spiritual family and a common faith.

The one flower in this beautiful garden of the saints is love. What is the other? What age were these saints? Where they gray-haired elders 80 or 90 years old? No, they were young, in the flowering of their age. There is the idea that religion is for old men and women and for those who are preparing for death. This is wrong. Religion is for everyone. It is for children, for women, and men, and for elders. But it is first and foremost for the youth. If you excuse the phrase, Christ is useful for everyone. Just like the sun is useful for everyone, both for the little child and the old man, thus it is with Christ. There is no one who can tell the sun that he doesn't need it. The sun is needed by king and poor man, woman and man, black and white, by everyone. Thus it is the with religion, it is useful for everyone, but especially for the youth. The old man resembles a boat which, hour by hour is getting ready to lower its anchor into the harbor, into eternity, while the young man is leaving the harbor and faces great waves, storms and winds, and the boat must be armed with hope, faith and the love of God. The Holy Unmercenaries are an example of this. These two brothers believed in Christ from a young age, and lived in purity. Their example shows us that even young people need faith in Christ.

Love and faith, and the third flower from the beautiful garden of the saints? What were the Holy Unmercenaries, learned or unlearned? They were not unlearned, though there are many unlearned saints. But these two were scientists. They were physicians. And they were the best physicians of their era. Sick people, who could not be healed by any other physicians, hastened to Kosmas and Damian and they made them well. How? With medicines? Yes, with medicines that they made from healing herbs that they gathered from the mountains and vales. But above all of the other medicines, however, was their wonderworking prayer. In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, they healed every illness. What does this show? That religion is not just for unlearned people, like many think. This is wrong. They make fun of science and say that scientists don't believe in God. This is a lie. Why? Who are the scientists that they are thinking of? Those who get a diploma and later close their books and go play games and go out and say that there is no God, they are not scientists. They are scientists who sit day and night and read. They are the true scientists, therefore, who believe in God, And we have such scientists, astronomers, physicists, mathematicians and others, who believe in God just like a villager or a shepherd.

Do you want an example? In our days there is great achievement that man went to the moon. How did he go? With a rocket that propelled a spaceship. The rocket, who made it? A scientist. Let's not say his name, let us not say the names of foreign people in church, but those of the apostles and the saints. Let's just say that he is a German man. But he believes! Last year he came to Greece. He went to Mykonos where thousands of tourists were gathered for the summer. On Sunday, when the church bell ran, no one went to church, they went to the beach. He went like a little child and listened to the Divine Liturgy. Later they asked him, "Do you believe?" "Of course, after discoveries like that I believe in God even more..." And it is not just him, but many other scientists believe. And in our homeland there are many scientists and students who believe in Christ (mathematicians, physicians, philologists, etc.). They work and study in great cities, which are a great abyss, Sodom and Gomorrah, but they believe deeply in God.

Three things therefore, my beloved, the Holy Unmercenaries teach us today. The first, to have love, because we are all brethren. The second, to have, first and foremost the young people, purity and cleanliness. And the third, that all learning cannot separate man from God, but can bring him closer to Him.

Faith and holiness were not only "at that time". And today and tomorrow and until the close of the world they will not abandon us. They stars may fall, and the rivers may dry up, and the mountains melt, and everything may flee away, but there will not come a day that there are no Christians. There will always be men who believe in Christ, and who will be ready to trade their life for a crown, like Sts. Kosmas and Damian, whose intercessions may ever be with you, unto the ages of ages. Amen.

+Bishop Avgoustinos (Recorded homily which occurred in the church of the Holy Unmercenaries, Perasmatos, Florina, 7/1/74)




One thing missing from our national conversation about marriage


Joel J. Miller

Ancient Faith Blogs

Cristians have traditionally understood marriage as more than contract, partnership, or mutual agreement. Though it’s been buried under a million words about rights and equality, the church understands marriage to be a sacrament, a gift of God’s grace for the transformation of the recipients.

Look for a moment at two examples: baptism and eucharist. The first moves us into relationship with Christ and his church, while the second gives us the life of Christ so we can become more like him. Marriage is the same way. The endgame is union with God as we grow in Christ.

The apostle Paul actually speaks of marriage as a “mystery,” using the Greek term for sacraments. Our marriages have the power to transform us into the likeness of Christ. But “sacrament” is not a category many of us think about anymore, and the deleterious effect on our understanding of marriage is profound.

The rise of therapeutic marriage

Over the last several decades we’ve come to a different take on marriage, as part of a much larger cultural shift I discussed before. Marriage is now primarily a relationship for the betterment and self-fulfillment of two individuals. Two are stronger than one, after all. Together two individuals can better gratify each other’s desires and fulfill each others needs—right up until the moment they no longer seem able or willing, of course.

None of that is false, so far as it goes. But when you take this understanding of marriage and place it within the context of a self-indulgent culture like ours, you create marriages between two people looking to get the most out of the relationship for themselves. University of Virginia sociologist Sarah Corse and Harvard sociologist Jennifer Silva, for instance, describe the rise of “therapeutic” marriage, which centers on the “happiness, equality, mutuality, and self-actualization of individuals.”

When the individuals involved think they can get more for themselves outside the marriage, they cheat or just “consciously uncouple,” to use Gwyneth Paltrow’s morally beatific euphemism for divorce. “[W]e don’t divorce—or have affairs—because we are unhappy but because we could be happier,” explains therapist Esther Perel.

The union exists, in other words, for the individual to maximize his or her bliss—and to hell with the rest. That’s not true in every marriage, but it sure seemed true in my first marriage, and let me underscore the word first. How could it last with all my self-seeking?

This is the exactly the cultural context in which the Supreme Court wrestled with the question of same-sex marriage. Hence Justice Kennedy’s ruling:

The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality. This is true for all persons, whatever their sexual orientation. There is dignity in the bond between two men or two women who seek to marry and in their autonomy to make such profound choices.

That opinion makes sense in the context of therapeutic marriage. Who doesn’t like room for expression, intimacy, and spirituality? But the judgment doesn’t apply to sacramental marriage because those things—wonderful as they are—are not the governing purpose of marriage as traditionally understood by the church. We’re working toward something bigger.

The significance and safeguard of sacrament

Christians are affected by the “therapeutic” culture as much as anyone. Not only do many of us no longer regard marriage as a sacramental union, in which individual gratification and self-fulfillment are not the ultimate goal. But in the vacuum we have perpetuated the values of the wider culture (as in most everything else we do).

Compounding the problem, Christians approach marriage with expectations that seem appropriate on the surface but which are really just self-indulgence baptized and proof-texted. True love should wait, yes, but the point of marriage isn’t to have—as we often sell it to young people—the most amazing sex ever.

Others have written about the problems with this approach, but the obvious one is that it distorts the purpose of marriage before the pair even steps up to the altar. Everybody loves a good orgasm, but marriage is more about enabling another to grow in union with God. Not only does marriage help display the relationship between God and his church, it helps us actualize that relationship by the Holy Spirit.

Beyond these considerations, the category of sacrament could prove an important safeguard. When a couple comes to marry, the pastor must guard the sacrament as he would with baptism and the eucharist. Sacraments are exclusive by nature. The earliest Christians didn’t even let outsiders see the eucharist.

A minister would refuse baptism to someone not eligible, just as he would refuse the cup. The same is true for marriage. If it’s only a contract, that’s one thing. But if it is a sacrament, then what place do courts and legislatures have dictating practice? Will the government also determine who should get dunked, fed, absolved, and so on? It’s a small but perhaps significant distinction as we look to define the bounds of religious liberty.

Bottom line: If marriage is to survive as any meaningful sort of institution, I am convinced it will only survive to the extent that we recapture the vision for what a sacramental marriage can be. And that of course means those of us who are married must live up to that calling.

Lord, have mercy.

How can we have the Holy Spirit?

Blessed Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery, Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+2019)

The answer is, for each of us to love his wife: you who are married your wife, and I who am a monk, my monastic life.

I must love my solitude, and not get depressed, not get tired, I must stand vigil, and not think that God sent me here in order to save the whole world, not to think that it is my duty to joke with this or that person, but to look after my job: I must have my eye on Christ.

When you leave your house and get married, you leave behind your father, mother, brothers, relatives, and, instead of your parents, your brothers and relatives, you find a new family. And having left, don't look behind you, as the Psalm of the Theotokos* says, do not think of anything from your former family**. For now you have a whole new world before you, which you must rejoice in, to partake of, to taste, to give life to. Therefore, all of us must give life to our family, to our love, to the divinity that we have wedded, as St. Hesychios says. Then our flesh we will be filled with divinity and we become Christ.




About Love

Saint Porphyrios of Kafsokalivia, 
Holy Mount Athos (+1991)

* God has everything. When you are despairing, He sends you something that you did not expect...I t is enough for you to believe in Him and love Him.

* You can't force the other person. Their hour will come, the time will come, it is enough to pray for them. With silence, tolerance, and most especially with prayer, we benefit the other mystically. The grace of God cleanses the horizons of their nous, and confirms him in His love.



Teach your children love


Orthodox Monastery of All Celtic Saints

in Isle of Mull, Hebrides Islands, Scotland

What exactly is there to teach a child (or a teenager, for that matter)? In what ways is it beneficial for a child to sit down and learn about the Holy Trinity or Christ’s two natures? Is that where we should start? Are dogmas the central focus?

To me, church school is an interesting, but completely alien concept. The idea that I may go to church for anything else except worship feels strange. The notion that I can be taught about worship – by any other means except worship itself – is also strange. I instinctively dislike the thought that someone would try to ‘school’ me about God.

As a monastic, I haven’t had the experience of raising my own children. But I was a child once, and my memories of those years are all built around emotions, not knowledge: I remember playing, I remember my best friends, I remember some of the naughty jokes we played on the old people (that is, anyone over 20). I also remember nice old ladies (and their pockets filled with sweets) and grumpy old men (who always had some seriously boring advice to share). I remember colours, singing, the smell of incense. The only services I remember are the commemorations of the departed (because we always got a lot of koliva and candy) and singing Christmas carols (for the same reason: candy, candy, candy).

As a teenager, things changed. The nice old ladies and the grumpy old men became my enemies – it wasn’t their fault, but hormones do strange things to people. The only thought I had concerning church was: never again. It was boring, attended by old people (this time, anyone over 30) and completely irrelevant to my own life. The worst thing would have been having to confess or attend some sort of church school. I tried once to confess as a teenager and I couldn’t deal with it; it felt as an intrusion, almost like an abuse. I also refused to study religion in school – we had to choose between religion and applied science. I preferred to dissect frogs and look at their insides. THAT was cool.

I do have some good church memories from that time, though. I remember visiting an asylum for old people. I remember an old lady (really old, in her 90s), who used to be a French teacher in her youth. She asked me if I spoke any French. We then spoke for a few minutes and she was crying all the time. We talked about the weather and my age and things like that, and she silently cried through the whole conversation. I remember realising for the first time that the world is filled with suffering and that I can actually do something to take some of that suffering away.

That was the first time I felt a real connection between me and Christ. When I went back to church, the Cross suddenly had a different look. Out of everything in the church, that Christ on the Cross seemed to be looking straight at me and calling me; we had a secret, I had been revealed something – this time, it was about me. It was relevant; and personal.

Perhaps it may help to look at these things from the child’s perspective. When they are young, make sure they create beautiful memories in church. Build a small playground for them, be nice to them – help them feel loved. If you help them associate Love and Christ, Love and Church, you’ve introduced them to the deepest theology. As they grow older and become teenagers, get them involved in the real things: visits to orphanages, asylums, hospitals, prisons etc. Make their time count.

All they need to know about dogmas and doctrine they’ll get from attending the services, from the random things they pick up from sermons, from the bits and pieces of an accidental discussion. Build Christian values in them, not Christian knowledge. Work with their hearts, rather than their minds, because the theology of the heart cannot be erased. If you teach them love and compassion, you’ve taught them enough. If you help them love God and the world around them, you’ve introduced them into a living experience of Christ’s commandments. Rather than knowing what His commandments are, your children will be living them. Trust Christ to do the rest.





Saint Demetrios of Thessaloniki, Greece (+306): How much love he had for Christ!

Elder Ephraim of St. Andrew Skete, Holy Mount Athos, Greece

Saint Demetrios was an only child and remained an orphan from a young age. He did not commit any sins of the flesh and never shed his seed upon the earth! Do you understand what a good disposition he had and how much love he had for Christ!

Even though he was a military governor of Thessaloniki, he lived humbly with utter asceticism. He was taught by God, he had the gift of prophecy, and is the greatest myrrh-streamer of Orthodoxy!

Scientists in Paris did a chemical analysis of the myrrh which streams from St. Demetrios, and revealed that the myrrh is made up from 33 components which do not exist anywhere else on the planet Earth!!! The myrrh is a heavenly "essence", and is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

St. Demetrios had revealed that, when he stops to stream forth myrrh, then the sins of the people of Thessaloniki will have exceeded every limit...




Marriage: The Great Sacrament


Blessed Elder Aimilianos of Simonopetra Monastery, Holy Mount Athos, Greece (+2019)

On (June 25 / July 8), the Russian Orthodox Church celebrates Saints Peter and Febronius, and the nation celebrates an official “Day of “Family, Love, and Faithfulness.” To honor the day, we have posted a classic homily on this theme by Archimandrite Aimilianos of Simonopetra, Mount Athos from the website, Orthodox Christian Information Center. Fr. Aimilianos gives excellent advice not only to young people thinking about marriage, but also to married couples, who are carrying their saving cross in life, travelling together as one body to the Kingdom of Heaven.

* * *

Nobody would dispute that the most important day in a person’s life, after his birth and baptism, is that of his marriage. It is no surprise, then, that the aim of contemporary worldly and institutional upheavals is precisely to crush the most honorable and sacred mystery of marriage. For many people, marriage is an opportunity for pleasures and amusements. Life, however, is a serious affair. It is a spiritual struggle, a progression toward a goal—heaven. The most crucial juncture, and the most important means, of this progression is marriage. It is not permissible for anyone to avoid the bonds of marriage, whether he concludes a mystical marriage by devoting himself to God, or whether he concludes a sacramental one with a spouse.

Today we will concern ourselves primarily with sacramental marriage. We will consider how marriage can contribute to our spiritual life, in order to continue the theme of our previous talk.[1] We know that marriage is an institution established by God. It is “honorable” (Heb 13.4). It is a “great mystery” (Eph 5.32). An unmarried person passes through life and leaves it; but a married person lives and experiences life to the full.

One wonders what people today think about the sacred institution of marriage, this “great mystery”, blessed by our Church. They marry, and it’s as if two checking accounts or two business interests were being merged. Two people are united without ideals, two zeros, you could say. Because people without ideals, without quests, are nothing more than zeros. “I married in order to live my life”, you hear people say, “and not to be shut inside four walls”. “I married to enjoy my life”, they say, and then they hand over their children—if they have children—to some strange woman so they can run off to the theater, the movies, or to some other worldly gathering. And so their houses become hotels to which they return in the evening, or, rather, after midnight, after they’ve had their fun and need to rest. Such people are empty inside, and so in their homes they feel a real void. They find no gratification there, and thus they rush and slide from here to there, in order to find their happiness.

They marry without knowledge, without a sense of responsibility, or simply because they wish to get married, or because they think they must in order to be good members of society. But what is the result? We see it every day. The shipwrecks of marriage are familiar to all of us. A worldly marriage, as it is understood today, can only have one characteristic—the murder of a person’s spiritual life. Thus we must feel that, if we fail in our marriage, we have more or less failed in our spiritual life. If we succeed in our marriage, we have also succeeded in our spiritual life. Success or failure, progress or ruin, in our spiritual life, begins with our marriage. Because this is such a serious matter, let us consider some of the conditions necessary for a happy, truly Christian marriage.

In order to have a successful marriage, one must have the appropriate upbringing from an early age. Just as a child must study, just as he learns to think, and take an interest in his parents or his health, so too must he be prepared in order to be able to have a successful marriage. But in the age in which we live, no one is interested in preparing their children for this great mystery, a mystery which will play the foremost role in their lives. Parents are not interested, except in the dowry, or in other such financial matters, in which they are deeply interested.

The child, from an early age, must learn to love, to give, to suffer deprivation, to obey. He must learn to feel that the purity of his soul and body is a valuable treasure to be cherished as the apple of his eye. The character of the child must be shaped properly, so that he becomes an honest, brave, decisive, sincere, cheerful person, and not a half, self-pitying creature, who constantly bemoans his fate, a weak-willed thing without any power of thought or strength. From an early age, the child should learn to take an interest in a particular subject or occupation, so that tomorrow he will be in a position to support his family, or, in the case of a girl, also to help, if this is necessary. A woman must learn to be a housewife, even if she has an education. She should learn to cook, to sew, to embroider. But, my good Father, you may say, this is all self- evident. Ask married couples, however, and you’ll see how many women who are about to marry know nothing about running a household.

Once we reach a certain age, moreover, the choice of one’s life partner is a matter which should not be put off. Neither should one be in a hurry, because, as the saying goes, “quick to marry, quick to despair”. But one should not delay, because delay is a mortal danger to the soul. As a rule, the normal rhythm of the spiritual life begins with marriage. An unmarried person is like someone trying to live permanently in a hallway: he doesn’t seem to know what the rooms are for. Parents should take an interest in the child’s social life, but also in his prayer life, so that the blessed hour will come as a gift sent by God.

Naturally, when he comes to choose a partner, he will take to account his parents’ opinion. How often have parents felt knives piercing their hearts when their children don’t ask them about the person who will be their companion in life? A mother’s heart is sensitive, and can’t endure such a blow. The child should discuss matters with his parents, because they have a special intuition enabling them to be aware of the things which concern them. But this doesn’t mean that the father and mother should pressure the child. Ultimately he should be free to make his own decision. If you pressure your child to marry, he will consider you responsible if things don’t go well. Nothing good comes from pressure. You must help him, but you must also allow him to choose the person he prefers or loves—but not someone he pities or feels sorry for. If your child, after getting to know someone, tells you, “I feel sorry for the poor soul, I’ll marry him”, then you know that you’re on the threshold of a failed marriage. Only a person whom he or she prefers or loves can stand by the side of your child. Both the man and the woman should be attracted to each other, and they should truly want to live together, in an inward way, unhurriedly. On this matter, however, it is not possible to pressure our children. Sometimes, out of our love, we feel that they are our possessions, that they are our property, and that we can do what we want with them. And thus our child becomes a creature incapable of living life either married or unmarried.

Of course, the process of getting acquainted, which is such a delicate issue—but of which we are often heedless—should take place before marriage. We should never be complacent about getting to know each other, especially if we’re not sure of our feelings. Love shouldn’t blind us. It should open our eyes, to see the other person as he is, with his faults. “Better to take a shoe from your own house, even if it’s cobbled”, says the folk proverb. That is, it’s better to take someone you’ve gotten to know. And acquaintanceship must always be linked with engagement, which is an equally difficult matter.

When I suggested to a young woman that she should think seriously about whether she should continue her engagement she replied: “If I break it off, my mother will kill me”. But what sort of engagement is it, if there’s no possibility of breaking it off? To get engaged doesn’t mean that I’ll necessarily get married. It means that I’m testing to see whether I should marry the person I’m engaged to. If a woman isn’t in a position to break off her engagement, she shouldn’t get engaged, or, rather, she shouldn’t go ahead with the marriage. During the engagement, we must be especially careful. If we are, we will have fewer problems and fewer disappointments after the wedding. Someone once said that, during the period of getting to know me another, you should hold on to your heart firmly with both hands, as if it were a wild animal. You know how dangerous the heart is: instead of leading you to marriage, it can lead you into sin. There is the possibility that the person you’ve chosen sees you as a mere toy, or a toothbrush to be tried out. Afterwards you’ll be depressed and shed many tears. But then it will be too late, because your angel will have turned out to be made of clay.

Don’t choose a person who wastes his time at clubs, having good time, and throwing away his money on traveling and luxuries. Neither should you choose someone who, as you’ll find out, conceals his self-centeredness beneath words of love. Don’t choose a woman as your wife who is like gun powder, so that as soon as you say something to her, she bursts to flames. She’s no good as a wife.

Moreover, if you want to have a truly successful marriage, don’t approach that young woman or man who is unable to leave his or her parents. The commandment of Christ is clear: man leaves his father and mother, and is united to his wife” (Mk 10.7). But when you see the other person tied to his mother or father, when you see that he obeys them with his mouth hanging open, and is prepared to do whatever they tell him, keep well away. He is emotionally sick, a psychologically immature person, and you won’t be able to create a family with him. The man you will make your husband should be spirited. But how can he be spirited when he hasn’t realized, hasn’t understood, hasn’t digested the fact that his parents’ house is simply a flower-pot in which he was put, to be taken out later, and transplanted somewhere else?

Also, when you’re going to choose a husband, make sure that he’s not an uncommunicative type—in which case he’ll have no friends. And if today he has no friends, tomorrow he’ll find it difficult to have you as a friend and partner. Be on your guard against grumblers, moaners, and gloomy people who are like dejected birds. Be on your guard against those who complain all the time: “You don’t love me, you don’t understand me”, and all that sort of thing. Something about these creatures of God isn’t right. Also be on your guard against religious fanatics and the overly pious. Those, that is, who get upset over trivial things, who are critical of everything and hypersensitive. How are you going to live with such a person? It will be like sitting on thorns. Also look out for those who regard marriage as something bad, as a form of imprisonment. Those who say: But I’ve never in my whole life thought about getting married.

Watch out for certain pseudo-Christians, who see marriage as something sordid, as a sin, who immediately cast their eyes down when they hear anything said about it.[2] If you marry someone like this, he will be a thorn in your flesh, and a burden for his monastery if he becomes a monk. Watch out for those who think that they’re perfect, and find no defect in themselves, while constantly finding faults in others. Watch out for those who think they’ve been chosen by God to correct everyone else.

There is another serious matter to which you should also pay attention: heredity. Get to know well the father, the mother, the grandfather, the grandmother, the uncle. Also, the basic material prerequisites should be there. Above all, pay attention to the person’s faith. Does he or she have faith? Has the person whom you’re thinking of making the companion of your life have ideals? If Christ means nothing to him, how are you going to be able to enter his heart? If he has not been able to value Christ, do you think he will value you? Holy Scripture says to the husband that the wife should be “of your testament” (Mal 2.14), that is, of your faith, your religion, so that she can join you to God. It is only then that you can have, as the Church Fathers say, a marriage “with the consent of the bishop,”[3] that is, with the approval of the Church, and not simply a formal license.

Discuss things in advance with your spiritual father. Examine every detail with him, and he will stand by your side as a true friend, and, when you reach the desired goal, then your marriage will be a gift from God (cf. 1 Cor 7.7).God gives his own gift to each one of us. He leads one person to marriage and another to virginity. Not that God makes the choice by saying “you go here”, and “you go there”, but he gives us the nerve to choose what our heart desires, and the courage and the strength to carry it out.

If you choose your spouse in this way, then thank God. Bring him into touch with your spiritual father. If you don’t have one, the two of you should choose a spiritual father together, who will be your Elder, your father, the one who will remind you of, and show you God.

You will have many difficulties in life. There will be a storm of issues. Worries will surround you, and maintaining your Christian life will not be easy. But don’t worry. God will help you. Do what is within your power. Can you read a spiritual book for five minutes a day? Then read. Can you pray for five minutes a day? Pray. And if you can’t manage five minutes, pray for two. The rest is God’s affair.

When you see difficulties in your marriage, when you see that you’re making no progress in your spiritual life, don’t despair. But neither should you be content with whatever progress you may have already made. Lift up your heart to God. Imitate those who have given everything to God, and do what you can to be like them, even if all you can do is to desire in your heart to be like them. Leave the action to Christ. And when you advance in this way, you will truly sense what is the purpose of marriage. Otherwise, as a blind person wanders about, so too will you wander in life.

What then is the purpose of marriage? I will tell you three of its main aims. First of all, marriage is a path of pain. The companionship of man and wife is called a “yoking together” (syzygia), that is, the two of them labor under a shared burden. Marriage is a journeying together, a shared portion of pain, and, of course, a joy. But usually it’s six chords of our life which sound a sorrowful note, and only one which is joyous. Man and wife will drink from the same cup of upheaval, sadness, and failure. During the marriage ceremony, the priest gives the newly-weds to drink from the same cup, called the “common cup,”[4] because together they will bear the burdens of marriage. The cup is also called “union,”[5] because they are joined together to share life’s joys and sorrows.

When two people get married, it’s as if they’re saying: Together we will go forward, hand in hand, through good times and bad. We will have dark hours, hours of sorrow filled with burdens, monotonous hours. But in the depths of the night, we continue to believe in the sun and the light. Oh, my dear friends, who can say that his life has not been marked by difficult moments? But it is no small thing to know that, in your difficult moments, in your worries, in your temptations, you will be holding in your hand the hand of your beloved. The New Testament says that every man will have pain, especially those who enter into marriage.

“Are you free from a wife?”—which means, are you unmarried?—asks the Apostle Paul. “Then do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you are not doing anything wrong, it is no sin. And if a girl marries, she does not sin, but those who marry will have hardships to endure, and my aim is to spare you” (1 Cor 7.27-28). Remember: from the moment you marry, he says, you will have much pain, you will suffer, and your life will be a cross, but a cross blossoming with flowers. Your marriage will have its joys, its smiles, and its beautiful things. But during the days of sunshine, remember that all the lovely flowers conceal a cross, which can emerge into your sunshine at any moment.

Life is not a party, as some people think, and after they get married take a fall from heaven to earth. Marriage is a vast ocean, and you don’t know where it will wash you up. You take the person whom you’ve chosen with fear and trembling, and with great care, and after a year, two years, five years, you discover that he’s fooled you.

It is an adulteration of marriage for us to think that it is a road to happiness, as if it were a denial of the cross. The joy of marriage is for husband and wife to put their shoulders to the wheel and together go forward on the uphill road of life. “You haven’t suffered? Then you haven’t loved”, says a certain poet. Only those who suffer can really love. And that’s why sadness is a necessary feature of marriage. “Marriage”, in the words of an ancient philosopher, “is a world made beautiful by hope, and strengthened by misfortune”. Just as steel is fashioned in a furnace, just so is a person proved in marriage, in the fire of difficulties. When you see your marriage from a distance, everything seems wonderful. But when you get closer, you’ll see just how many difficult moments it has.

God says that “it is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2.18), and so he placed a companion at his side, someone to help him throughout his life, especially in his struggles of faith, because in order to keep your faith, you must suffer and endure much pain. God sends his grace to all of us. He sends it, however, when he sees that we are willing to suffer. Some people, as soon as they see obstacles, run away. They forget God and the Church. But faith, God, and the Church, are not a shirt that you take off as soon as you start to sweat.

Marriage, then, is a journey through sorrows and joys. When the sorrows seem overwhelming, then you should remember that God is with you. He will take up your cross. It was he who placed the crown of marriage on your head. But when we ask God about something, he doesn’t always supply the solution right away. He leads us forward very slowly. Sometime[s] he takes years. We have to experience pain, otherwise life would have no meaning. But be of good cheer, for Christ is suffering with you, and the Holy Spirit, “through your groanings is pleading on your behalf” (cf. Rom 8.26).

Second, marriage is a journey of love. It is the creation of a new human being, a new person, for, as the Gospel says, “the two will be as one flesh” (Mt 19.5; Mk 10.7). God unites two people, and makes them one. From this union of two people, who agree to synchronize their footsteps and harmonize the beating of their hearts, a new human being emerges. Through such profound and spontaneous love, the one becomes a presence, a living reality, in the heart of the other. “I am married” means that I cannot live a single day, even a few moments, without the companion of my life. My husband, my wife, is a part of my being, of my flesh, of my soul. He or she complements me. He or she is the thought of my mind. He or she is the reason for which my heart beats.

The couple exchanges rings to show that, in life’s changes, they will remain united. Each wears a ring with the name of the other written on it, which is placed on the finger from which a vein runs directly to the heart. That is, the name of the other is written on his own heart. The one, we could say, gives the blood of his heart to the other. He or she encloses the other within the core of his being.

“What do you do?” a novelist was once asked. He was taken aback. “What do I do? What a strange question! I love Olga, my wife”. The husband lives to love his wife, and the wife lives to love her husband.

The most fundamental thing in marriage is love, and love is about uniting two into one. God abhors separation and divorce. He wants unbroken unity (cf. Mt 19.3-9; Mk 10.2-12). The priest takes the rings off the left finger, puts them on the right, and then again on the left, and finally he puts them back on the right hand. He begins and ends with the right hand, because this is the hand with which we chiefly act. It also means that the other now has my hand. I don’t do anything that my spouse doesn’t want. I am bound up with the other. I live for the other, and for that reason I tolerate his faults. A person who can’t put up with another can’t marry.

What does my partner want? What interests him? What gives him pleasure? That should also interest and please me as well. I also look for opportunities to give him little delights. How will I please my husband today? How will I please my wife today? This is the question which a married person must ask every day. She is concerned about his worries, his interests, his job, his friends, so that they can have everything in common. He gladly gives way to her. Because he loves her, he goes to bedlastand gets up first in the morning. He regards her parents as his own, and loves them and is devoted to them, because he knows that marriage is difficult for parents. It always makes them cry, because it separates them from their child.

The wife expresses love for her husband through obedience. She is obedient to him exactly as the Church is to Christ (Eph 5.22-24). It is her happiness to do the will of her husband. Attitude, obstinacy, and complaining are the axes which chop down the tree of conjugal happiness. The woman is the heart. The man is the head. The woman is the heart that loves. In her husband’s moments of difficulty, she stands at his side, as the empress Theodora stood by the emperor Justinian. In his moments of joy, she tries to raise him up to even higher heights and ideals. In times of sorrow, she stands by him like a sublime and peaceful world offering him tranquility.

The husband should remember that his wife has been entrusted to him by God. His wife is a soul which God has given to him, and one day he must return it. He loves his wife as Christ loves the Church (Eph 5.25). He protects her, takes care of her, gives her security, particularly when she is distressed, or when she is ill. We know how sensitive a woman’s soul can be, which is why the Apostle Peter urges husbands to honor their wives (cf. 1 Pet 3.7). A woman’s soul gets wounded, is often petty, changeable, and can suddenly fall into despair. Thus the husband should be full of love and tenderness, and make himself her greatest treasure. Marriage, my dear friends, is a little boat which sails through waves and among rocks. If you lose your attention even for a moment, it will be wrecked.

As we have seen, marriage is first of all a journey of pain; second a journey of love; and, third, a journey to heaven, a call from God. It is, as Holy Scripture says, a “great mystery” (Eph 5.32). We often speak of seven “mysteries”, or sacraments. In this regard, a “mystery” is the sign of the mystical presence of some true person or event. An icon, for instance, is a mystery. When we venerate it, we are not venerating wood or paint, but Christ, or the Theotokos, or the saint who is mystically depicted. The Holy Cross is a symbol of Christ, containing his mystical presence. Marriage, too, is a mystery, a mystical presence, not unlike these. Christ says, “wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am among them” (Mt 18.20). And whenever two people are married in the name of Christ, they become the sign which contains and expresses Christ himself. When you see a couple who are conscious of this, it is as if you are seeing Christ. Together they are a theophany.

This is also why crowns are placed on their heads during the wedding ceremony, because the bride and groom are an image of Christ and the Church. And not just this, but everything in marriage is symbolic. The lit candles symbolize the wise virgins. When the priest places these candles into the hands of the newly-weds, it is as if he is saying to them: Wait for Christ like the wise virgins (Mt 25.1-11). Or they symbolize the tongues of fire which descended at Pentecost, and which were in essence the presence of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2.1-4). The wedding rings are kept on the altar, until they are taken from there by the priest, which shows that marriage has its beginning in Christ, and will end in Christ. The priest also joins their hands, in order to show that it is Christ himself who unites them. It is Christ who is at the heart of the mystery and at the center of their lives.[6]

All the elements of the marriage ceremony are shadows and symbols which indicate the presence of Christ. When you’re sitting somewhere and suddenly you see a shadow, you know that someone’s coming. You don’t see him, but you know he’s there. You get up early in the morning, and you see the red horizon in the east. You know that, in a little while, the sun will come up. And indeed, there behind the mountain, the sun starts to appear.

When you see your marriage, your husband, your wife, your partner’s body, when you see your troubles, everything in your home, know that they are all signs of Christ’s presence. It is as if you’re hearing Christ’s footsteps, as if he was coming, as if you are now about to hear his voice. All these things are the shadows of Christ, revealing that he is together with us. It is true, though, that, because of our cares and worries, we feel that he is absent. But we can see him in the shadows, and we are sure that he is with us. This is why there was no separate marriage service in the early Church. The man and woman simply went to church and received Communion together. What does this mean? That henceforth their life is one life in Christ.

The wreaths, or wedding crowns, are also symbols of Christ’s presence. More specifically, they are symbols of martyrdom. Husband and wife wear crowns to show that they are ready to become martyrs for Christ. To say that “I am married” means that I live and die for Christ. “I am married” means that I desire and thirst for Christ. Crowns are also signs of royalty, and thus husband and wife are king and queen, and their home is a kingdom, a kingdom of the Church, an extension of the Church.

When did marriage begin? When man sinned. Before that, there was no marriage, not in the present-day sense. It was only after the Fall, after Adam and Eve had been expelled from paradise, that Adam “knew” Eve (Gen 4.1) and thus marriage began. Why then? So that they might remember their fall and expulsion from paradise, and seek to return there. Marriage is thus a return to the spiritual paradise, the Church of Christ. “I am married” means, then, that I am a king, a true and faithful member of the Church.

The wreaths also symbolize the final victory which will be attained in the kingdom of heaven. When the priest takes the wreaths, he says to Christ: “take their crowns to your kingdom”, take them to your kingdom, and keep them there, until the final victory. And so marriage is a road: its starts out from the earth and ends in heaven. It is a joining together, a bond with Christ, who assures us that he will lead us to heaven, to be with him always. Marriage is a bridge leading us from earth to heaven. It is as if the sacrament is saying: Above and beyond love, above and beyond your husband, your wife, above the everyday events, remember that you are destined for heaven, that you have set out on a road which will take you there without fail. The bride and the bridegroom give their hands to one another, and the priest takes hold of them both, and leads them round the table dancing and singing. Marriage is a movement, a progression, a journey which will end in heaven, in eternity.

In marriage, it seems that two people come together. However it’s not two but three. The man marries the woman, and the woman marries the man, but the two together also marry Christ. So three take part in the mystery, and three remain together in life.

In the dance around the table, the couple are led by the priest, who is a type of Christ. This means that Christ has seized us, rescued us, redeemed us, and made us his. And this is the “great mystery” of marriage (cf. Gal 3.13).

In Latin, the word “mystery” was rendered by the word sacramentum, which means an oath. And marriage is an oath, a pact, a joining together, a bond, as we have said. It is a permanent bond with Christ.

“I am married”, then, means that I enslave my heart to Christ. If you wish, you can get married. If you wish, don’t get married. But if you marry, this is the meaning that marriage has in the Orthodox Church, which brought you into being. “I am married” means I am the slave of Christ.

* * *

[1] I.e., “Spiritual Life”, which appears below, on pp. 147-163.

[2] 2. See, for example, John Chrysostom, Homily on Colossians 12.6 “What shame is there in that which is honorable? Why do you blush over what is undefiled? In so doing, you slander the root of our birth, which is a gift from God” (PG 62.388).

[3] Ignatius of Antioch, Letter to Polycarp (PG 5.724B).

[4] Symeon of Thessaloniki, Dialogos 277 (PG 155.508B).

[5] C. Kallinikos, The Christian Temple and its Ceremonies (Athens, 1968), 514.

[6] St. Gregory the Theologian, Letter 193: “I place the hand of the one the other, and place both in the hand of God” (PG 37.316C).


Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit:

Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

of Athens, Greece (+1989)

* * *

From the Counsels 

of Blessed Fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos

True love is like the flame of a candle. However many candles you light from the flame, the initial flame remains unaffected. It doesn’t lessen at all. And every freshly lit candle has as much flame as the others do.

I want whoever is near me to feel that he has room to breathe, not that he is suffocated. I don’t call anyone to me. I don’t hold onto anyone. I don’t chase anyone away. Whoever wants comes, whoever wants stays, whoever wants leaves. I don’t consider anyone a supporter or a follower.

I am not afraid of death. Not, of course, because of my works, but because I believe in God’s mercy.

Speak more to God about your children than to your children about God…. The soul of the teenager is in a state of an explosion of freedom. For this reason he has a hard time accepting various counsels. So, rather than counseling him continuously and re­proaching him now and again, leave the situation to Christ, to the Panaghia (Greek word meaning “All-Holy”. It is perhaps the most beloved term of 
endearment for the Mother of God in the Greek language) and to the Saints, asking them to bring him to reason.

Don’t be neglectful of prayer! At table, in the morning, after­noon and evening. In particular don’t miss Small Compline for any reason, tired though you may be. It’s a question of self-sac­rifice and, in particular, of love. When a beloved person calls you very late at night, how are you able to speak sometimes for a few hours, despite your fatigue, without being put out, but be­ing, rather, pleased?


Deal with your children as with colts, sometimes tightening and other times loosening the bit. When the colt kicks, with­out abandoning the bit, we loosen it, otherwise it will break. When, however, it is peaceful, then we tighten the bit and take the colt where we like.


Parents should love their children as their children and not as their idols. That is to say, they should love their children as they are and not how they would like them to be-to be like them.


Whoever fears God doesn’t fear anything else.


I am in pain and agonize over the path of the Greek people who are constantly being de-Hellenized, de-Christianized, de-colorized and cut off from their roots, and are losing their identity.


In marriage, abstention solely out of love for God is perfect, “the greatest.”(Elder Epiphanios uses terminology from the grading system at school to make his point. “The greatest” is an “A,” “very good,” is a “B,” etc). When the couple comes together, not obstruct­ing the procreation of children, it is at the level of “very good.” And when they abstain solely to avoid the procreation of chil­dren, they are on the level of “good.” In any case all of these categories are above average and are only legitimate with the presupposition that they have been agreed upon by both spouses and not just one. Otherwise it is a sin.


God appointed the salvation of the world to His Son and not to us…. We must first look at our soul and if we can, let’s help five or six people around us.


When someone is free, he has rights and responsibilities. When he marries, he has few rights and very many responsibilities. When, however, he has children, he doesn’t have any rights at all, but only responsibilities.


Why do they put rubber tires with inner tubes on cars? So that they give in, to collapse a little with every little stone or pothole on the road, and in this way they pass obstacles. If the wheels were firm and unyielding, the car wouldn’t be able to move for­ward. It would fall apart after a short distance because of the vibration from the small inconsistencies of terrain. The same thing happens with yielding to others in the family. In this way many problems are surpassed and continuous spiritual progress is assured.


When people treat us unjustly, God justifies us.


[God allows virtuous people to suffer] so that they might be purified from even the slightest traces of their passions and so that they might receive an even greater crown in Heaven. Fur­thermore, as He allowed His beloved Son to suffer and to die on the Cross, what can we say for those people who, as holy as they may be, have filth and stains from sin?


Sadness purifies us. Man is truly man in sadness. In joy he is changed, he becomes someone else. In sadness he becomes that which he truly is. And this is the way, par excellence, that he approaches God. He senses his weakness. Many times, when he is in glory and joy, he feels that he is the “eye of the earth” or, if you prefer, the center of the universe: “I am, and nobody else!”

In pain and sadness he feels like an insignificant ant in the uni­verse, that he is completely dependent, and he seeks the help and companionship of God. Those of us who have passed through pains, either psychical or physical, know that we never prayed as hard and with such quality and length, as we did when we were in the bed of pain or when some heavy psychical sadness tested us. While, when we have everything, we forget prayer and fasting, and many things. It is for this reason that God allows pain.


Don’t sit, glued to the television…. Guard yourselves from the means of mass blinding.

We didn’t come here [to the monastery] mainly for handiwork, or for the gardens or for the buildings. For even without these things we can save our soul. We came here primarily for the soul. And in order to save the soul, we must pass the day without sin, with meekness, canon (In this case, the daily rule of prayer, reading, prostrations, and so on, that a monk keeps in his room) and prayer.


I sacrificed everything even before I had anything. I sacrificed a place at the university as a professor. I sacrificed the position of first secretary of the Holy Synod. I sacrificed the position of direc­tor of a missionary brotherhood. I sacrificed the position of first priest of a large church. I sacrificed Episcopal (That is, the position of bishop) thrones…. All I have is a little epilrahili (In Greek, literally, “upon the neck.” It is the stole that the priest or bishop wears around his neck when hearing confession (hereafter, “stole”) so as to confess ten souls. Nothing else!


There is no greater satisfaction for me than to remain for hours in the seat of the confessional and to reconcile man to God.


Married and unmarried priests, let us not forget that we are representatives of the gentle and humble-hearted Jesus. We were called to progress in humility and not to quarrel in the holy altar for priority of honor.

Clerics and, in particular, celibate clerics must be chosen from those of a mature age, with excellent education, extreme piety, shining ethos, sterling character and complete spiritual forma­tion: all those things that are acquired with labors and struggles, prayer and study, fasting and vigils, with voluntary poverty and hardships, and through various deprivations. For asceticism is not the privilege or responsibility of monastics alone, but of all the faithful and particularly of clerics, and especially of unmar­ried clerics. The Orthodox Church is deeply ascetic and those who don’t love asceticism and who are friends of luxury and comfort don’t have a place within Her.


The priest is the incarnation of the absolute, the expression of the constant, stable and unshakeable, the trumpet of Heaven, the image of incorruption, the mile-marker of eternity. May he remain forever unchanged, even in his external appearance, as a reminder and symbol of the ages and of the unchanging truths that he represents.

The priesthood is a very great gift of God toward mankind. It is the conduit of the grace of God.


It seems a blasphemy to me [an archimandrite’s sadness at not having been elected bishop]. If you consider that your shell of a body can take bread and wine and, with the Holy Spirit’s conse­cration, transform it into the Body and Blood of Christ; that you have been given the power to make the children of Adam par­takers of the Cross and resurrection of Christ through baptism, and how you have been given the power to place your hands and your stole over the head of the greatest sinner and to bring him out of confession with a pure and whitened soul, how can you then consider yourself unsuccessful? Because you haven’t put on a mitre? ( ). May God have mercy on us!


I have made an agreement with God: I will empty my pockets in almsgiving and He will fill them. He has never violated our agreement. Will I violate it? May it never happen!


Ah! My fathers, know how much I have ground down my will! I have loved two things in my life: reading and writing, both of which I have been deprived of, and the deprivation of which is as great for me as for him who loses the greatest joy in this world. When I study the Holy Scripture and patristic books, I leave the earth and go to Heaven. As for my own writing, forgive me for what I’m about to say … I get drunk. I see how others desire to write some text, and they erase, write, erase again, write again….


I don’t manage to write my thoughts in time, for I am flooded as with flakes of snow. I feel as though my pen has wings. How­ever, in spite of my writing ability and my desire for study, I deprive myself and sit and pick up the telephone, which rings cons tandy, so as to find a solution to some problem or other. Or else I see people for confession for hours without end, and not only scholars, but also simple and unlettered people. In saying this I don’t undervalue the Mystery of confession as opposed to the work of writing. But the will of God was that I confess people and not that I study and write, though they much enchant me.


How crafty the devil is! To young people who managed to unite in Christian marriage he whispers, “How much better you would be if you went to the monastery and lived the heavenly spiritual pleasures, far from the cares of family life which sever you and keep you down!” While to those who went to the monastery, as they desired the life of virginity in Christ, he whispers, “How much better you would be, if you got married and made your home a temple of God, living the joys of marital life, far from ascetic mortification and the loneliness which depresses you!” And if the married one became a monk and the monk married, he would tell them the opposite. All this to throw the person into despair and to pull him from the path of salvation. For the path of salvation is both blessed marriage and virginity in Christ


The mathematics of God is completely different from the math­ematics of humans. For us two and two equal four. For God two and two can make five or fifteen or anyd1ing else.


My heart only has entrances. It doesn’t have exits. Whoever enters remains there. Whatever he may do, I love him the same as I loved him when he first entered into my heart. I pray for him and seek his salvation.


My worst hell is to realize that I have saddened a beloved person.

(Taken from Elder Epiphanios in “Precious Vessels of the Holy Spirit”, Protecting Veil Press)


Although it is natural and usual to love those who love us and to do good to those who do good to us (Mt 5:46-47; Lk 6:32-33), to love our enemies is distasteful to our nature. One can say that it isn’t in our power but is an attitude that can only be the fruit of grace, given by the Holy Spirit. This is why St. Silouan the Athonite writes, "The soul that has not known the Holy Spirit does not understand how one can love one’s enemies, and does not accept it."

The Staretz repeatedly says that love of enemies is impossible without grace: "Lord, You have given the commandment to love enemies, but this is difficult for us sinners if Your grace is not with us"; "Without God’s grace we cannot love enemies"; "He who does not love his enemies, does not have God’s grace"; "He who has not learned to love from the Holy Spirit, will certainly not pray for his enemies." On the contrary, St. Silouan always teaches that this attitude is a gift of the Holy Spirit: "The Lord has commanded us to love our enemies, and the Holy Spirit reveals this love to us"; "One can only love one’s enemies through the grace of the Holy Spirit"; "When you will love your enemies, know that a great divine grace will be living in you."

This grace does not suddenly erupt in the soul, but rather shows itself in a divine pedagogy, where taking into account the weakness and the difficulties of man, the Holy Spirit progressively teaches him to love and teaches him all the attitudes and ways which will allow him to do so. "The Holy Spirit teaches us to love even our enemies"; "The Holy Spirit teaches the soul a profound love for man and compassion for the lost. The Lord had pity for those who were lost. . . . The Holy Spirit teaches this same compassion for those who go to hell"; "I could not speak about it if the Holy Spirit had not taught me this love"; "The Lord taught me love of enemies. . . . The Holy Spirit taught [me] to love."

The grace of the Holy Spirit shows to him who possesses it the way to love his enemies. But it also reveals to him the foundation of this love: the love of God for all people and His will to save them: "No man can know by himself what divine love is if the Holy Spirit does not instruct him; but in our Church divine love is known through the Holy Spirit, and that is why we speak about it." Grace also "gives man the capacity and the strength to love his enemies, and the Spirit of God gives us the strength to love them."

Staretz Silouan insists that because love of enemies is a fruit of grace, it is essentially through prayer that it can be obtained. Several times he urges us to "ask the Lord with our whole being to give us the strength to love all men." He also advises to pray to the Mother of God and the Saints: "If we are incapable [of loving our enemies] and if we are without love, let us turn with ardent prayers to the Lord, to His Most Pure Mother, and to all the Saints, and the Lord will help us with everything, He whose love for us knows no bounds." The Staretz confesses that he himself constantly prays God for this: "I continuously beg the Lord to give me the love of enemies. . . . Day and night I ask the Lord for this love. The Lord gives me tears and I weep for the whole world." Wishing in his universal love for all men to receive such a gift, he links them to himself in his prayer: "Lord, teach us through Your Holy Spirit to love our enemies and to pray for them with tears . . . Lord, as you prayed for your enemies, so teach us also, through the Holy Spirit, to love our enemies."

Yet obtaining the grace to love one’s enemies presupposes other conditions.

The love of enemies is completely bound to the love of God: we have seen that the principal foundation for the love of enemies is the love that God shows to all His creatures equally and His will that all people should be saved, and Christ gave us a perfect example of such love throughout his earthly life. The love of God leads man to accomplish His will and to imitate Him as much as possible, and so also to love his enemies. The Staretz also notes that he who does not love his enemies shows that he has not learned from the Holy Spirit to love God.

To love one’s enemies is also tightly bound to humility. The Staretz often associate these two virtues. Almost all the difficulties we encounter in loving our enemies are linked with pride: it is from pride that flows the affliction that follows upon insults, hated, bad temper, spite, the desire for revenge, contempt for one’s neighbor, refusing to forgive him and to be reconciled with him.

Pride excludes the love of enemies and love of enemies excludes pride: "If we love our enemies, pride will have no place in our soul." The fact that humility goes hand in hand with love of enemies proves the presence of grace and the authenticity of love: "If you have compassion for all creatures and love your enemies, and if, at the same time, you judge yourself the worst of all people, this shows that the great grace of the Lord is in you."

Indeed humility is the indispensable condition to receive and keep the grace that teaches us to love our enemies and gives us the strength to do so. The Staretz advises: "Humiliate yourself, then grace will teach you." On the other hand, "pride makes us lose grace. . . . The soul is then tormented by bad thoughts and does not understand that one must humiliate oneself and love one’s enemies, for without that one cannot please God."

The Staretz sometimes also stresses the role played by penitence in connection with humility. "Regard yourself the worst of men," he advises. This is an attitude of great humility that of its nature implies penitence. He who counts himself the worst of men necessarily thinks others better than himself; he will judge and blame himself, and not judge and criticize his enemies, for he tends to estimate them better than himself.

The Staretz also gives us the example of another penitential attitude -- asking God’s forgiveness each time one has not loved one’s enemy: "If I judge someone or look at him angrily, my tears dry up and I fall into despondency; and again I start asking the Lord to forgive me, and the merciful Lord forgives me, a sinner. "Through such an attitude, by which the soul humbly recognizes before God its faults and shortcomings and obtains from Him forgiveness, an opening can be made that becomes bigger and bigger for grace and unceasing progress in love. As to a total absence of compassion for enemies, it shows the presence and the action of an evil spirit; sincere repentance is the only way to be freed from it."

The insistence on prayer, humility and penitence shows that, although St. Silouan recognizes a determining role to the action of grace in acquiring love of enemies, he does not neglect the role played by the efforts that man makes. The Staretz is very conscious of the importance of the initial action; this is why he says, "I beg you, try," and states, "In the beginning, force your heart to love your enemies." The efforts one makes must manifest themselves in a general way in a straight intention and constant good will, stretched toward the realization of God’s command. God will not fail to respond.

For the person who feels discouraged by such a demanding task, St. Silouan reassures him: "Seeing your good intention, the Lord will help you in everything." The Staretz who felt in himself so acutely human powerlessness and weakness seems to think constantly of these words of the Apostle: "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13) and witnesses in his own experience the mighty help that everyone can receive from God.

For Christ there are no enemies
The Staretz would say that for Christ there are no enemies -- there are those who accept "the words of eternal life," there are those who reject and even crucify; but for the Creator of every living thing, there can be no enemy. So it should be for the Christian, too, who "in pity for all must strive for the salvation of all."

Wherein, then, lies the force of the commandment, "Love your enemies"? Why did the Lord say that those who keep His commandments would know from very experience whence the doctrine?

. . . . God is love, in superabundance embracing all creatures. By allowing man to actually know this love the Holy Spirit reveals to him the path of fullness of being. To say "enemy" implies rejection. By such rejection a man falls from the plenitude of God. . . ."The whole paradise of Saints lives by the Holy Spirit, and from the Holy Spirit nothing in creation is hid," writes the Staretz. "God is love and in the Saints the Holy Spirit is love. Dwelling in the Holy Spirit, the saints behold love and embrace it, too, in their love."

. . . .[It] is possible to judge whether a given state of contemplation was a reality or an illusion only after the soul had returned to consciousness of the world; for then, as the Staretz pointed out, if there were no love for enemies and so for all creatures, it would be a true indication that the supposed contemplation had not been a real communion with God.

-- The Monk of Mount Athos (London: Mowbrays, 1973) by Archimandrite Sophrony; pp 70-71

* * *

Jean-Claude Larchet is professor of philosophy and a specialist in Patristics living in France. This is a section of a longer essay published in Buisson Ardent by the Association Saint-Silouane l’Athonite in the society’s journal (Maxime Egger, secretary, Le Sel de la Terre, 79 avenue C-F Ramuz, CH-1009 Pully, Switzerland). The translation was made by Mother Lydia of the Orthodox Cloister of St. John the Forerunner in The Hague.

Jean-Claude Larchet
reprinted from "In Communion" (issue 8, Pascha 1997)




On two types of love

Saint Maria Skobtsova of Paris (+1945)

In this world there are two kinds of love: one that takes and one that gives. This is common to all types of love — not only love for man. One can love a friend, one’s family, children, scholarship, art, the motherland, one’s own ideas, oneself — and even God — from either of these two points of view. Even those forms of love which by common consent are the highest can exhibit this dual character.

Take, for example, maternal love. A mother can often forget herself, sacrifice herself for her children. Yet this does not as yet warrant recognition as Christian love for her children. One needs to ask the question: what is it that she loves in them? She may love her own reflection, her second youth, an expansion of her own “I” into other “I”s which become separated from the rest of the world as “we.” She may love in them her own flesh that she sees in them, the traits of her own character, the reflections of her own tastes, the continuation of her family. Then it becomes unclear where is the fundamental difference between an egotistical love of self and a seemingly sacrificial love of one’s children, between “I” and “we.” All this amounts to a passionate love of one’s own which blinds one’s vision, forcing one to ignore the rest of the world — what is not one’s own.

Such a mother will imagine that the merit of her own child is not comparable with the merit of other children, that his mishaps and illnesses are more severe than those of others, and, finally, that at times the well-being and success of other children can be sacrificed for the sake of the well-being and success of her own. She will think that the whole world (herself included) is called to serve her child, to feed him, quench his thirst, train him, make smooth all paths before him, deflect all obstacles and all rivals. This is a kind of passion-filled maternal love. Only that maternal love is truly Christian which sees in the child a true image of God, which is inherent not only in him but in all people, but given to her in trust, as her responsibility, as something she must develop and strengthen in him in preparation for the unavoidable life of sacrifice along the Christian path, for that cross-bearing challenge which faces every Christian. Only such a mother loves her child with truly Christian love. With this kind of love she will be more aware of other children’s misfortunes, she will be more attentive toward them when they are neglected. As the result of the presence of Christian love in her heart her relationship with the rest of humanity will be a relationship in Christ. This is, of course, a very poignant example.

There can be no doubt but that love for anything that exists is divided into these two types. One may passionately love one’s motherland, working to make sure that it develops gloriously and victoriously, overcoming and destroying all its enemies. Or one can love it in a Christian manner, working to see that the face of Christ’s truth is revealed more and more clearly within it. One can passionately love knowledge and art, seeking to express oneself, to flaunt oneself in them. Or one can love them while remaining conscious of one’s service through them, of one’s responsibility for the exercise of God’s gifts in these spheres.

One can also love the idea of one’s own life simply because it is one’s own — and enviously and jealously set it over against all other ideas. Or one can see in it too a gift granted to one by God for the service of his eternal truth during the time of one’s path on earth. One can love life itself both passionately and sacrificially. One can even relate to death in two different ways. And one can direct two kinds of love toward God. One of these will look on him as the heavenly protector of “my” or 
“our” earthly passions and desires. Another kind of love, however, will humbly and sacrificially offer one’s tiny human soul into his hands. And apart from their name — love — and apart from their outward appearance, these two forms of love will have nothing in common.

In the light of such Christian love, what should man’s ascetic effort be? What is that true asceticism whose existence is inescapably presupposed by the very presence of spiritual life? Its criterion is self-denying love for God and for one’s fellow man. But an asceticism which puts one’s own soul at the center of everything, which looks for its salvation, fencing it off from the world, and within its own narrow limits comes close to spiritual self-centeredness and a fear of dissipating, of wasting one’s energies, even though it be through love — this is not Christian asceticism.

What is the criterion that can be used to define and measure the various pathways of human life? What are their prototypes, their primary symbols, their boundaries? It is the path of Godmanhood, Christ’s path upon earth. The Word became flesh, God became incarnate, born in a stable in Bethlehem. This alone should be fully sufficient for us to speak of the limitless, sacrificial, self-abnegating and self-humbling love of Christ. Everything else is present in this. The Son of Man lowered the whole of himself — the whole of his divinity, his whole divine nature and his whole divine hypostasis — beneath the vaults of that cave in Bethlehem. There are not two Gods, nor are there two Christs: one who abides in blessedness within the bosom of the Holy Trinity and another who took on the form of a servant. The Only-begotten Son of God, the Logos, has become Man, lowering himself to the level of mankind. The path of his later life — the preaching, the miracles, the prophesies, the healings, the enduring of hunger and thirst, right through his trial before Pilate, the way of the cross and on to Golgotha and death — all this is the path of his humiliated humanity, and together with him the path of God’s condescension to humanity.

What was Christ’s love like? Did it withhold anything? Did it observe or measure its own spiritual gifts? What did it regret? Where was it ever stingy? Christ’s humanity was spit upon, struck, crucified. Christ’s divinity was incarnate fully and to the end in his spit-upon, battered, humiliated and crucified humanity. The Cross — an instrument of shameful death — has become for the world a symbol of self-denying love. And at no time nor place — neither from Bethlehem to Golgotha, neither in sermons nor parables, nor in the miracles he performed — did Christ ever give any occasion to think that he did not sacrifice himself wholly and entirely for the salvation of the world, that there was in him something held back, some “holy of holies” which he did not want to offer or should not have offered.

He offered his own “holy of holies,” his own divinity, for the sins of the world, and this is precisely wherein lies his divine and perfect love in all its fullness.

This is the only conclusion we can come to from the whole of Christ’s earthly ministry. But can it be that the power of divine love is such because God, though offering himself, still remains God, that is, does not empty himself, does not perish in this dreadful sacrificial self-emptying?

Human love cannot be completely defined in terms of the laws of divine love, because along this path a man can lay himself waste and lose sight of what is essential: the salvation of his soul.

But here one need only pay attention to what Christ taught us. He said: “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross.” Self-denial is of the essence, and without it no one can follow him, without it there is no Christianity. Keep nothing for yourself. Lay aside not only material wealth but spiritual wealth as well, changing everything into Christ’s love, taking it up as your cross. He also spoke — not about himself and not about his perfect love, but about the love which human imperfection can assume — “Greater love has no man than he who lays down his soul (AV, RSV: life) for his friends” (Jn. 15:13). How miserly and greedy it is to understand the word “soul” here as “life.” Christ is speaking here precisely about the soul, about surrendering one’s inner world, about utter and unconditional self-sacrifice as the supreme example of the love that is obligatory for Christians. Here again there is no room for looking after one’s own spiritual treasures. Here everything is given up.

Christ’s disciples followed in his path. This is made quite clear in an almost paradoxical expression of the Apostle Paul: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brethren” (Rom. 9:3). And he said this, having stated: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). For him such an estrangement from Christ is an estrangement from life not only in the transient, worldly sense of the word, but from the eternal and incorruptible life of the age to come.

These examples suffice to let us know where Christianity leads us. Here love truly does not seek its own, even if this be the salvation of one’s own soul. Such love takes everything from us, deprives us of everything, almost as if it were devastating us. And where does it lead? To spiritual poverty. In the Beatitudes we are promised blessedness in return for being poor in spirit. This precept is so far removed from human understanding that some people attempt to read the word “spirit” as a later interpolation and explain these words as a call for material poverty and a rejection of earthly riches, while others almost slip into fanaticism, taking this as a call for intellectual poverty, the rejection of thought and of any kind of intellectual content. Yet how simply and clearly these words can be interpreted in the context of other evangelical texts. The person who is poor in spirit is the one who lays down his soul for his friends, offering this spirit out of love, not withholding his spiritual treasures.

Here the spiritual significance of the monastic vow of renunciation becomes evident. Of course it does not refer just to material renunciation or a basic absence of avarice. Here it is a question of spiritual renunciation.

What is the opposite of this? What vices correspond to the virtue of renunciation? There are two of them, and in real life they are frequently confused: stinginess and greed. One can be greedy but at the same time not be stingy, and even extravagant. One can also be stingy but not have a greedy desire to possess what is not one’s own. Both are equally unacceptable. And if it is unacceptable in the material world, it is even less acceptable in the spiritual realm.

Renunciation teaches us not only that we should not greedily seek advantage for our soul, but that we must not be stingy with our soul, that we should squander our soul in love, that we should achieve spiritual nakedness, that spiritually we should be stripped bare. There should be nothing so sacred or valuable that we would not be ready to give it up in the name of Christ’s love to those who have need of it.

Spiritual renunciation is the way of the holy fool. It is folly, foolishness in Christ. It is the opposite of the wisdom of this age. It is the blessedness of those who are poor in spirit. It is the outer limit of love, the sacrifice of one’s own soul. It is separation from Christ in the name of one’s brothers. It is the denial of oneself. And this is the true Christian path which is taught us by every word and every phrase of the Gospels.

Why is it that the wisdom of this world not only opposes this commandment of Christ but simply fails to understand it? Because the world has at all times lived by accommodating itself to the laws of material nature and is inclined to carry these laws over into the realm of spiritual nature. According to the laws of matter, I must accept that if I give away a piece of bread, then I became poorer by one piece of bread. If I give away a certain sum of money, then I have reduced my funds by that amount. Extending this law, the world thinks that if I give my love, I am impoverished by that amount of love, and if I give up my soul, then I am utterly ruined, for there is nothing left of me to save.

In this area, however, the laws of spiritual life are the exact opposite of the laws of the material world. According to spiritual law, every spiritual treasure given away not only returns to the giver like a whole and unbroken ruble given to a beggar, but it grows and becomes more valuable. He who gives, acquires, and he who becomes poor, becomes rich. We give away our human riches and in return we receive much greater gifts from God, while he who gives away his human soul, receives in return eternal bliss, the divine gift of possessing the Kingdom of heaven. How does he receive that gift? By absenting himself from Christ in an act of the uttermost self-renunciation and love, he offers himself to others. If this is indeed an act of Christian love, if this self-renunciation is genuine, then he meets Christ himself face to face in the one to whom he offers himself. And in communion with him he communes with Christ himself. That from which he absented himself he obtains anew, in love, and in a true communion with God. Thus the mystery of union with man becomes the mystery of union with God. What was given away returns, for the love which is poured out never diminishes the source of that love, for the source of love in our hearts is Love itself. It is Christ.

We are not speaking here about good deeds, nor about that love which measures and parcels out its various possibilities, which gives away the interest but keeps hold of the capital. Here we are speaking about a genuine draining of self, in partial imitation of Christ’s self-emptying of himself when he became incarnate in mankind. In the same way we must empty ourselves completely, becoming incarnate, so to speak, in another human soul, offering to it the full strength of the divine image which is contained within ourselves.

This it is — and only this — which was rejected by the wisdom of this world, as being a kind of violation of its laws. It is this that made the Cross a symbol of divine love: foolishness for the Greeks and a stumbling block for the Jews, though for us it is the only path to salvation. There is not, nor can there be, any doubt but that in giving ourselves to another in love — to the poor, the sick, the prisoner — we will encounter in him Christ himself, face to face. He told us about this himself when he spoke of the Last Judgement: how he will call some to eternal life because they showed him love in the person of each unfortunate and miserable individual, while others he will send away from himself because their hearts were without love, because they did not help him in the person of his suffering human brethren in whom he revealed himself to them. If we harbor doubts about this on the basis of our unsuccessful everyday experience, then we ourselves are the only reason for these doubts: our loveless hearts, our stingy souls, our ineffective will, our lack of faith in Christ’s help. One must really be a fool for Christ in order to travel this path to its end — and at its end, again and again, encounter Christ. This alone is our all-consuming Christian calling.

And this, I believe, is the evangelical way of piety. It would be incorrect, however, to think that this has been revealed to us once and for all in the four Gospels and clarified in the Epistles. It is continually being revealed and is a constant presence in the world. It is also continually being accomplished in the world, and the form of its accomplishment is the Eucharist, the Church’s most valuable treasure, its primary activity in the world. The Eucharist is the mystery of sacrificial love. Therein lies its whole meaning, all its symbolism, all its power. In it Christ again and again is voluntarily slain for the sins of the world. Again and again the sins of the world are raised by him upon the Cross. And he gives himself — his Body and Blood — for the salvation of the world. By offering himself as food for the world, by giving to the world communion in his Body and Blood, Christ not only saves the world by his sacrifice, but makes each person himself a “christ,” and unites him to his own self-sacrificing love for the world. He takes flesh from the world, he deifies this human flesh, he gives it up for the salvation of the world and then unites the world again to this sacrificed flesh — both for its salvation and for its participation in this sacrificial offering. Along with himself — in himself — Christ offers the world as well as a sacrifice for the expiation of our sins, as if demanding from the world this sacrifice of love as the only path toward union with him, that is, for salvation. He raises the world as well upon the Cross, making it a participant in his death and in his glory.

How profound is the resonance of these words of the Eucharist: “Thine own of thine own we offer unto thee, on behalf of all and for all.” The Eucharist here is the Gospel in action. It is the eternally existing and eternally accomplished sacrifice of Christ and of Christ-like human beings for the sins of the world. Through it earthly flesh is deified and having been deified enters into communion again with earthly flesh. In this sense the Eucharist is true communion with the divine. And is it not strange that in it the path to communion with the divine is so closely bound up with our communion with each other. It assumes consent to the exclamation: “Let us love one another, that with one mind we may confess Father, Son and Holy Spirit: the Trinity, one in essence and undivided.”

The Eucharist needs the flesh of this world as the “matter” of the mystery. It reveals to us Christ’s sacrifice as a sacrifice on behalf of mankind, that is, as his union with mankind. It makes us into “christs,” repeating again and again the great mystery of God meeting man, again and again making God incarnate in human flesh. And all this is accomplished in the name of sacrificial love for mankind.

But if at the center of the Church’s life there is this sacrificial, self-giving eucharistic love, then where are the Church’s boundaries, where is the periphery of this center? Here it is possible to speak of the whole of Christianity as an eternal offering of the Divine Liturgy beyond church walls. What does this mean? It means that we must offer the bloodless sacrifice, the sacrifice of self-surrendering love not only in a specific place, upon the altar of a particular temple; the whole world becomes the single altar of a single temple, and for this universal Liturgy we must offer our hearts, like bread and wine, in order that they may be transubstantiated into Christ’s love, that he may be born in them, that they may become “Godmanhood” hearts, and that he may give these hearts of ours as food for the world, that he may bring the whole world into communion with these hearts of ours that have been offered up, so that in this way we may be one with him, not so that we should live anew but so that Christ should live in us, becoming incarnate in our flesh, offering our flesh upon the Cross of Golgotha, resurrecting our flesh, offering it as a sacrifice of love for the sins of the world, receiving it from us as a sacrifice of love to himself. Then truly in all ways Christ will be in all.

Here we see the measurelessness of Christian love. Here is the only path toward becoming Christ, the only path which the Gospel reveals to us. What does all this mean in a worldly, concrete sense? How can this be manifested in each human encounter, so that each encounter may be a real and genuine communion with God through communion with man? It implies that each time one must give up one’s soul to Christ in order that he may offer it as a sacrifice for the salvation of that particular individual. It means uniting oneself with that person in the sacrifice of Christ, in flesh of Christ. This is the only injunction we have received through Christ’s preaching of the Gospel, corroborated each day in the celebration of the Eucharist. Such is the only true path a Christian can follow. In the light of this path all others grow dim and hazy. One must not, however, judge those who follow other conventional, non-sacrificial paths, paths which do not require that one offer up oneself, paths which do not reveal the whole mystery of love. Nor, on the other hand, is it permitted to be silent about them. Perhaps in the past it was possible, but not today.

Such terrible times are coming. The world is so exhausted from its scabs and its sores. It so cries out to Christianity in the secret depths of its soul. But at the same time it is so far removed from Christianity that Christianity cannot, should not even dare to show a distorted, diminished, darkened image of itself. Christianity should singe the world with the fire of Christian love. Christianity should ascend the Cross on behalf of the world. It should incarnate Christ himself in the world. Even if this Cross, eternally raised again and again on high, be foolishness for our new Greeks and a stumbling block for our new Jews, for us it will still be “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24).

We who are called to be poor in spirit, to be fools for Christ, who are called to persecution and abuse — we know that this is the only calling given to us by the persecuted, abused, disdained and humiliated Christ. And we not only believe in the Promised Land and the blessedness to come: now, at this very moment, in the midst of this cheerless and despairing world, we already taste this blessedness whenever, with God’s help and at God’s command, we deny ourselves, whenever we have the strength to offer our soul for our neighbors, whenever in love we do not seek our own.


Mother Maria Skobtsova

“Types of Religious Lives”