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Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #216321
12/08/06 02:17 PM
12/08/06 02:17 PM
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The Third Rome
Slavipodvizhnik Offline OP
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Every day you provide your bodies with good to keep them from
failing. In the same way your good works should be the daily
nourishment of your hearts. Your bodies are fed with food and your
spirits with good works. You aren't to deny your soul, which is
going to live forever, what you grant to your body, which is going
to die.

St. Gregory the Great

Alexandr

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #216376
12/09/06 01:43 AM
12/09/06 01:43 AM
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Father Anthony Offline

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Dear Alexandr,

First let me tell you I enjoy seeing your posts of these little snippets from the Fathers. They address volumes in few words that help ring a bell as to what we should be doing.

It is difficult for me to single out one father from another, for they all bring something to the table in which we can feed ourselves spiritually. Saint Gregory is one of those fathers that does that for me. His words in this excerpt are a reminder of what we should be doing daily. One should be thinking and trying to do in this quotation. How though is the question many would ask.

There are so many things in which we can feed our souls. Personally, prayer should be the appetizer of this meal to get us started. What I mean by that is so many I hear tell me I pray, my reply to them is how do you pray? Do you just recite words that really are not heartfelt words or do you really try to make your words ones of sincerity and actually your own. When you pray is it because of routine or out of spiritual need? Do you actually listen for an answer from God or are you dictating to God? Are you being humble and sincere or prideful like the Pharisee?

How else are you feeding your soul? Do you read the scriptures. I mean really read them trying to understand what is being said, or are you doing it out of a sense of obligation? Do you actually try to take as you have been directed and offer the good works of the gospel as your own actions cheerfully without expecting any reward or praise? Do you actually try to learn from the meaning of what we asked to submit ourselves by sacrifice in fasting, mastering our bodies in order for the spiritual within us to be free to grow closer to God?

Finally the sacraments, especially the Holy and Life-giving Body and Blood of our Lord, Jesus Christ. What does it do for you? Before you think what kind of question is that, think of how I mean that question. Do you approach out of a sense of duty and obligation, or if you truly miss the occasion for some reason to partake does you inner being feel that you are starving spiritually because something truly is missing from your spiritual life that has been feeding your soul?

Finally going back to prayer, our attention and participation in the Divine Services. Are we there out of obligation and to observe, or are we there to be an active participant and to be part of that corporate prayer of the Church?

Many questions, but if we look at Saint Gregory's words, then back to the questions a few times, we may actually see the correlation between both. These words that this great saint of the church are given to us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to give us that nudge in our spiritual life. Achieving salvation may be in a way a do-it-yourself task, but without the proper instructions and training, we can not do it ourselves. We need to properly train and learn and then do. We can not do it completely by ourselves, but through the guidance of such words as Saint Gregory, the direction and path that Church gives, we may obtain that goal, by directing ourselves towards the simple words of our Savior, "follow me".

I pray that these words of this great saint and maybe my humble offering may provoke some to strive more earnestly in that struggle towards the goal of achieving salvation, by putting themselves on that proper diet that will produce a healthy Christian.

Forgive me for my ramblings.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+


Everyone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ's own life, for in baptism he receives the power so to progress, and through the commandments he can discover and learn how to accomplish such progression. - Saint Gregory of Sinai
Re: Words from Optina [Re: Father Anthony] #216452
12/09/06 05:47 PM
12/09/06 05:47 PM
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The Most Corrupt State
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Those last two posts were more edifying than Fr. Anthony or Alexandr could ever know.

I offer my public thanks to Fr. Anthony and Alexandr for posting them!

I look forward to the next installment!

PS What is the Optina?

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Dr. Eric] #216496
12/09/06 10:47 PM
12/09/06 10:47 PM
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Sorry Dr Eric, I should have explained. Optina is a monastery in Russia which is famous for the holy men who have lived there. You can read a little more about it at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optina_Monastery

Alexandr

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #216498
12/09/06 10:50 PM
12/09/06 10:50 PM
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A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning
others, he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who
talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent, that is,
he says nothing that is not profitable.

Abba Pimen

Alexandr

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #216567
12/10/06 11:57 PM
12/10/06 11:57 PM
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Oh, what great happiness and bliss, what exaltation it is to
address oneself to the Eternal Father. Always, without fail, value
this joy which has been accorded to you by God's infinite grace
and do not forget it during your prayers; God, the angels and
God's holy men listen to you.

St. John of Kronstadt

Alexandr

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #216574
12/11/06 12:43 AM
12/11/06 12:43 AM
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Saint John of Kronstadt is one of those that has to be taken in very small doses and pondered upon in order ot be appreciated fully. I have his book, "My Life in Christ" and have to say it is a book I never have been able to read and enjoy. yet when I look at the words such in the above quite, they come alive for me. I would venture to guess, that is how something like his book should be read, by reading small quotes, pondering on them and truly learning the meaning before going on.

Saint John in the above quote actually focuses on something that we seem to neglect in our prayers and in our prayer life. Joy and gratitude. Often we approach prayer as a laundry of of needs both temporal and spiritual. Seldom do we we express joy and thanksgiving. i am sure that if someone kept on coming to you in conversation and they focused on was negativity, demands, and complaints, sooner or later you would be be ignoring them or simply avoid engaging them.

When we pray how often do we examine not only the needs and what is necessarily wrong? Do we actually focus on our blessings and gifts and express gratitude for that? can you say that having opportunities to grow is something that you bring to your prayers and that you are grateful for these chances?

Many times we neglect to do this in our prayers. As you find how you engage others in conversation that you find to be edifying, you also have to approach in prayer the same way. Our prayer should be an honest and joyful conversation with God, not just a list of demands, or a bunch of words that have little meaning to you.

One of the greatest gifts I ever learned, was to carefully focus on what I was saying in prayer, the meaning and intent of what I was saying. After starting to do that, prayer took on a a different meaning and value to me. It becamae alive and no longer an expectation of what we are expected to do as Christian. I look forward nw to each encounter I have with prayer. I is no longer an expected chore, but an opportunity I have to be addressing God in a meaningful dialog. It became a chance to learn and grow.

Prayer is not the chance to just list demands and needs, but should be that chance to experience a dialog with God. it should be a chance to grow and to realize that we are imperfect and by that dialog learning to improve our relationship with Him. As we improve in our relationship, we will find some of things that hinder us actually fall away, or become less bothersome.

Let your chance to pray be an experience that is one of joy, not just sadness, one of gratitude instead of complaint. If you do that in what Saint John tells us, you will find your outlook as a Christian start to change and that will be for the better not only for you, but in how others see you in Christan life. remember as we experience the Christian life and grow on it as true followers of the Light of the world, we also shine as that example to those offering to them the alternative of the Heavenly realm and the joy that it brings now and in the life to come.

This is my humble offering.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+


Everyone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ's own life, for in baptism he receives the power so to progress, and through the commandments he can discover and learn how to accomplish such progression. - Saint Gregory of Sinai
Re: Words from Optina [Re: Father Anthony] #216614
12/11/06 01:43 PM
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The soul has followed Moses and the cloud, both of these serving
as guides for those who would advance in virtue; Moses here
represents the commandments of the Law; and the cloud that leads
the way, its spiritual meaning. The soul has been purified by
crossing the Sea; it has removed from itself and destroyed the
enemy army. It has tasted of the waters of Marah, that is, of life
deprived of all sinful pleasure; and this at first had seemed
bitter and unpleasant to the taste but offered a sensation of
sweetness to those who accepted the wood. Next it enjoyed the
beauty of the palm trees of the gospel and the springs; it filled
itself with the living water, that is, the rock. It took within
itself the bread of heaven. It overwhelmed the foreign host - a
victory due to the extended arms of the Lawgiver, which thus
foreshadowed the mystery of the Cross. Only then can the soul go
on to the contemplation of transcendent Being.

St. Gregory of Nyssa


Alexandr

Last edited by Slavipodvizhnik; 12/11/06 01:44 PM.
Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #216743
12/12/06 10:29 PM
12/12/06 10:29 PM
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Where humility is combined with the remembrance of God that is established through watchfulness and attention, and also with recurrent prayer inflexible in its resistance to the enemy, there is the place of God, the heaven of the heart in which because of God's presence no demonic army dares to make a stand."

St. Philotheos of Sinai


Alexandr

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #216839
12/13/06 11:31 PM
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"To master the mundane will of the fallen self you have to fulfill three conditions. First, you have to overcome avarice by embracing the law of righteousness, which consists in merciful compassion for one's fellow beings; second, you have to conquer self-indulgence through prudent self-restraint, that is to say, through all-inclusive self-control; and, third, you have to prevail over your love of praise through sagacity and sound understanding, in other words through exact discrimination in things human and divine, trampling such love underfoot as something cloddish and worthless. All this you have to do until the mundane will is converted into the law of the spirit of life and liberated from domination by the law of the outer fallen self. Then you can say, 'I thank God that the law of the spirit of life has freed me from the law and dominion of death' (cf. Rom. 8:2)."

Nikitas Stithatos

Alexandr

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #216842
12/13/06 11:56 PM
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Alexandr,

Once again thanks for these gems!

Dr. Eric

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Dr. Eric] #216930
12/14/06 08:35 PM
12/14/06 08:35 PM
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At the Last Judgment the righteous will be recognized only by
their humility and their considering themselves worthless, and not
by good deeds, even if they have done them. This is the true
attitude.

Holy New Hieromartyr Barlaam

Alexandr

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #217008
12/15/06 09:18 PM
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Why Should We Read the Desert Fathers?

Conversation and association with one’s neighbors very much affects a person. Conversation and acquaintance with a learned man communicates much knowledge; with a poet, many exalted thoughts and feelings; with a traveller, much information about countries, about the characters and customs of peoples. It is obvious that conversation and acquaintance with the saints communicates holiness. "With the holy man wilt thou be holy, and with the innocent man wilt thou be innocent. And with the elect man wilt thou be elect" (Psalms 17:25-26).

From henceforth, during the time of this short earthly life, which Scripture has not even called "life," but rather "journeying," let us become acquainted with the saints. Do you want to belong to their society in heaven, do you want to be a partaker of their blessedness? From henceforth enter into association with them. When you go forth from the house of the body, then they will receive you to themselves as their own acquaintance, as their own friend (Luke 16:9).

There is no closer acquaintance, there is no tighter bond, than the bond of oneness of thoughts, oneness of feelings, oneness of goal (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Where there is oneness of thoughts, there without fail is oneness of soul, there without fail is one goal, an identical success in the attaining of one’s goal.

Appropriate to yourself the thoughts and the spirit of the Holy Fathers by reading their writings. The Holy Fathers attained the goal: salvation. And you will attain this goal by the natural course of things. As one who is of one thought and one soul with the Holy Fathers, you will be saved.

Heaven received into its blessed bosom the Holy Fathers. By this it has borne witness that the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the Holy Fathers are well-pleasing to it. The Holy Fathers set forth their thoughts, their heart, the image of their activity in their writings. This means: what a true guidance to heaven, which is borne witness to by heaven itself, are the writings of the Fathers.

The writings of the Holy Fathers are all composed by the inspiration or under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Wondrous is the agreement among them, wondrous is the anointing! One who is guided by them has without any doubt whatsoever the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

All the waters of the earth flow together into the ocean, and it may be that the ocean serves as the beginning of all the waters of the earth. The writings of the fathers are all united in the Gospel; they all incline towards teaching us the exact fulfilment of the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ; of all of them both the source and the end is the holy Gospel.

The Holy Fathers teach how to approach the Gospel, how to read it, how to understand it correctly, what helps and what hinders in comprehending it. And therefore in the beginning occupy yourself with the reading of the Fathers. When they have taught you how to read the Gospel, then read the Gospel primarily.

Do not consider it sufficient for yourself to read the Gospel alone, without the reading of the Holy Fathers! This is a proud, dangerous thought. Better, let the Holy Fathers lead you to the Gospel, as their beloved child who has received his preparatory upbringing and education by means of their writings.

Many people, all who have senselessly and presumptuously rejected the Holy Fathers, who have come without any intermediary, with a blind audacity, with an impure mind and heart to the Gospel, have fallen into fatal delusion. The Gospel has rejected them; it grants access to itself only to the humble.

The reading of the Fathers’ writings is the father and the king of all virtues. From the reading of the Fathers’ writings we learn the true understanding of Holy Scripture, right faith, the way of life in accord with the Gospel’s commandments, the deep esteem which one should have toward the Gospel commandments – to say it in a word, one learns salvation and Christian perfection.

Because of the diminishing of Spirit-bearing instructors, the reading of the Fathers’ writings has become the main guide for those who wish to be saved and even attain Christian perfection. (Rule of St. Nil Sorsky)

The books of the Holy Fathers, as one of them has expressed it, are like a mirror; looking into them attentively and frequently, a soul can see all of its shortcomings.

Again, these books are like a rich collection of medicinal means; in them the soul can seek for each of its illnesses a saving remedy.

St. Ephphanius of Cyprus said, "A mere glance at holy books arouses one towards the pious life." (Alphabetic Patericon)

The reading of the Holy Fathers should be careful, attentive, and constant; our invisible enemy, who hates the voice of confirmation (Proverbs 11:15), hates especially when this voice comes forth from the Holy Fathers. This voice unmasks the wiles of our enemy, his evilness, reveals his snares, his way of working; and therefore the enemy arms himself against the reading of the Fathers by various proud and blasphemous thoughts, tries to cause the ascetic to fall into vain cares in order to distract him from this saving reading, fights with him by means of despondency, depression, forgetfulness. From this warfare against the reading of the Holy Fathers we should conclude how saving (is) the weaponry for us, by the degree to which it is hated by the enemy. The enemy makes all efforts to wrest it out of our hands.

Let each personally choose for himself the reading from the Fathers which corresponds to his way of life. Let the hermit read the Fathers who wrote about the solitary life; let the monk who lives in the cenobitic life read the Fathers who wrote instructions for cenobitic monks; let the Christian who lives in the world read the Holy Fathers who pronounced their teachings for all Christianity in general. Let everyone, in whatsoever calling he be, draw forth abundant instruction in the writings of the Fathers.

It is absolutely necessary that the reading correspond to one’s way of life. Otherwise you will be filled with thoughts which, although holy, will be unfulfillable in the actual deed and will arouse you to fruitless activity in only the imagination and desire; the work of piety which does correspond to your way of life will slip out of your hands. Not only will you become a fruitless dreamer – your thoughts, being in constant opposition to your sphere of activity, will without fail give birth to turmoil in your heart, and to uncertainty in your conduct, which are burdensome and harmful for you and for your neighbors. By an incorrect reading of Holy Scripture and the Holy Fathers, one can easily deviate from the saving path into impassable thickets and deep abysses, which has happened with many. Amen.

St.Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #217070
12/16/06 06:19 PM
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... Our distresses are notorious, even though we leave them untold, for now their sound has gone out into all the world. The doctrines of the Fathers are despised; apostolic traditions are set at nought; the devices of innovators are in vogue in the Churches; now men are rather contrivers of cunning systems than theologians; the wisdom of this world wins the highest prizes and has rejected the glory of the cross. Shepherds are banished, and in their places are introduced grievous wolves hurrying the flock of Christ. Houses of prayer have none to assemble in them; desert places are full of lamenting crowds. The elders lament when they compare the present with the past. The younger are yet more to be compassionated, for they do not know of what they have been deprived. All this is enough to stir the pity of men who have learnt the love of Christ; but, compared with the actual state of things, words fall very far short...

Saint Basil the Great
(Letter 90)

Re: Words from Optina [Re: Slavipodvizhnik] #217075
12/16/06 06:49 PM
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GODLINESS: TO KEEP WHAT IS GOD'S IN HONOR

(From a sermon delivered at a priests' conference at Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, New York, in 1966; Orthodox Russia, 1966, no. 19, p. 8)

What to do? With such a question I appealed in 1921 to an Optina Elder.... After going through the frightful revolutionary years of 1917, 1918, and 1919, when everything was collapsing and being destroyed, I came to a state which was simply pathological: why fight when everything is coming to an end? My outlook was transmitted to my close ones. The Revolution, the chaos as it were, confirmed my words for those around me.

I became a priest, but the conditions of my soul remained the same. And thus it was that I went to Optina to the Elder with the question: What to do?

The most important thing the Elder [Nectarius] told me was this: "The Church of Christ goes as it were on a railroad track. The path of the rails is known, it is defined, but you and I must pay attention to what happens in the coach which is on the rails. In the coach occurs the personal life of a man. A man goes in and out of the coach, and there will be an end to the rails, but the end of each person is separate: one leaves the coach earlier, another later, and here it is that Christian godliness is necessary.

"The dogmas of faith, faith itself is revealed to us, and none of us doubts it; but the confession of faith must be in godliness. 'No one is good save God alone'—this is to hold what is God's in honor. It is the Divine that must be our concern; it must enter into all sides of our life—personal, family, public. Godliness is disclosed to us by the daily Divine services. At the daily Midnight Service is read the 17th Kathisma, which is a disclosure of God's righteousness by the Prophet David to his son Solomon. And the Church offers the 17th Kathisma in order to reveal our inward being. One of the methods for godliness is given by the Holy Church in a spiritual exercise which trains our mind to the remembrance of the Name of God—'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.' Monastics are given a prayer-rope, but for a priest in the world the prayerful remembrance of his spiritual children can serve for training in the remembrance of the Name of God."

And so: What to do? The Elder said: "Live in such away that what is God's will be in honor; and the first, the chief thing is your mind, which must be in God."

Alexamdr

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