15 Sept. 2010
(The TITLE alone is by VD)
Faithfully after the book
“Synaxis of the Honest Heavenly Bodiless Powers
Akathyst of St. Archangel MICHAEL”
© issued by the brotherhood of the “St. Great-martyr
George Zographus“ monastery, Mount Athos, 2001
TRANSLATION FROM BULGARIAN
The holy seven supreme angels, of whom Michael is the first, and Gabriel – the second, according to the pious interpretation of the Church were depicted as early as in Antiquity on icons and erected in their honor (Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Selaphiel, Jehudiel and Barachiel) were temples (in Rome, Naples, Palermo, as well as Archangel cathedrals at Smolensk, Nizhni Novgorod, Staritsa, a monastery at Great Ustiug (early 13th Century), and a cathedral at Sviyazhsk
Spread in Antiquity was the impious worship of angels established by heretics and idolaters. These heresies were especially widely spread in the town of Colossae (in ancient Phrygia, in Asia Minor, on the Licus River, destroyed almost in full in the year 65 AD. together with the neighboring towns of Laodicea [mentioned in the book of Revelation; it was the seventh city – after Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, and Philadelphia to receive a warning. The faithful of Laodicea were accused of being ‘lukewarm, neither hot nor cold’ (Rev., 3:16). This was due to their wealth, they were ‘rich and affluent and had no need of anything’ (Rev., 3:17). They were warned to turn around and change their ways. Despite the sorry state its faithful were in, the city remained a bishopric.] and Hierapolis by a frightful earthquake, later renovated and flourishing until the 12-th c. Named later Khonae [i.e. “diving” (opening in the rock) – the place known previously as ‘Hierotop’] ) where many performed such impious, similar to idolatry worship of the angels(as seen from Rule 35-th of the Laodicean Council which condemns heretics who prayed not to God but only to the angels as to creators and rulers of the world (the Laodicean Council was held at the time of St. Sylvestre, Pope of Rome – in 319 or in 320-321 AD – a couple of years before the First Ecumenical Council in Nicea; it was attended by 32 Bishops and chaired by the Laodicean Metropolitan Nunechios [who heads the list of participant from Phrygia in the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, 325 AD]) ). In that same country of Colossae, where they used to secretly and impiously worship the angels, there started the open Orthodox celebration of the Synaxis of the angels and they started erecting magnificent temples in honor of St. Archistrategos [Heavenly Hosts Leader] Michael – the chief of the angels. Thus in Khonae (the former city Colossae) over the miracle-working spring they erected a most beautiful and wonderful temple, where St. Archistrategos Michael himself appeared to St. Arhipos (Commemoration of that miracle is performed on September 6/19).
The nine angelic ranks are divided into three Hierarchies: highest, middle, and lowest, with three ranks each.
The First – Highest and closest to the Most Holy Trinity Hierarchy – includes the Seraphims, Cherubims and Thrones.
Seraphims – closest of all to their Creator and Maker stand the God-loving seraphims, “each one had six wings” (Prophet Isaiah, Is. 6:2); they are fiery, fire-like, they blaze with love for God and also impel others to such love, as shown by their very name as „seraphim” in Hebrew means “burning”.
Cherubims [Gen., 3:24] – many-eyed, more than any of the other lower ranks always radiating with the light of Divine-knowledge, with understanding of the mysteries of God and the depth of His [utter] Wisdom, they themselves enlightened and enlightening the others. Their name – “cherubim” – in translation from the Hebrew means: penetration, [enlightenment] understanding or outpouring of wisdom, since through them wisdom is sent down to others and enlightenment is offered to wise eyes to see and know the God.
Thrones – God-bearing (as called by St. Dionysius Areopagitus), on them as on rational thrones (as St. Maxim the Confessor writes) wisely rests God. And they are called ‘God-bearing’ not by essence but by grace and according to their service (for which they have been given grace) as ones who mystically and unattainably bear in them the God. Resting on them in an unattainable manner, God performs His righteous judgment according to what David said: “thou satest in the throne judging right.” (Ps., 9:4 [Slav. Ps., 9:5]). Therefore through them predominantly God’s justice is manifested: they serve His justice, they glorify it and pour the power of justice onto the thrones of earthly judges (a figurative expression, showing the confines of earthly judges’ authority) by helping the kings and the rulers perform just judgment.
The middle Hierarchy also consists of three Ranks of the Holy Angels: Dominions, Powers, and Authorities.
Dominions – hold dominion over the successive [lower] ranks of Angels, being themselves free. And as being free of the slave fear, as St. Dionysius Areopagitus speaks, they voluntarily and with joy constantly serve God. Thus they hand over the power for prudent glorification and wise governing of the authorities placed on earth by God, so they would govern well the regions entrusted with them. After that they teach us also to master the feelings, to restrain in ourselves the useless desires and passions, to subdue the flesh to the spirit, to master over our will and to be higher than any temptation.
Powers – filled up with Divine might, they immediately perform the will of Most High and Almighty God of theirs – the Strong and the Powerful. They also perform most great wonders and hand over that same grace of wonder-working to the God’s pleasers – worthy of that grace so they would be able to do miracles, to heal any disease, and to prophecy the future. The holy powers also help all labor and heavy laden men in bearing what has been assigned to them whatever obedience and bear the infirmities of the infirm, which also explains their name – ‘powers’. They also strengthen any man in patience, so one would not break in grieves but with firm spirit and manly would suffer all misfortunes and with humility would thank God, Who arranges everything for our benefit.
Authorities – called so because of the fact they have authority over the devil, to appease the demons’ authority, to repel the temptations, with which they attack men and not to allow the demons to cause harm whomever to such a degree that they would wish to. Authorities establish the good champions in the spiritual exploits and labors, by preserving them from being deprived of the spiritual kingdom. And to those fighting the passions and lusts they help chase away evil thoughts, enemy suggestions and to overcome the devil.
The lowest Hierarchy also has three Ranks: Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
Principalities – are called thus as they have command over the lower angels, instructing them in the fulfilling of the Divine ordinances. Also entrusted with them is the governing of the universe and the protection of all kingdoms and principalities, of all lands, nations and tribes; for each kingdom, tribe and nations has for itself – out of the Heavenly Rank of the Principalities, a special protector and governor of its country (The teaching that each nation and each kingdom has its angel is based on the words of Prophet Daniel (10:13), speaking of the angels of the Persian and the Judean kingdom). Besides, the service of this angelic Rank (according to the explanation of St. Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome [DVOESLOV – ‘of two homilies’]) comprises in instructing people to pay to any superior the tribute befitting one’s title. Finally, the Angels of this Rank promote the worthy people to the various offices of honor and instruct them so they would accept the authority no for profit and benefit of their own, not for love of vain glory, but for God’s credit, because of the spreading and multiplication of His holy power and because of the benefit of the neighbors by serving the general needs of all their subordinates.
Archangels – (supreme angels, equal in merit) are called the great harbingers [anunciators], heralding what is great and most glorious. Their service (as the great Dionysius Areopagitus speaks) comprises in revealing the prophecies, the knowledge and the understanding of God’s will, which they receive from the highest Ranks and herald to the lower Ranks – the angels, and through them – to men, as well. And St. Gregory the Great [Pope of Rome] says that the Archangels strengthen in men the holy faith by enlightening their mind with the knowledge of the Holy Gospel and reveal the mysteries of pious faith.
Angels – the lowest in the Heavenly Hierarchy of all the Ranks and of all them – the closest to people. The herald God’s mysteries and intents related to the separate people and teach the people to live in virtue and righteously for God. They are placed to protect us, believers: the virtuous men they strengthen so they would not fall, the fallen – they raise and they never abandon us, even if we had sinned, as they are always ready to help us, provide only we desire this.
But also all the higher Heavenly Ranks are called with the general name “ANGELS”. Although by their situation and by the grace given them by God they also have different names (like Seraphims, Cherubims, Thrones) they all are called together also ‘Angels’ for the word ‘angel’ is a name not of an essence but of the service according to what’s written: “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister” (Heb., 1:14).
The Orthodox warring Church, which needs the help of Angels, celebrates the Synaxis of all the nine angelic Ranks with a special litany, as is befitting, on the eighth day of the ninth month – for all these nine angelic Ranks shall gather on the day of the Frightful judgment by the Lord, which day is called by the divine teachers of the Church “day eighth” since – they say, after the passing of seven thousand years there shall come the eighth day ” When the Son of man (and of God, the just Judge) shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with him”, as God Himself foretold in the Gospel (Matth., 25:31). “And He shall send His Angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds” (Matth., 24:31), i.e. from the East, West, North, and South.
Archangel Michael – placed by God over all nine Ranks of the Angels as Rank-Superior and leader is the holy Archistrategos Michael, the faithful servant of God. (According to the meaning of the word, Michael is an angel possessing unusual, unparalleled spiritual power. In the prophet he is presented as a special defender and patron of the Hebrew people (Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1); in the Revelation of St. John the Theologian Archangel Michael is depicted as defender of the Christians and as the one who cast out the dragon with his angels into the earth: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon… And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan… was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him”; then in great wrath he started warring against the Christ’s Church and goes on waging war with the saints (cf. Rev. 12:7-17). But for consolation of the faithful shown in Revelation is that that old fight with the enemy of our salvation shall end in full victory for the Lamb (ch. 19 and 20) and that in our fight against the dragon we do have Heavenly patrons and defenders helmed by St. Archangel Michael. Veneration of St. Archangel Michael in the Orthodox Church leads its beginning from the most ancient times ).
Archangel Michael is the victor over the evil forces; he helps the Jews (who at that time piously bowed to God (Dan., 10:13));
(St. Archistrategos Michael [his name in translation from Hebrew means “who is like unto God“]) – at the time when satan fell in pernicious pride, gave up God and was cast in the abyss, Archangel Michael gathered all the angelic Ranks and hosts and exclaimed uproariously:
“Let us hearken! Let us stand aright before our God and not ponder that which is displeasing unto God! Let us see what suffered those who were created together with us and who so far together with us were participant in the Divine light! Look how they – because of their pride – in a moment fell off the light into the darkness and from the On-High they collapsed into the abyss! Look how the uprising morning Dennica fell from the Heavens (Dennica – the morning dawn. Here under Dennica one should understand the fallen away angel – satan, who was created by God prior to the visible world as a bright spirit – likened the rising up bright morning dawn; but growing proud and revolting against God, he was cast into the abyss and was subjected to everything condemned) and collapsed onto the earth! (St. Gregory the Great, Pope of Rome, “Talks on the Gospels”)
After addressing the entire synaxis of angels, he – standing at the front, started to glorify together with the Seraphims and the Cherubims and with all Heavenly Ranks the Most Holy, Consubstantial and Inseparable Trinity – the One God, singing with one voice the three-holy hymn:
– “Holy, holy holy, Lord of Sabaoth; heaven and earth are full of Thy glory!” (cf. Is. 6:3)
This gathering of the Holy Angels has received the name “Synaxis of the Angels” because they all together and with one voice glorify the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit – The Holy Trinity to Whom we, too, on earth, raise glory unto the ages. Amen.
tramples Lucifer underfoot, and in his left hand holds a green date-tree twig, and in his right hand – a spear with a white banner decorated with scarlet cross (The white banner decorating the spear of Archangel Michael symbolizes his sanctity and purity, while the cross designates that the bodiless powers wage a war against the kingdom of darkness with the power of the cross and in Christ’s name )
Archangel Gabriel – St. Gabriel belongs to the highest Seraphim Rank and does not take part in other, less responsible manifestations of God’s will, but is being sent to herald only the greatest mysteries, as was the mystery of God’s Incarnation. He is called Archangel because of the joyous annunciation that he brought to the Most Pure Virgin and through which he filled up with joy not only Her but also every creature, both lower, earthly and upper, heavenly.
A supreme prince among the angelic hosts, one of the seven Seraphims standing immediately before God, a universal Angel who heralded the salvation of the world; who opened to the Prophet the innermost mysteries of God about the future (Dan., 8:16); who annunciated to Zacharias about the conception of God’s Forerunner, an d to the Most Pure Virgin – about the incarnation of God-Word (Luke., ch. 1).
(St. Gabriel) – (“His name advises [beforehand] and bears the prototype of Man-God Who is to come in the world. Gabriel means a man strong or a man-God and stems from the word “gavyr” which means strong or God, and jointly the two produce: man-God. This was foretold as early as by Old Testament Prophet Jeremiah: “A woman shall compass a man.“ (Jerem. 31:22) And so, of what great standing is this God’s ambassador in both the meaning of his name and in his service – and above all for the mystery hidden since centuries, incomprehensible for the angels, as well, which God reveals to him first and which He sent him to the Most Pure Virgin with. Due to the sublimity of the mystery of God’s incarnation, exceeding all other mysteries ever revealed via Gabriel to the Holy Prophets, he gained even greater honor, earning the award to be honored by the very Angels as the closest contemplator of the innermost and most incomprehensible mysteries of God ( St. Proclus, Patriarch of Constantinople, who lived in 5-th c. AD. Famed as a defender of Orthodoxy against the Nestorian schism) )
Archangel Gabriel is harbinger of God’s mysteries.
in his right hand with a lantern with a burning candle inside and with a mirror made of jasper in his left with red dots on it (The mirror symbolizes that St. Archangel Gabriel is harbinger of God’s providence for the salvation of mankind. The lantern with the candle means that God’s fortunes are revealed only when the times are fulfilled, and then they are understood only by those who look unflinchingly to the mirror of God’s word and of one’s conscience ) [or with a branch from paradise, presented by him to the Most Holy Virgin].
Archangel Raphael – intercedes from God help and healing to those suffering
Archangel Raphael is healer of men’s ailments; he defended the young Tobias against unexpected mishaps along the road, he chased the demon away from the virgin Sarah and returned the eyesight to Tobit (Tobit, 12:15)
with left hand slightly raised, in which he holds a vessel of medications, and with his right hand he leads the young Tobias, carrying a fish caught in the Tigris River.
Archangel Uriel – as radiance of the Divine fire, enlightener of deranged; offered to Esdras to weigh “the weight of fire” (3 Esdras, 4:5).
holds in front of his chest with his right hand drawn sword, and with his left – dropping down – a fiery flame. (This symbolizes the especially strong zeal towards God in this Archangel)
(Not named in the Holy Scripture)
Archangel Selaphiel is a prayer-man, eternal intercessor before God for men, who incites them to pray; (according to some God-wise interpreters) the Angel who appeared to Hagar in the desert when she prayed in deep grief. He told her: “God heard the voice of the lad” (Gen., 21:17) and your humble prayer.
with head and eyes inclined, and with hands pressed to the chests as in a man praying in compassion.
Archangel Jehudiel glorifies God, he strengthens people, who labor for God’s glory and intercedes that they be rewarded for their exploits; (according to some God-wise interpreters) They give the name Jehudiel to the Angel, who God promised to send to Israelites in the desert to take them to the Promised Land, a reward for those, who keep God’s commandments for glory of God (Exod., 23:22, 23)
holds in his right hand a gold crown, and in his left – a whip of three black ropes. (This symbolizes God’s reward for the pious and holy people and the punishment for the sinners ).
Archangel Barachiel – predecessor of bliss and the endless peace in the Heavenly Kingdom
Archangel Barachiel is the bearer of God’s blessing and an intercessor, who obtains by prayer God’s benefactions; (according to some God-wise interpreters) one of the three Angels, who appeared before Abraham at the Mamre’s [Mambrian] oak, blessed Sarah to get rid of childlessness and to beget son Isaac and showed fore-image of the Holy Trinity: Father and Son, and Holy Spirit (Gen., 18).
with white roses on the chest.
Chiefs of the Heavenly hosts,
we, the unworthy, always pray to you
to fence us with your prayers
under the shroud of your immaterial glory,
by preserving us, who with knees bent pray and call:
rescue us from perils,
since you are the rank-chiefs of your hosts.
Archistrategoses of God’s,
servers of God’s glory and
tutors of men,
ask what is useful for us and great mercy
being chiefs of the bodiless.
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This is the original post included here
below the translation above]
Icon of [St.] Sophia, the Wisdom of God
of Kiev (Feast Day – September 21/8)
The Icon of Sophia, the Wisdom of God (Kiev), occupies an unique place in the Russian Orthodox Church. On the icon is depicted the Theotokos, and the Hypostatic Wisdom, the Son of God incarnate of Her.
In Wisdom or Sophia, ponders the Son of God, about Whom in the Proverbs of Solomon it says: “Wisdom has built a house for herself, and has set up seven pillars” (9:1). These words refer to Christ, the Son of God, Who in the Epistles of St Paul is called “Wisdom of God” (1 Cor.1:30), and the word “house” refers to the Most Holy Virgin Mary, of Whom the Son of God is incarnate.
The arrangement of the icon bears witness to the fulfillment of this prophecy. On the Kiev icon of Sophia is a church, and standing there is the Mother of God in a robe with a veil on her head, under an archway of seven pillars. The palms of Her hands are outstretched, and her feet are set upon a crescent moon. The Theotokos holds the Pre-eternal Christ Child, blessing with Her right hand, and holding the Infant with Her left.
On the cornice of the entrance are inscribed the words from the Book of Proverbs: “Wisdom has built a house for herself, and has set up seven pillars.” Over the entrance are depicted God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. From the mouth of God the Father issues the words: “I am affirmation of Her footsteps.”
Along both sides the seven Archangels are depicted with outstretched wings, holding in their hands symbols of their duties. On the right side: Michael with flaming sword; Uriel with a lightning flash hurling downwards; Raphael with alabaster vessel of myrrh. On the left side: Gabriel with a lily blossom; Selaphiel with a scale; Jerudiel with royal crown; and Barachiel with flowers on a white shawl.
Under a cloud with the crescent moon, serving as a footrest for the Mother of God, is a staircase with seven steps (depicting the Church of God on earth). Those standing on the seven steps are the Old Testament witnesses of the manifestation of Wisdom, the Forefathers and the Prophets.
On each of the seven steps are inscribed:
glory. grace, humility, purity, love, hope, faith,
The seven steps of the staircase are set upon the seven pillars, on which images are inscribed, and their explanation taken from the Apocalypse.
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and a Note on Elders and
the Old Calendarists
His Grace, Bishop Auxentios wrote me this short note about the following article on child-rearing:
Read this all the way to the end. It is quite a remarkable compilation of different bits of advice, some of which I would not have expected.
Father Porphyrios, as you will read in his biography, became a monk at fourteen. Educated as he was in monastic life, it is surprising to see how current (in terms of contemporary psychological research) and how insightful his views of child-rearing are. He was obviously enlightened. I commend this to parents.
Just a note about the Elder. Many of these Elders in the New Calendar Church, who live in and maintain the consistent witness of Holy Tradition, have, in my humble view, helped to hold off the precipitous course towards spiritual ruination that we see in contemporary Orthodoxy. They are the answer to the Old Calendarist extremists, who arrogantly and wrongly think that they are the only competent authorities, urbi et orbi, in the Church, and who have condemned the New Calendarists and ecumenists as lacking Grace. The holy men and women who still hold forth in world Orthodoxy fly in the face of such blasphemous arrogance.
At the same time, the outrages of the modernists and ecumenists, which grow daily, even to the point of defiling and reviling Holy Tradition, in some cases, and of condemning, slandering, and relegating us moderate resisters and Old Calendarists to a place outside the Church (while they embrace heterodox and attempt to change tradition in order to accommodate them in Orthodoxy and thus increase their own numbers). No one can deny this deadly course of world Orthodoxy, which is not unlike the course that led to the historical divisions in Christianity that the ecumenists today treat, not with a return and adherence to Holy Tradition, but by the compromise of ecumenism! This fact has not been at all lost, I think, on many of these Elders.
Elders, who live the charismatic Truth of Orthodoxy, are not necessarily Saints and Church Fathers. Their opinions and views are not always normative. While they may act in the individual lives of those whom they form with spiritual authority, not all of their statements are authoritative. They also assuredly DO NOT take the place of the Patristic witness. They can become part of it when they express it, but their individual ministrations, even if they apply in particular cases, do not constitute an infallible voice. (This deviation is often called “Gerontakrateia,” or rule by the Elders.) This does not diminish the importance and witness of Elders; rather, it puts it in context.
With regard to the course of Orthodoxy, many of these Elders in the New Calendar Church (and, of course, we have them in the Old Calendar movement as well) find themselves conflicted, hesitating to resist because of the immense cost to them and to their faithful (and one must greatly respect them for this). They are pricked in conscience about “world” Orthodoxy, knowing that the prophetic always take precedent over order in the Church. Yet some of them have criticized the extremist Old Calendarists for their position (and very rightly so, I sincerely think) for their ecclesiological deviations from moderation. Yet others, however, because they are not infallible, have committed the very sin of the Old Calendarist extremists by condemning us moderates quite unfairly and quite injudiciously, making no distinction between us and the extremists who attack them and who, as they forget, also attack us as being outside the Church.
Elder Porphyrios, from what I have heard, also had some rather harsh things to say about the extremist Old Calendarists. Yet, some years ago, not long before he went to Mt. Athos, a pious New Calendarist scholar in this country asked him about our Synod. Father Porphyrios asked this professor a frequently-asked question about us: “If they disagree with the Old Calendarist fanatics, why are they not with us?” This pious professor, without endorsing OR condemning us, quite intelligently explained our position, adding, on his own: “Given what the ‘official’ Church has done to them and the slander that I hear, it is no wonder that they do are not with us. We recognize the Orthodoxy of the Russian Bishops who provided them with their Hierarchy, but then condemn them as outside the Church. And, in fact, they often ask me, ‘Why are YOU not with US?” (I am paraphrasing from memory, since this was many years ago.)
Father Porphyrios’ answer, which was apparently spontaneous and quite to the point, was: “Maybe they are correct. Perhaps we ARE one.” From this, I knew that he was the genuine thing, despite the exploitation of his less flattering statements about Old Calendarists by those who wish at any price to preserve the perquisites of officialdom or escape the slander and disgrace that resistance entails (as we can readily attest!). When I read, in his biography (which follow his comments on child-rearing), the last words attributed to him, I was especially moved. If what I was told by this scholar (a man whose repute is simply beyond question), then Father Porphyrios was a genuine Elder.
* * *
ON THE UPBRINGING
by Elder Porphyrios
A large part of the responsibility
for a person’s spiritual state lies with the family
A child’s upbringing commences at the moment of its conception
A child’s upbringing commences at the moment of its conception. The embryo hears and feels in its mother’s womb. Yes, it hears and it sees with its mother’s eyes. It is aware of her movements and her emotions, even though its mind has not developed. If the mother’s face darkens, it darkens too. If the mother is irritated, then it becomes irritated also. Whatever the mother experiences – sorrow, pain, fear, anxiety, etc. – is also experienced by the embryo.
If the mother doesn’t want the child, if she doesn’t love it, then the embryo senses this and traumas are created in its little soul that accompany it all its life. The opposite occurs through the mother’s holy emotions. When she is filled with joy, peace and love for the embryo, she transmits these things to it mystically, just as happens to children that have been born.
For this reason a mother must pray a lot during her pregnancy and love the child growing within her, caressing her abdomen, reading psalms, singing hymns and living a holy life. This is also for her own benefit. But she makes sacrifices for the sake of the embryo so that the child will become more holy and will acquire from the very outset holy foundations.
Do you see how delicate a matter it is for a woman to go through a pregnancy? Such a responsibility and such an honor!
I will tell you something about other animate and non-rational beings and you will understand what I mean. In America the following experiment was carried out: in two identical rooms which were kept at exactly the same temperature flowers were planted in identical soil and watered in exactly the same way. There was, however, one difference: in the one room gentle, soothing music was played. And the result? The flowers in that room displayed an enormous difference in relation to the flowers in the other room. They had a quite different vitality, their colors were more attractive and they grew incomparably better. What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home
What saves and makes for good children is the life of the parents in the home.
The parents need to devote themselves to the love of God. They need to become saints in their relation to their children through their mildness, patience and love. They need to make a new start every day, with a fresh outlook, renewed enthusiasm and love for their children. And the joy that will come to them, the holiness that will visit them, will shower grace on their children. Generally the parents are to blame for the bad behavior of the children. And their behaviour is not improved by reprimands, disciplining, or strictness. If the parents do not pursue a life of holiness and if they don’t engage in spiritual struggle, they make great mistakes and transmit the faults they have within them. If the parents do not live a holy life and do not display love towards each other, the devil torments the parents with the reactions of the children. Love, harmony and understanding between the parents are what are required for the children. This provides a great sense of security and certainty.
The behaviour of the children is directly related to the state of the parents. When the children are hurt by the bad behaviour of the parents towards each other, they lose the strength and desire to progress in their lives. Their lives are constructed shoddily and the edifice of their soul is in constant danger of collapsing. Let me give you two examples.
Two sisters came to see me. One of them had gone through some very distressing experiences and they asked me what was the cause of these. I answered them:
‘It’s because of your home; it stems from your parents.’ And as I looked at the girl I said:
‘These are things you’ve inherited from your mother.’
‘But,’ she said,’ my parents are such perfect people. They’re Christians, they go to confession, they receive Communion and we had a religious upbringing. Unless it is religion that is to blame…’
I said to them:
‘I don’t believe a word of all that you’re telling me. I see one tiling only, and that is that your parents don’t live with the joy of Christ.’
On hearing this, the other girl said:
‘Listen, Maria, the Father’s quite right. Our parents go to confession and receive Holy Communion, but did we ever have any peace at home. Our father was constantly complaining about our mother. And every day either the one refused to sit at the table or the other refused to go out somewhere together. So you see what the Father is saying is true.
‘What’s your father’s name?’ I asked her,
She told me.
‘What’s your mother’s name?’
She told me.
‘Well,’ I said,’ the feelings you’ve got inside you towards your mother are not at all good.’
You see, the moment she told me her father’s name I saw his soul, and the moment she told me her mother’s name, I saw her mother and I saw the way her daughter looked at her.
Another day a mother came to visit me with one of her daughters. She was very distressed and broke down in tears.
‘What’s the matter?’ I asked.
‘I’m in total despair over my older daughter. She threw her husband out the house and deceived us all with a pack of lies.’
‘What kind of lies?’ I inquired.
‘She threw her husband out the house ages ago and she didn’t tell us anything. We would ask on the phone, “How’s Stelios doing?!’, and she would reply, “Oh, he’s fine. He’s just gone out to buy a newspaper.” Each time she would think up some new excuse so that we wouldn’t suspect anything. And this went on for two whole years. A few days ago we learned the truth from Stelios himself when we bumped into him by chance.’
So I said to her:
‘The fault’s your own. It’s you that’s to blame, you and your husband, but you most of all.’
‘What do you mean!’ she said indignantly. ‘I loved my children to the point that I was never out of the kitchen. I had no life of my own at all. I took them to the church and I was always telling them the right thing to do. How can you say that I’m to blame?’
I turned to her other daughter who was with her and asked:
‘What do you think about the matter?’
‘The Father’s right, Mom,’ she said. ‘We never ever enjoyed a single day when you weren’t quarrelling with Dad.’
‘Do you see then, how I’m right? It is you that are to blame. You traumatized the children. They are not to blame, but they are suffering the consequences.’
A psychological state is created in a child as a result of its parents that accompanies it throughout its life. Its later behaviour and its relationships with others are directly connected with the experiences that it carries with it from its childhood years. The child grows up and develops, but at bottom it does not change. This is manifested even in the smallest expressions of life. For example, you get a craving for food and want to eat. You take something and eat it, then you see something else and you want that. You feel hungry and think that if you don’t eat you’ll feel faint and you’ll start to tremble. You’re afraid you’ll lose weight. This is a psychological state that has its explanation. Perhaps you never knew your father or your mother, and you feel deprived and hungry, poor and weak. And this psychological reality is expressed by way of reflex as a weakness of the body.
A large part of the responsibility for a person’s spiritual state lies with the family. For children to be released from their various inner problems it is not enough for them to receive good advice, or to be compelled by force; nor do logical arguments or threats do any good. These things rather make matters worse. The solution is to be found through the sanctification of the parents. Become saints and you will have no problems with your children. The sanctity of their parents releases the children from their problems. Children want to have saintly people at their side, people with lots of love who will neither intimidate them nor lecture them, but who will provide a saintly example and pray for them. You parents should pray silently to Christ with upraised arms and embrace your children mystically. When they misbehave you will take some disciplinary measures, but you will not coerce them. Above all you need to pray.
Parents, especially the mother, often cause hurt to a child for some act of misbehaviour by scolding it excessively. The child is then wounded. Even if you don’t scold the child outwardly but bristle with anger inwardly or look fiercely at the child, the child understands. The child believes that its mother doesn’t love it and asks, ‘Do you love me, Mummy?’ The mother answers, ‘Yes, dear,’ but the child is not convinced. It has been wounded. The mother loves it, she’ll caress it later, but the child will pull its head away. It refuses to be caressed, regarding this as hypocrisy because it has been wounded.
Over-protectiveness leaves children immature
Another thing that harms children is over-protectiveness, that is, excessive care or excessive anxiety and worry on the part of the parents.
A mother used to complain to me that her five-year-old child was disobedient. ‘It’s your fault,’ I told her, but she didn’t understand. Once I went for a walk by the seaside with this mother along with the child. The little boy let go of his mother’s hand and ran towards the sea. There was a sand dune there and the sea came in directly behind it. The mother immediately reacted with anxiety and was about to s wards the boy who was standing on top of the dune with outstretched arms trying to keep his balance. I calmed her down and told to her to turn her back on the boy while I kept an eye on him askance. When the boy despaired of provoking his mother’s attention and causing her to panic and scream as usual, he calmly climbed down and walked towards us. That was the end of it. Then the mother understood what I meant.
Another mother used to complain that her little boy wouldn’t eat all his food, especially his yoghurt. The little one was about three years old and tormented his mother every day. I said to her:
‘What you should do is this. Empty the refrigerator completely and then fill it with some yoghurt. When lunchtime comes you’ll give Peter his yoghurt. He’ll refuse to eat it. In the evening you’ll give him it again and the same the next day. In the end he’ll get hungry and will try some. He’ll throw a tantrum, but you’ll just put up with it. Thereafter he’ll eat it quite happily.’
That’s just what happened and yoghurt became Peter’s favourite food.
These things aren’t difficult, but many mothers are unable to do them and the result is that they give their children a very bad upbringing. Mothers who are always standing over their children and pressurizing them, that is, over-protecting them, have failed in their task. You need to leave the child alone to take an interest in its own progress. Then you will succeed. When you are always standing over them, the children react. They become lethargic and weak-willed and generally are unsuccessful in life. This is a kind of over-protectiveness that leaves the children immature.
A few days ago a mother came here in a state of despair because of her son’s repeated failures in the university entrance exams. He had been an excellent pupil in elementary school and all the way through high school. But in the end he failed repeatedly and showed indifference and had strange reactions.
‘It’s your fault,’ I said to the mother, ‘educated woman though you are! How else did you expect the boy to react? Pressure, pressure, pressure all these years, “Make sure you’re top of the class, don’t let us down, get yourself an important position in society…” Now he’s thrown in the towel; he doesn’t want anything. Stop this pressure and over-protection and you’ll see that the boy will regain his equilibrium. He’ll make progress once you let him be.’
A child needs to be surrounded by people who pray and pray ardently
A child needs to be surrounded by people who pray and pray ardently. A mother should not be satisfied by giving her child a physical caress, but should also coddle it with the caress of prayer. In the depths of its soul the child senses the spiritual caress that its mother conveys to it and is drawn to her. It feels security and certainty when its mother mystically embraces it with constant, intense and fervent prayer and releases it from whatever is oppressing it.
Mothers know how to express anxiety, offer advice and talk incessantly, but they haven’t learned to pray. Most advice and criticism does a great deal of harm. You don’t need to say a lot to children. Words hammer at the ears, but prayer goes to the heart. Prayer is required, with faith and without anxiety, along with a good example.
One day a mother came here distraught about her son, George. He was very mixed-up. He stayed out late at night and the company he kept was far from good. Every day things were getting worse. The mother was overcome by anxiety and distress.
I said to her:
‘Don’t say a word. Just pray.’
We agreed that between ten and ten fifteen every evening we would both pray. I told her to say not a word and to leave her son to stay out till whatever time he wanted, without asking him, ‘What sort of time is this to come home? Where were you?’, or any such thing. Instead she would say to him as lovingly as possible, ‘Come and eat, George, there’s food in the fridge.’ Beyond this she was to say nothing. She would behave towards him with love and not stop praying.
The mother began to apply this tactic, and after about twenty days had passed the boy asked her:
‘Mother, why don’t you speak to me?’
‘What do you mean, George, that I don’t speak to you?’
‘You’ve got something against me, Mother, and you’re not speaking to me.’
‘What strange idea is this that you’ve got into your head, George? Of course I speak to you. Am I not speaking to you now? What do you want me to say to you?’
George made no reply.
The mother then came to the monastery and asked me:
‘Elder, what was the meaning of this that the boy said to me?’
‘Our tactic has worked!’
‘The tactic I told you – of not speaking and simply praying secretly and that the boy would come to his senses,’
‘Do you think that that is it?’
‘That is it,’ I told her. ‘He wants you to ask him “Where were you? What were you doing?” so that he can shout and react and come home even later the next night.’
‘Is that so?’ she said. ‘What strange mysteries are hidden!’
‘Do you understand now? He was tormenting you because he wanted you to react to his behaviour so that he could stage his little act. Now that you’re not shouting at him he is upset. Instead of you being upset when he does what he wants, now he is upset because you don’t appear distressed and you display indifference.’
One day George announced that he was giving up his job and going to Canada. He had told his boss to find a replacement because he was leaving. In the meantime I said to his parents:
‘But he’s ready to leave… I’ll grab him by the scruff of the neck!’ said his father.
‘No,’ I told him, ‘don’t do anything.’
‘But the boy’s leaving, Elder!
I said: ‘Let him leave. You just devote yourselves to prayer and I’ll be with you.’
Two or three days later early one Sunday morning George announced to his parents:
‘I’m going off today with my friends.’
‘Fine,’ they replied, ‘do as you want.’
He left, and along with his friends, two girls and two boys, he hired a car and set off for Chalkida. They drove around aimlessly here and there. Then they went past the church of Saint John the Russian and from there to Mantoudi, Aghia Anna and beyond to Vasilika, They had a swim in the Aegean Sea, they ate, drank and had a fine time. At the end of it all they set off on the road home. It was already dark. George was driving. As they were passing through Aghia Anna the car hit the corner of a house and was badly damaged. What could they do now? They managed to bring the car back to Athens at a crawling pace.
George arrived back home in the early hours of the morning. His parents said nothing to him and he went off to sleep. When he woke up he came and said to his father:
‘Do you know what happened?… Now we’ll have to repair the car and it will cost a lot of money.’
His father said:
‘Well, George, you’ll have to find a solution to this yourself. You know I’ve got debts to pay and your sisters to look after…’
‘What can I do, father?’
‘Do whatever you like. You’re grown-up and you’ve got a brain of your own. Go off to Canada and make some money…’
‘I can’t do that. We have to repair the car now.’
I’ve no idea what you should do,’ said his father. ‘Sort it out yourself.’
So, seeing that further dialogue with his father was pointless, he said no more and left. He went to his boss and said:
‘I had an accident with a car. I don’t want to leave now, so don’t hire anyone else.’
His boss said:
‘That’s all right by me, lad.’
‘Yes, but I would like you to give me some money in advance.’
‘That’s fine, but you were wanting to leave. If you want money, your father will have to sign for it.’
I’ll sign for it myself. My father doesn’t want to get involved. He told me so. I’ll work and I’ll repay it.’
Now isn’t that a miracle?
When the boy’s mother came again to see me I said to her:
‘The method we employed worked and God heard our prayer. The accident was from God and now the boy will stay at home and will come to his senses.’
That’s what happened through our prayer. It was a miracle. The parents fasted, prayed and kept silent and they were successful. Some time later the boy himself came and found me – without any of his family having said anything to him about me. George became a very fine man and now works in the air force and is married with a lovely family.
With children what is required is a lot of prayer and few words
All things are achieved through prayer, silence and love. Have you understood the effects of prayer? Love in prayer, love in Christ. That is what is truly beneficial. As long as you love your children with human love – which is often pathological – the more they will be mixed-up, and the more their behaviour will be negative. But when the love between you and towards your children is holy and Christian love, then you will have no problem. The sanctity of the parents saves the children. For this to come about, divine grace must act on the souls of the parents. No one can be sanctified on his own. The same divine grace will then illuminate, warm and animate the souls of the children. People often telephone me from abroad and ask me about their children and about other matters. Today a mother phoned me from Milan and asked me how she should behave towards her children. What I said to her was this:
‘Pray, and when you have to, speak to your children with love. Lots of prayer and few words. Lots of prayer and few words for everyone. We mustn’t become an annoyance, but rather pray secretly and then speak, and God will let us know in our hearts whether the others have accepted what we have said. If not, we won’t speak. We will simply pray mystically. Because if we speak we become an annoyance and make others react or even infuriate them. That is why it is better to speak mystically to the heart of others through secret prayer rather than to their ears.
Pray and then speak. That’s what to do with your children. If you are constantly lecturing them, you’ll become tiresome and when they grow up they’ll feel a kind of oppression. Prefer prayer and speak to them through prayer. Speak to God and God will speak to their hearts. That is, you shouldn’t give guidance to your children with a voice that they hear with their ears. You may do this too, but above all you should speak to God about your children. Say, “Lord Jesus Christ, give Your light to my children. I entrust them to You. You gave them to me, but I am weak and unable to guide them, so, please, illuminate them.” And God will speak to them and they will say to themselves, “Oh dear, I shouldn’t have upset Mummy by doing that!” And with the grace of God this will come from their heart.’
This is the most perfect way – for the mother to speak to God and for God to speak to the children. If you do not communicate in this way, constant lecturing becomes a kind of intimidation. And when the child grows up it begins to rebel, that is, to take revenge, so to speak, on its father and mother who coerced it. One way is the perfect way – for the mother’s and father’s holiness and love in Christ to speak. The radiance of sanctity and not human effort makes for good children.
When the children are traumatized and hurt on account of some serious situation, don’t let it affect you when they react negatively and speak rudely. In reality they don’t want to, but can’t help themselves at difficult times. They are remorseful afterwards. But if you become irritated and enraged, you become one with the evil spirit and it makes a mockery of you all.
The sanctity of the parents is the best way of bringing up children in the Lord.
We must see God in the faces of our children and give God’s love to our children. The children should learn to pray. And in order for children to pray they must have in them the blood of praying parents. This is where some people make the mistake of saying, ‘Since the parents are devout and pray, meditate on Holy Scripture and bring up their children -Eph,6:4 in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, it is natural that they will become good children.’ But nevertheless we see the very opposite result on account of coercion.
It is not sufficient for the parents to be devout. They mustn’t oppress the children to make them good by force. We may repel our children from Christ when we pursue the things of our religion with egotism. Children cannot endure coercion. Don’t compel them to come with you to church. You can say, ‘Whoever wants can come with me now or come later.’ Leave God to speak to their souls. The reason why the children of some devout parents become rebellious when they grow up and reject the Church and everything connected with it and go off to seek satisfaction elsewhere is because of this pressure which they feel from their ‘good’ parents. The so-called ‘devout’ parents, who were anxious to make good Christians of their children with their human love, pressurized their children and produced the opposite result. The children are pressurized when they are young, and when they reach the age of sixteen, seventeen or eighteen years old, they end up the opposite of what was intended. By way of reaction they start to mix with bad company and to use bad language.
When children grow up in an atmosphere of freedom and at the same time are surrounded by the good example of grown-ups, they are a joy to see. The secret is to be good and saintly and to inspire and radiate. The life of the children seems to be affected by the radiation of their parents. If the parents insist, ‘Come on now, go and make confession, go and receive Communion’, and so on, nothing is achieved. But what does your child see in you? How do you live and what do you radiate? Does Christ radiate in you? That is what is transmitted to your child. This is where the secret lies. And if this is done when the child is young, it will not be necessary for it to undergo ‘great travail’ when it grows up. Solomon the Wise uses a beautiful image about exactly this subject, underlining the importance of a good start and good foundations: He who Wisd. 6:14 seeks her [Wisdom] early shall have no great travail; for he shall find her [DC] sitting at his doors. The person who ‘seeks her early’ is the person who occupies himself with Wisdom from an early age. Wisdom is Christ.
When the parents are saintly and transmit this to the child and give the child an upbringing ‘in the Lord’, then the child, whatever the bad influences around it, will not be affected because by the door of its heart will be Wisdom – Christ Himself. The child will not undergo great travail to acquire Wisdom. It seems very difficult to become good, but in reality it is very easy when from an early age you start with good experiences. As you grow up effort is not required; you have goodness within you and you experience it. You don’t weary yourself; it is yours, a possession which you preserve, if you are careful, throughout your life.
With prayer and sanctity you can also help children at school
What is true for parents is also true for teachers. With prayer and sanctity you can also help children at school. The grace of God can overshadow them and make them good. Don’t attempt with human methods to correct bad situations. No good will come of this. Only with prayer will you produce results. Invoke the grace of God on all the children – for divine grace to enter their souls and transform them. That is what it means to be a Christian.
You teachers transmit your anxiety to the children, without realizing it, and this affects them. With faith anxiety dissolves. What is it that we say? ‘We commit our whole life to Christ our God.’*
Respond to the love of the children with discernment. And once they love you, you will be able to lead them to Christ. You will become the means. Let your love be genuine. Don’t love them in a human way, as parents usually do. This does not help them. Love in prayer, love in Christ. This is truly beneficial. Pray for each child you see, and God will send His grace and will unite the child to Him. Before you enter the classroom, especially difficult classes, repeat the prayer, ‘Lord Jesus Christ…’. And as you enter, embrace all the children with your gaze, pray and then start your lesson, offering your whole self. By making this offering in Christ, you will be filled with joy. And in this way both you and the children will be sanctified. You will live in the love of Christ and of His Church, because you will become good during your work.
If a pupil causes a problem, make a general observation first, such as:
‘Children, we’re all here for a lesson, for a serious business. I’m here to help you. You are working hard to succeed in life, and I, who love you all very much, am also working hard. So please be quiet so that we can achieve our aim.’
And while you’re saying this don’t look at the pupil who’s misbehaving. If he continues, address yourself to him, not with anger, but with seriousness and resolution. You need to be watchful and to keep control of the class to be able to influence their souls. The children are not at fault if they cause problems. It is the grown-ups who are to blame.
Don’t speak much about Christ and God to the children, but pray to God for the children. Words enter the ears, but prayer enters the heart. Listen to a secret. The first day you enter a class, don’t have a lesson. Speak to the children warmly and clearly and behave with love towards them. To begin with don’t speak to them at all about God or about the soul. This comes later. But on the day when you decide to speak to them about God, prepare yourself well and say:
‘There is a subject about which many people have great doubts. It is the subject ‘God’. What’s your opinion about this?’
And then you will have a discussion. On another day you will broach the subject of the ‘soul’.
Is there such a thing as the “soul”?’
Then you can talk about evil from a philosophical point of view. Tell them that we have two selves, a good and a bad. We must cultivate the good self. It is the good self that desires progress, kindness and love. We need to wake up this good self in order to become right-minded people in society. Remember that hymn: ‘0 soul, my soul, arise, why are you sleeping?’ Don’t tell them it like this, but with other words, for example: ‘Be bright and awake for good things – for education, for love. Only love makes all things beautiful and fills our life and gives it meaning. Our wicked self desires laziness and indifference. But that takes all flavour from life and takes away all meaning and beauty.’
All these things, however, require preparation. Love demands sacrifices and very often sacrifice of time. Make sure you have mastery of your subject and are ready to give to the children. Be prepared and say everything with love and above all with joy. Show them all your love and know what you want and what you are saying. But how to behave towards children is an art. I heard a lovely story about this. Listen.
There was a teacher who was being tormented by the behaviour of one of the boys and wanted to expel him from the school. In the meantime, however, a new teacher arrived and took over the class. The new teacher was told in advance about the problem pupil. He also heard that the boy in question was mad about bicycles. So, on the second day, when he entered the classroom he said:
‘Children, I’ve got a problem. I live far from the school and I want to get a bicycle so that I don’t tire my feet out every day walking here, but I don’t know how to ride one. Could any one of you teach me how to ride a bike?’
The mischievous boy jumped up at once and said, I’ll teach you, Sir.’
‘Do you know how to ride a bike?
From that moment on they became best friends, to the point that the old teacher got upset when he saw them. He felt a sense of inadequacy that he had been unable to evoke respect from the boy.
There are often orphan children at a school. It’s a hard thing to be an orphan. A child who’s deprived of its parents, especially at an early age, becomes unhappy in life. But if it acquires spiritual parents in Christ and our Holy Lady, it becomes a saint. Treat orphan children with love and understanding, but above all bring them into contact with Christ and the Church.
Teach the children to seek God’s help
The medicine and great secret for children’s progress is humility. Trust in God gives perfect security. God is everything. No one can say that I am everything. That cultivates egotism. God desires us to lead children to humility. Without humility neither we nor children will achieve anything. You need to be careful when you encourage children. You shouldn’t say to a child, ‘You’ll succeed, you’re great, you’re young, you’re fearless, you’re perfect!’ This is not good for the child. You can tell the child to pray, and say, ‘The talents you have, have been given to you by God, Pray and God will give you strength to cultivate them and in that way you will succeed. God will give you His grace.’ That is the best way. Children should learn to seek God’s help in everything.
Praise is harmful to children. What does Scripture say? 0 my people, those who call you blessed lead you astray, and pervert the path of your feet. The person who praises us leads us astray and perverts the paths of our life. How wise God’s words are! Praise does not prepare children for any difficulties in life and they grow up badly adjusted; they lose their way and in the end they become failures. Now the world has gone haywire. Little children are constantly being praised. We are told not to scold children, not to go against their will and not to impose on them. The child learns to expect this, however, and is unable to deal maturely with even the slightest difficulty. As soon as it encounters opposition, it is defeated and drained of all strength.
Prime responsibility for the failure of children in life lies with their parents and thereafter with their teachers. They praise them constantly. They fill them with egotistical words. They do not lead them to the spirit of God and they alienate them from the Church. When the children grow up a little and go to school with this egotism they abandon and disdain religion and they lose their respect for God, for their parents and for everyone. They become stubborn, hard and unfeeling, with no respect for religion or for God. We have produced a generation of egotists and not of Christians.
Children are not edified by constant praise
Children are not edified by constant praise. They become self-centered and vain. All their lives they will want everyone to be praising them constantly, even if they are being told lies. Unfortunately, nowadays all people have learned to tell lies and the conceited accept those lies as their daily sustenance. ‘Say it, even if it’s not true, even if it’s ironical,’ they say. God does not want this. God wants truth. Unfortunately, not all people understand this and they do the very opposite.
When you praise children constantly and indiscriminately, they fall prey to the temptations of the evil one. He sets the mill of egotism in motion, and accustomed as they are to praise from their parents and teachers, they make progress at school perhaps, but what is the gain? In life they will be egotists and not Christians. Egotists can never be Christians. Egotists desire to be praised constantly by everyone, for everyone to love them and for everyone to speak well of them, and this is something that our God, our Church and our Christ do not want.
Our religion does not wish for this kind of upbringing. On the contrary, it wants children to learn the truth from an early age. The truth of Christ emphasizes that if you praise a person you make him an egotist. An egotist is mixed-up and is led by the devil and the evil spirit. And so, growing up in the spirit of egotism, his first task is to deny God and to be a badly adjusted egotist in society.
You must tell the truth for a person to learn it. Otherwise you sustain him in his ignorance. When you tell someone the truth, he finds his bearings, he takes care, he listens to other people and he restrains himself. And so to a child also you must tell the truth and scold it so that it knows that what it is doing is not good. What does Solomon say? He that spares the rod hates his son, but he that loves him chastens him diligently. I don’t mean, of course, for you to beat the child with a stick. Then we overstep the bounds and produce the opposite result. By praising our children from an early age we lead them to egotism. And you can hoodwink an egotist, provided you tell him how good he is and inflate his ego. And so he tells you, ‘This person who praises me is good.’ These things are not right. Because such a person grows up with egotism, confusions arise within him, he suffers and he doesn’t know what he is doing. The cause of psychological instability and disorder is egotism. This is something that psychiatrists themselves, if they explore the matter, will discover, namely, that the egotist is sick.
We should never praise and flatter our fellow men, but rather lead them to humility and love of God. Nor should we seek to be loved by flattering others. Let us learn to love and not seek to be loved. Let us love everyone and make sacrifices, as great as we are able, for all our brothers and sisters in Christ, without expecting praise and love from them in return. They will do for us whatever God inspires them to. If they are Christians, they will give glory to God that we helped them or spoke a good word to them.
This is also the way you should guide the children at school. This is the truth. Otherwise they grow up maladjusted. They don’t know what they are doing and where they are going, and we are the cause of it, on account of the way we have brought them up. We have not led them to truth, to humility and to the love of God. We have turned them into egotists and look at the result!
There are also, however, children who come from humble parents who spoke to them from an early age about God and about holy humility. These children do not create problems to their fellow men. They do not get angry when you point out their error, but try to correct it and pray that God may help them not to become egotists.
When I went to the Holy Mountain I lived with exceedingly saintly elders. They never said to me, ‘Well done.’ They always counseled me how to love God and how to be always humble, to invoke God to fortify my soul and to love Him greatly. I didn’t know what ‘well done’ was, nor did I ever desire it. On the contrary, I was distressed if my elders didn’t scold me. I said to myself, ‘Heavens above, I haven’t found myself good elders!’ I wanted them to correct me, to censure me and behave strictly towards me. If a Christian were to hear what I’m saying now, what would he say? He would be taken aback and reject it. But nevertheless that is what is right, humble and sincere.
My parents never said ‘well done’ to me either. For that reason, whatever I did, I did selflessly. Now that I hear people singing my praises, I feel very bad. There’s something that kicks in protest i when other people say to me, ‘well done’, The fact that I learned humility did me no harm. And why do I not want to be applauded now? Because I know that praise makes a person empty and expels the grace of God. The grace of God comes only with holy humility. A humble man is a perfect man. Is that not a fine thing? Is that not true?
If you tell this to anyone they will immediately say, ‘What a piece of nonsense! If you don’t praise your child he won’t be able to do his schoolwork or anything…’ But that happens because that’s what we’re like, and we have made our children the same. In other words, we have strayed from the truth. Egotism evicted man from Paradise; it is a great evil. Adam and Eve were simple and humble; that’s why they lived in Paradise. They didn’t have egotism. They did, however, have the ‘primal nature’, as we call it in theological language. When we say ‘primal nature’ we mean the gifts of grace that God bestowed on man in the beginning when He created him, namely, life, immortality, consciousness, freedom of will, love, humility, etc. Through flattery, however, the devil managed to delude them. They became filled with egotism. The natural state of man as created by God, however, is humility. Egotism, on the contrary, is something unnatural, an illness and contrary to nature.
When we, with our laudations, create this ‘superego’ in the child, we inflate its egotism and we do it great harm. We make the child more susceptible to demonic influence. And so, as we bring it up, we steadily distance it from the values of life. Don’t you believe that this is the reason why children go astray and people rebel? It is the egotism that their parents have implanted in them from an early age. The devil is the great egotist, the great Lucifer. In other words, we live with Lucifer inside us, with the devil. We don’t live with humility. Humility is from God; it is something essential for the human soul. It is something organic. And if it is missing, it is as if the heart were missing from the human organism. The heart gives life to the body and humility gives life to the soul. With egotism a person is given over to the part of the evil spirit, that is, he develops with the evil spirit and not with the good spirit.
This is what the devil has succeeded in achieving. He has turned the earth into a labyrinth so that we are unable to come to an understanding with one another. What has happened to us without our realizing it? Do you see how we have been led astray? We have turned our world and our age into one large psychiatric hospital! And we don’t understand what’s gone wrong. We all ask, ‘What’s become of us, where are we going, why have our children taken off, why have they left their homes, why have they resigned from life, why have they given up their studies? Inside me Why is all this happening?’ The devil has succeeded in concealing himself and in making people use other names. Doctors and psychologists often say when someone is tormented, ‘Ah, this person has a neurosis or is suffering from anxiety.’ They don’t accept that the devil is inciting and arousing egotism in the person. But yet the devil exists and is the spirit of evil. If we say he doesn’t exist, it is as if we are rejecting the Gospel that speaks of him. He is our enemy, our adversary in life, the contrary of Christ, which is why he is called the Anti-Christ. Christ came to earth to release us from the devil and to grant us salvation.
The conclusion is that we need to teach our children to live humbly and simply and not continually to seek praise and applause. We need to teach them that there is humility and that this is the healthy state of life.
The mind-set of our contemporary society does harm to children. It is based on another psychology and another theory of education that is addressed to the children of atheists. This frame of mind leads to complete disregard for the consequences of one’s actions. And you see the results in our children and young people. Young people nowadays say, ‘You need to understand us!’ But we mustn’t go to them. On the contrary, we need to pray for them, to say what is right, to live by what is right, and proclaim what is right, and not conform ourselves to their way of thinking. We mustn’t compromise the magnificence of our faith. We cannot, in order to help them, adopt their own frame of mind. We need to remain the people that we are and proclaim the truth and the light.
The children will learn from the Holy Fathers. The teaching of the Fathers will instruct our children about confession, about the passions, about evils and about how the saints conquered their evil selves. And we will pray that God will enter into them.
*Words repeated again and again during the Divine Liturgy
Elder Porphyrios was born in the village of Aghios loannis in the province of Karystia on the Greek island of Evia (Euboea) on the 7th February 1906. The name he received at birth was Evangelos. His parents, Leonidas and Eleni Bairaktaris, were poor farmers and had difficulty in supporting their large family. For this reason his father left for America where he worked on the construction of the Panama Canal.
Young Evangelos was the fourth child of the family. As a boy he looked after sheep on the hills and had completed only the first class of primary school when, at the age of seven, he was obliged on account of his family’s extreme poverty to go to the nearby town of Chalkida to work. He worked there in a shop for two or three years. Thereafter he went to Piraeus to work in a general store owned by a relative.
At the age of twelve he left secretly to go to the Holy Mountain. His longing was to imitate Saint John the Hut-dweller whose life he had read and for whom he felt a special affinity. The grace of God led him to the hermitage of Saint George in Kavsokalyvia where he lived in obedience to two elders, natural brothers, Panteleimon, who was a father confessor, and Ioannikios, who was a priest. He devoted himself with great love and in a spirit of utter obedience to the two elders who had a reputation for being exceptionally austere.
He became a monk at the age of fourteen and took the name of Niketas. Two years later he took his final monastic vows of the Great Schema. Shortly thereafter God granted him the gift of clear sight.
At the age of nineteen he became very seriously ill and was obliged to leave the Holy Mountain. He returned to Evia where he went to live in the Monastery of Saint Charalambos at Levka. A year later, in 1926, and at the age of twenty, he was ordained priest at the Church of Saint Charalambos in Kymi by the Archbishop of Sinai, Porphyrios III, who gave him the name Porphyrios. At the age of twenty-two he became a confessor and spiritual father. For a time he was parish priest in the village of Tsakei in Evia.
He lived for twelve years in the Monastery of Saint Charalambos in Evia serving as a spiritual guide and confessor and then for three years in the deserted Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Ano Vatheia.
In 1940, on the eve of Greece’s entrance into the Second World War, Elder Porphyrios moved to Athens where he became chaplain and confessor in the Polyclinic Hospital. He himself said that he served there for thirty-three years as if it were a single day, devoting himself untiringly to his spiritual work and to easing pain and suffering.
As of 1955 he made his home in the tiny Monastery of Saint Nicholas in Kallisia on the foothills of Mount Penteli. He rented this monastic dependency along with the surrounding area from the Penteli Monastery and worked the land with great diligence. At the same time he carried out his copious work of spiritual guidance.
In the summer of 1979 he moved to Milesi, a village some thirty miles north of Athens and overlooking his native Evia, with the dream of founding a monastery there. To begin with he lived in a caravan under exceedingly adverse circumstances and later in a simple room constructed from breeze blocks where he endured without complaint his many health troubles. In 1984 he moved into a room in a wing of the monastery which was under construction. In spite of the fact that the elder was seriously ill and blind, he worked constantly and unstintingly for the completion of the monastery. On the 26th February 1990 he was able to see his dream becoming reality when the foundation stone of the church of the Transfiguration was laid.
During the final years of his earthly life he began to prepare himself for his death. His desire was to return to the Holy Mountain and to his beloved Kavsokalyvia where, secretly and silently, just as he had lived, he would tender up his soul to her Bridegroom. He was often heard to say, ‘My desire now that I have grown old is to go and die up there.’
So it was that he came to his saintly end in his hermitage in Kavsokalyvia on the morning of 2nd December 1991.
The last words that were heard to pass from his lips were the words from our Lord’s high-priestly prayer which he loved so much and repeated so often: that they may be one.
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St. Justin Popovich …
The Essence of Christian Education May Be Expressed As Follows:
1. Man is a being that can in the fullest and most realistically perfect oneself and acquire completeness through the God-Man;
2. Human perfection through the God-Man takes place with the help of evangelical virtues;
3. Enlightened man sees in any other man one’s immortal brother and eternal brethren;
4. Any human activity – philosophy, science, crafts, agriculture, arts, education, culture vests in intransient values when enlightened and rationalizes with God-Man;
[they teach us all – in different words and terms – that everything is from Christ Our Lord, and then some become theologians, others – medical doctors, still others – engineers, philologists and so on and so forth – everyone according to God’s will!…]
5. True enlightenment is achieved through a holy life according to the Gospel of Christ;
6. Saints are the most perfect enlighteners, the holier a man lives, the better tutor and educator one is;
7. School is the second half of God-Man’s heart, and the Church is the first;
8. The absolute center of all the ideas and activities is Christ the God-Man and His God-Man’s team – the Church.
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Subject: Letter to ROCA
I came across this well written balanced letter from clergy in England, which addresses current state of SABLAZNY in ROCA in sober and clear manner…. and which indeed is rare in simplicity in these times of confusion, ignorance, deception, and whole variety of currently flowering erroneous trends from left and right which as plague devour our beloved ROCA , plague of SABLAZNY which entered in ROCA through the orchestrated attempt of forceful and untimely political union with MP, while the 2 most important basic conditions on part of MP still remain unsolved.
We all wish and yearn to see unity of Church but not in deceit and hypocrisy but rather in Truth and Love…May Lord grant it. Amen.
[hsigor, servant in Christ Igor Relyov-ich, 04 Dec 2006]”
Letter of Archimandrite Alexis [*BOW*]
to Metropolitan Laurus and all
faithful children of ROCOR(V)
Dear-in-Christ, Archipastors, Fathers and Brethren,
I ask your Archipastoral and pastoral blessings and prayers.
Many of our people have urged me to write this letter as they feel that their voice will not be heard at the All-Diaspora Clergy Conference, held in Nyack next week. At the time of writing the representative appointed to attend the conference from England has not canvassed our views and in general he has very little contact with the two monastic communities and our English-language missions.
I can only define our people, as those who look to Saint Edward Brotherhood for some kind of leadership, the parishioners here and at the Convent of the Annunciation in London, those in the other missions within the English-language deanery, and those who correspond with us, and increasingly so those who contact us by e-mail.
The visit of our ruling hierarch, His Grace Archbishop Mark, to London in October opened up the subject of the possible rapprochement between the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad and the Moscow Patriarchate. Nowadays people have much freer access to information through internet reports and lists, and so the question in the last few weeks has come very much to the fore.
In these exchanges I have only found one person who seems wholly enthusiastic about developments. Many others have various misgivings and feel disquiet in various ways, and I would like to put these matters before you, so that you are as fully informed of the situation as possible. I shall not be able to do this with any great wisdom or learning, and may have misinterpreted various events or positions, but I ask you to bear with this, that our voice might be heard.
Having mentioned the one person who enthusiastically endorses the idea of a union, I should also say that I have only come across one or two people who believe that any approach to Moscow on the part of our hierarchs is essentially and fundamentally wrong.
In the main this letter reiterates what I have already addressed to Archbishop Mark, and which he has assured me “will certainly help” him “when participating in the conference,” although I have expanded several thoughts. As in my letter to the Archbishop, I think it may be useful if I list under various headings some of the things which are troubling people:-
A) Timing. This seems to come highest on everyone’s list of worries. They have the impression that we are rushing towards an agreement, and feel strongly that we should be taking time, testing every step as we go. They fear that the union seems likely to be agreed within months, whereas they would feel happier if the time scale extended over several years or even a decade, for reasons that I hope will become clearer in the items below.
B) Fundamental Issues. They feel that the two fundamental issues are the Sergianist past and present of the Patriarchate, and its espousal of Ecumenism, and they hope that these will be wholly renounced and expunged from the life of the Patriarchal Church before we enter into communion with Moscow. From various statements from Moscow spokesmen it seems that rather than renouncing the legacy of Metropolitan Sergius, it is being lauded and he is seen now as something of a hero, whose compromises “saved” the Russian Church. Many have the impression that the present emphasis has been to gloss over these issues and to concentrate on administrative matters pertaining to the status quo after the union.
C) Study of our Past History. It is felt that before we proceed far along the path to any union, a thorough study should be made of the Synod’s past position, so that we do not make some kind of unfortunate U-turn on a matter of principle. For instance, when Patriarchs Sergius, Alexis I, Pimen and the present Patriarch were “elected,” our Hierarchs issued statements saying that they considered these elections (in that they were not free) out of order. If this is so, do we not have to somehow accept the legitimacy of the present Patriarch, and on what grounds can we do so?
D) Study of the Present State of the Patriarchate: This is also an imperative. It is obviously true that the Soviet state has fallen, but it is by no means clear that the Moscow Patriarchate now operates free of state or government interference. According to many commentators, the present sociopolitical situation in Russia is even more deleterious than it was under the Soviets, and it appears that the Church is deeply involved in many aspects of what seems to be a “Gangster State” in a way that is less excusable than its subservience to the Soviets, which after all was a totalitarian tyranny.
E) Putin. Putin’s rule in the present process has also caused widespread disquiet. One appreciates that perhaps he was only a catalyst for contact, and no one has any wish to decry his personal piety or adherence to Orthodoxy, but it does appear that his “zeal” is not always according to knowledge. Soon after meeting our hierarchs, it is reported that he went to Rome and proposed some kind of rapprochement between Rome and Moscow. Further, his interest at the best seemed to be to support the Russian state. This aim might be laudable and something we would all like to contribute to, but it is not the purpose of the Church, which is to save souls. It appears that his impute is itself a continuation of the Sergianist tradition: that the “reunion of the churches” is primarily to serve a socio-political purpose. Interestingly enough in this regard, parishioners from the Patriarchal Cathedral Parish in Ennismore Gardens, London, contacted me, and said that they would rejoice to witness the re-union of the two churches, but also felt some disquiet over the present moves, and that it seemed to them to be politically motivated and something of a “fix.” They speak much more boldly of the perceived political motivation behind the present moves from the Moscow point of view, than any I have heard from our side. One, a Russian who spends much of his time in Moscow, when visiting us, declared, “Obviously, Putin wants this, and has leaned on the Patriarch!” Such is their trust in the freedom of the Patriarchal administration.
F) ROCOR in Russia. In the early nineties or thereabouts, our Synod began to offer pastoral care to the faithful in Russia, who in conscience could not remain within the Moscow Patriarchate; we provided them with a hierarchy and pastors. In many ways, in retrospect, it seems that this development was not well nourished and supported, and, as we all know, various schisms not unlike those among the Greek Old Calendarists, have arisen. But there remain people in Russia, a number have contacted us, who are still loyal to the Church Abroad for reasons of conscience. A speedy or improper union with Moscow, would betray their faithfulness and loyalty.
G) Our Sister Churches. Also after the visit of Archbishop Mark to the Monastery of Sts. Cyprian and Justina at Fili in the same decade, our Church entered into a special relationship of Sister Church with the Synod of Metropolitan Cyprian, that of Metropolitan Vlasie in Romania and with Bishop Photii’s diocese in Bulgaria. Here people are disquieted that this special relationship is also being betrayed. We have heard nothing of any discussions with the hierarchs of these Sister Churches about a move which will assuredly greatly change our relationship with them. I think it was Khomiakov who characterized one of the greatest evils of the schism of Rome from Orthodoxy in the eleventh century as a lack of brotherly love because they acted unilaterally and without consulting their Sister Churches in the East. It now appears that ROCA is following a similar course with regard to her professed Sister Churches in Greece, Romania and Bulgaria.
H) The Proposed Autonomy. This has given rise to disquiet at various levels. Some see it as a useful temporary arrangement to ease the way to full unity, if such a unity can be achieved in a right way without falsehood and compromise of principles. However, several people have expressed the thought that it seems to be the primary concern of our hierarchs and that it is being promoted only so that they can safeguard their own positions and prerogatives. In Britain, for instance, it would make our situation particularly difficult, and even more so for those of us who are not of Russian extraction and who do not follow Russian liturgical practices. What would be the point of our being under a Bishop in Germany, if it were perfectly right and proper to be in full communion with the Moscow Patriarchate who have two hierarchs in this country, and the first language of whose ruling hierarch here is English? (But more of the British situation later).
J) Global Orthodoxy. Entering into communion with Moscow would put us in unhindered and full communion with “Global Orthodoxy” and with those ecumenist jurisdictions such as Constantinople and Antioch (which, Antioch, is de facto in communion with the Monophysites, and in which, as we heard from one of their priests two weeks ago, they are permitted to offer the Holy Mysteries to Roman Catholics). When he spoke to us in October, His Grace Archbishop Mark expressed the view that each rector could refuse to concelebrate with or offer the Mysteries to clergymen, whose position he found uncertain. But this seems on reflection to be untenable, and puts us in the realm of having to make personal judgments. I remember that when I was sent to England in 1977, I was told by the then Protopresbyter George Grabbe, and I assumed this was with Synodal authority, that I should not concelebrate with any non-ROCA clergy, but was to explain that this was not a reflection on the Orthodoxy of the other jurisdictions but only a pastoral matter. Fr Milenko Zebic of the Serbian Church then wanted to come and concelebrate and I explained what I had been told. He was deeply upset and reported the matter to the Serbian Synod who complained to our Synod, and, as Secretary at that time, Fr George himself wrote rebuking me for following the very course he had enjoined upon me! This was simply one instance, and with regard only to the Serbian Church. What opportunities for misunderstanding would open up if “technically” we were in communion with Global Orthodoxy? It would leave our church in a position not unlike that of a Protestant sect which existed in this country until a generation or so ago when it amalgamated with another similar group. This sect called themselves Congregationalists, because each local congregation decided its own policy measures. The hierarchical nature of our church would dissolve.
K) ROCA’s present position lost. It has been put to me that ROCA has been respected for decades – a respect which seems to have lapsed somewhat under the Metropolitanate of Met. Vitaly, when her position often seemed unclear or vacillating, – for her firm traditionalist stance which avoided extremism. This respect was accorded us even by those who were in some ways our enemies, and it appears that it greatly heartened numbers of the faithful in Russia, who dismayed by their own corrupt Church administration, could look to the Synod as a beacon. Presumably it was for this reason that people in Russia looked to the Synod for pastoral care as soon as, with the weakening of the Soviet tyranny, this opportunity was opened up to them. If we are subsumed into the Patriarchate that position will be lost, even the “Autonomy” will mean that our position is compromised beyond repair.
L) Central Ground. Over the years ROCA has also seemed to maintain a perilously difficult central ground, striving to remain faithful to the teachings of the Fathers, but being moderate and accommodating to the weaknesses and difficulties of others. She has thus avoided the extremism and, indeed, the fanaticism of many of the “Old Calendarist” groups and their sectarian spirit, and the laissez-faire attitude of the more “liberal” jurisdictions with regard to the patristic tradition. If she enters precipitously into union with a Moscow Patriarchate which has not set her course aright in this regard, a precious path of moderate traditionalism within the “Orthodox world” will be lost.
M) Glorification’s. Some have raised the question of the glorifications of the New Martyrs and other Saints. The Patriarchate has blocked the glorification of those New Martyrs who opposed Metropolitan Sergius’ policy (a witness to their continuing Sergianism?), whereas the Church Abroad glorifies these Saints. Further Moscow seems of late to have canonized a series of saints, about some of whom it does not seem fanatical to have reservations.
N) The situation in Britain. The above points have all been general, but there are a number of points which perhaps pertain only to the situation in Britain. Joining with Moscow, with or without autonomy, would put us in full communion with the Sourozh Diocese, which in many ways is completely different from other eparchies of the Patriarchate. It is to all intents and purposes the creation of the late Metropolitan Antony (Bloom) and thus reflects many of his eccentricities. Its character is essentially Evlogian rather than Moscovite; there is a strong anti-monastic bias among the majority of its clergy and people; feminism in various shades is prominent among its intellectuals and Met. Antony even came close to endorsing the acceptance of women priests; many of the clergy have impediments to ordination (it was often said this was how the Metropolitan held their “loyalty”); it is ecumenist broadly and deeply in a way that the (New Calendarist) Greek Archdiocese in this country is not; and in general it reflects the most “liberal” trends within “Orthodoxy.” Most of the Moscow parishes and missions in this country operate on the New Calendar. In one parish, at least, the Holy Mysteries are regularly given to Roman Catholics who “wish to become Orthodox.” Even if all other things were equal as regards the Patriarchate as a whole, one would not want to be in full communion with Sourozh. Visiting clergy from Russia (MP) have often told us that they see it as something like the “Living Church”.
P) Our People. Because ROCA’s presence in this country has been weak for decades – (In Archbishop Nikodem’s (+ 1976) declining years, the presence naturally weakened. Immediately after his repose there were several changes of administration. I believe that Bishop Constantine’s tenure here did not give people confidence in ROCA, and although Archbishop Mark has done much for the ROCA presence in the eighteen years he has been our ruling hierarch, he has of necessity been an absent landlord, and there has been no spokesman for our church here) – because of this, many of the people who now belong to our church have come to us from other jurisdictions, only with time and effort seeing the purpose of ROCA’s position. In our own congregation in Brookwood, a number of the people first joined the Patriarchate including three of our monks. They joined us not because of better opportunities, but because they believed that ROCA’s course was true and that of the Patriarchate and of Sourozh off course. They have grave misgivings about any hasty “reconciliation.” Furthermore, as a community, we have grown, and have been loyal to ROCA, even though as individuals and as a community we have not always been welcome or supported, even though attempts have been made to destroy us by people (even clergymen) within ROCA, and even though in any one of the “official” jurisdictions we would probably have been helped and supported both financially and morally to a much greater extent. We have done so because, even though this left us within a tiny minority of the Orthodox, among people who did not accept us – (even this week people from the Russian language parish who wanted to make a pilgrimage to our brotherhood tell us that they were forbidden to do so on a Sunday), – among people who do not understand us, we believed ROCA’s course to be true and worth suffering for. Perhaps as a result of faint-heartedness we feel now that perhaps that struggle was in vain.
I hope that putting these disquiets before you, does not hurt or offend anyone. I felt it was imperative to write as we feel it is important that these disquiets come to the attention of Your Graces and the other clergymen and of the members of the Conference meeting next week in Nyack.
I ask your holy prayers and blessings, and that you attempt to set hearts at rest.
Your unworthy son in Christ Jesus, the sinful monk and unworthy priest,
Archimandrite Alexis [*BOW*] Saint Edward Brotherhood, Brookwood, England
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to the letter of Rev. Archimandrite Alexis. [*BOW*]
St. Edward was the son of king Edgar of England from his first marriage. He succeeded on the throne of his father in 975, but after only 3 years he was assassinated at the age of 15 or 16, under questionable circumstances. It was openly stated that behind his assassination was his stepmother Elfrida, who wished to put on the throne her son Ethelred. The body of the killed young king was buried at the church in Shaftesburry, where he came to be venerated as a saint and martyr.
His relics were lately held in a private museum of archeologist Wilson Cleridge. Since they were considered as miraculous and the young king died before the separation of the Church of Rome from the Universal Church and then Anglican Church from the Catholic Church, both of them wished to obtain into their possession the miraculous relics. When the members of the ROCOR parish turned with their request to Mr. Wilson he made decision to give over the kings relics to them to for veneration in the church. The transfer happened in 1984 when for that purpose delegated by the Synod of ROCOR Bishop Gregory (Grabbe) came to England. The relics were put in a splendorous shrine in church of St. Edward in Brookwood.
The ROCOR Bishop of Richmond and Britain Constantine, requested opinion of other Orthodox clergy serving in England about their opinion about the sainthood of the king Edward. In their expressed to him opinions all agreed that he did not died for religion even that he could be considered as a martyr, and simply he died unjustly in a struggle for the throne.
Bishop Constantine expressed his and other Orthodox clergy of different jurisdictions in England doubts about the sainthood of king Edward. This came to the press and Archbishop of Canterbury requested Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom), Greek Bishops Kallistos and Methodius and Serbian Archpriest Nikolich, who expressed their opinion that the king is a saint. As result of this Archbishop wrote a complain about the matter to the Synod of ROCOR that in 1985 began at their meeting a investigation of Rev. Bishop Constantine (5/18 July, 1985. No. 11/35/4/ 48). Bishop Constantine was removed from his position and favorable Bishop Mark of Berlin and Germany became temporary administrator of the Britain Diocese. (He is still holding this position.)
The matter of relics possession came to the English court and they were transferred for safekeeping in a bank safe. Only in March of 1995 on the day of St. Edward the suit against ROCOR stopped and the holy relics were returned to the church.
His Eminence Bishop Constantine was for a time in Minneapolis and in conversations with him I head his opinion, that the matter of sainthood should have been examined more than it was done and if relics miracles would be certified by the ROCOR Synod then the entire Russian Church would be rejoiced and be able to call the faithful for their veneration. I was able to obtain for publication from his Eminence some copies of his correspondence with Anglican Church and ROCOR Synod about the matter of the relics. As addition I would like to add that Very Rev. Bishop Constantine was not the only Bishop in ROCOR who had doubts about king Edward’s sainthood.
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On illness by Elder Porphyrios
I thank God for granting me many illnesses.  I often say to Him: ‘My Christ, Your love knows no limits!’ How I am alive is a miracle. Among all my other illnesses I also have cancer of the pituitary gland. A tumor appeared there which has grown and presses against the optic nerve. That’s why I don’t see any more. I am in dreadful pain. But I pray, taking up the Cross of Christ with patience. Have you seen what my tongue is like? It has grown; it’s not as it used to be. That’s also a result of the cancer I’ve got in my head. And as time goes on, things will get worse. It will grow even more and I’ll have difficulty in speaking. I’m in great pain, but my illness is something very beautiful. I feel it as the love of Christ. I am given compunction and I give thanks to God. It is on account of my sins. I am sinful and God is trying to purify me.
I feel illness as the love of Christ
‘My Christ, Your love knows no limits!’
When I was sixteen years old I asked God to give me a serious illness, a cancer, so that I would suffer for His love and glorify Him through my pain. I made this prayer for a long time. But my elder told me that this was egotism and that I was coercing God. God knows what He is doing. So I didn’t continue with this prayer. But, you see, God did not forget my request and He gave me this benefaction after so many years!
Now I do not pray for God to take away from me the thing I asked Him for. I am glad that I have it so that I can participate in His sufferings through my great love. I have the chastisement of God: For the Lord chastises the one He loves.  My illness is a special favour from God, who is inviting me to enter into the mystery of His love and to try to respond with His own grace. But I am not worthy. You’ll say to me, ‘Don’t all these things that God reveals to you make you worthy?’ These rather condemn me. Because these are things that belong to the grace of God. There is nothing of my own. God gave me many gifts, but I did not respond; I proved myself unworthy. But I have not abandoned my efforts, not even for a moment. Perhaps God will give me His help so that I can give myself to His love.
That’s why I do not pray for God to make me well. I pray for Him to make me good. I’m certain that God knows that I am in pain. But I pray for my soul, for God to forgive my transgressions. I am not taking medicines, nor did I go for surgery, not even for tests, and nor will I accept surgery. I will leave God to sort things out. The only thing I do is to try to become good. This is what I ask you to pray for me. The grace of God sustains me. I try to give myself to Christ, to approach Christ and to be one with Christ. This is what I desire, but I haven’t succeeded — and I don’t say this out of humility. But I don’t lose my courage. I persevere. I pray for God to forgive my sins. I’ve heard many people saying, ‘I’m unable to pray.’ I haven’t suffered this. Only on the day that I was disobedient on the Holy Mountain did I suffer that.
It doesn’t concern me how long I will live or whether I will live. That is something I have left to God’s love. It often happens that you don’t want to remember death. It’s because you desire life. That, from one point of view, is a proof of the immortality of the soul. But whether we live, or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.  Death is a bridge which will lead us to Christ. As soon as we close our eyes, we will open them on eternity. We will appear before Christ. In the next life we will experience the grace of God more intensely.
I felt great joy at the thought that I would meet the Lord
Once I came to the point of death. I had suffered severe perforation of the stomach as a result of the steroids I was given in hospital when I went for an operation on my eye — which I lost in the end. At that time I was living in a little hut; the monastery had not yet been built. I was so exhausted that I didn’t know whether it was day or night. I came to the point of death and yet I survived. I lost a lot of weight and had no appetite. For three months I survived with three spoons of milk a day. I was saved by a goat!
I lived with the thought of leaving this world. I felt great joy at the thought that I would meet the Lord. I had a very deep sense of the presence of God. And God desired at that time to strengthen and comfort me with something very blessed. Every so often I would feel that my soul was about to depart. I saw in the sky a star which twinkled and emitted sweet rays of light. It was bright and very sweet. It was so beautiful! Its light possessed a great sweetness. Its color was a light sky blue, like a diamond, like a precious stone. Whenever I saw it I was filled with comfort and joy because I felt that the whole Church — the Triune Godhead, our Lady, the angels and the saints — was contained in that star. I had the sense that in it were contained all the souls of all my loved ones, of my elders. I believed that when I would leave this life I, too, would go to that star through the love of God, not through my virtues. I wanted to believe that God, who loves me, revealed it to me in order to tell me, ‘I’m waiting for you!’
I didn’t want to think about hell and about tollgates.  I didn’t remember my sins, although I had many. I set them aside. I remembered only the love of God and was glad. And I made entreaty, ‘O my God, for the sake of your love, may I also be there. But if on account of my sins I must go to hell, may your love place me wherever it wishes. It is sufficient for me to be with You.’ For so many years I lived in the desert with love for Christ. I said to myself: ‘If you go to heaven and God says to you, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?  What do you want here?” I’ll reply, “Whatever You want, my Lord, whatever Your love desires; place me wherever Your love wishes. I abandon myself to Your love. If You want to place me in hell, then do so, only don’t let me lose Your love.”’
I had an acute sense of my sinfulness, and that’s why I constantly repeated to myself the prayer of Saint Symeon the New Theologian:
I know, Savior, that none other
has, as I have, sinned against You,
nor done the deeds that I have done.
But this again I surely know:
neither magnitude of errors,
nor multitude of transgressions,
can surpass my God’s great patience
and His love for man unbounded. 
What the prayer says are not our own words. We are unable to conceive and express such words. They were written by saints. But our soul needs to embrace these words written by the saints and to sense and experience them. I also like the other words of the prayer:
Neither tears shed in my weeping
nor the slightest falling tearlet,
O my God, escapes Your notice,
O my Maker, my Redeemer.
And my work yet unaccomplished
is to Your eyes already known
and all the things I’ve not yet done
are for You already written,
in Your book already entered.
Look down on my humbled being
look on my so great contrition
and forgive me my transgressions,
all my sins, O God of all things…
I repeated this prayer continually and intensely to escape from these thoughts. The more I repeated it, the more, up in the infinity of space, appeared the star, my comfort. It came all these days that I was suffering. And when it appeared, my soul took wings and I said to myself: ‘My star has come!’ It felt as if it were drawing me up from the earth towards it. I felt great joy when I saw it. I didn’t want to think of my sins, as I’ve said, because these would exclude me from this mystery. Only once, once only, did I sense that the star was empty, it wasn’t twinkling, it wasn’t full. I realized what it was. It was from the ‘contrary one’. I ignored him, and turned my mind elsewhere. I spoke to my sister about some jobs that were to be done. After a while I saw it shining brightly again. Joy came again even more intensely within me.
All that time I had fearful pains throughout my body. Other people saw that I was dying. I had given myself over to the love of God. I did not pray to be released from the pains. My desire was for God to have mercy on me. I had leant on Him, and I waited for His grace to work. I was not afraid of death. For I would go to Christ. As I’ve told you, I repeated constantly the prayer of Saint Symeon the New Theologian, but not in a selfish spirit, and not for my health to be restored. I sensed every single word of the prayer.
The secret in illness is to struggle to acquire the grace of God
We benefit greatly from our illnesses, as long as we endure them without complaint and glorify God, asking for His mercy. When we become ill, the important thing is not that we don’t take medicines or that we go and pray to Saint Nektarios. We need also to know the other secret, namely, to struggle to acquire the grace of God. This is the secret. Grace will teach us all the other things, namely, how to abandon ourselves to Christ. That is, we ignore the illness, we do not think about it, we think about Christ, simply, imperceptibly and selflessly and God works His miracle for the good of our soul. Just as we say in the Divine Liturgy, ‘we commend all our life to Christ our God.’
But we need to wish to ignore the illness. If we don’t wish to, it’s difficult. We can’t simply say, ‘I ignore it’. And so although we think that we are ignoring it and giving no thought to it, in point of fact we have it in our mind continually and we cannot find peace within ourselves. Let me prove this to you. We say: ‘I believe that God will cure me. I won’t take any medicine. I’ll stay awake all night and I’ll pray to God about it and He will hear me.’ We pray all night long, we make entreaty, we call on and coerce God and all the saints to make us well. We go to one place and another. With all these things don’t we show that we are far from ignoring the illness? The more we insist and blackmail the saints and God to make us well, the more acutely we feel our illness. The more we strive to get rid of it, the more we feel it. And so we achieve nothing. And we have the impression that a miracle will happen, and yet, in reality, we don’t believe it, and so we do not become better.
We pray and we don’t take medicine, but we don’t find any peace and no miracle happens. But you will say: ‘What do you mean that I don’t believe? Don’t you see I haven’t taken any medicine?’ And yet, at bottom, we have doubt and fear within us and we think to ourselves, ‘Will it really happen?’ Here the words of Scripture hold good: If you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘be lifted up and thrown into the sea’, it will be done.  When faith is real, whether you take medicine or not, the grace of God will act. And God acts through doctors and medicines. The Wisdom of Sirach says: Honor the physician with the honors due to him, according to your need of him, for the Lord created him. The Lord created medicines from the earth, and a man of sense will not despise them. And give the physician his place, for the Lord created him; let him not leave you, for there is need of him. 
The whole secret is faith — without doubts, gentle, simple and artless: in simplicity and artlessness of heart.  It is not a question of ‘will power’ or ‘mind over matter’. A fakir can display this kind of ‘will power’. It is a question of having faith that God loves us with infinite love and wants us to become His own. That is why He allows illnesses, until we surrender ourselves in trust to Him.
If we love Christ, all things will change in our lives. We do not love Him in order to receive some reward such as health. Rather we love Him out of gratitude, without thinking of anything, only of the love of God. Nor should we pray with any ulterior motive and say to God: ‘Make such-and-such a person well, so that he may come close to You.’ It is not right to point out ways and means to God. How can we presume to say to God, ‘make me well’? What can we tell to Him who knows everything? We will pray, but God may not wish to listen to us.
A person asked me a little while ago, ‘When will I get well?’
‘Ah,’ I told him, ‘if you say, “When will I get well?” then you never will get well. It’s not right to entreat God about such things. You entreat anxiously for God to take the illness from you, but then the illness lays even tighter hold on you. We mustn’t ask for this. Nor should you pray about this.’
He was taken aback and said, ‘Do you mean I shouldn’t pray?’
‘Not at all,’ I answered. ‘On the contrary, pray a great deal, but for God to forgive your sins and to give you strength to love Him and to give yourself to Him. Because the more you pray for the illness to leave you, the more it adheres to you, winds its tentacles around you and squeezes you, and becomes inseparable from you. If, of course, you feel an inner human weakness, then you may humbly entreat the Lord to take the illness from you.’
Let us abandon ourselves in trust to the love of God
When we surrender ourselves to Christ, our spiritual organism finds peace, with the result that all our bodily organs and glands function normally. All these are affected. We become well and cease to suffer. Even if we have cancer, if we leave everything to God and our soul finds serenity, then divine grace may work through this serenity and cause the cancer and everything else to leave.
Stomach ulcers, you know, are caused by stress. The sympathetic system, when it is subjected to pressure, is constricted and suffers harm and so the ulcer is created. With stress, pressure, distress, anxiety, an ulcer or cancer comes about. When there are confusions in our soul, these have influence on our body and our health suffers.
The most perfect way is not to pray for our health — not to pray to become well, but to become good. That is what I pray for myself. Do you hear? I don’t mean to be good in the sense of virtuous, but in the sense of acquiring divine zeal, of abandoning ourselves in trust to God’s love, and of praying rather for our soul. And we mean our soul as it is incorporated in the Church, whose head is Christ, along with all our fellow men and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
And I open my arms and pray for all people. When I am about to receive Holy Communion, as I am standing before the Holy Chalice, I open my soul to receive the Lord, and I bow my head and I pray for you, for this person and that, and for the whole Church. You should do the same. Do you understand? Don’t pray for your health. Don’t say, ‘O Lord, make me well.’ No! Rather say, ‘Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me’, with selflessness, with love and without expecting anything. ‘Lord, whatever Your love desires…’ Only in this way will you act from now on, loving Christ and our brothers and sisters. Love Christ. Become saints. Throw yourselves into becoming friends with Christ, into His love alone, into divine eros.
Isn’t perhaps this what is happening to me, since I feel this zeal and adoration? Even though I feel that my body has rotted away, I don’t succumb to my illness, not even to my cancer, I shouldn’t speak, but my love for you and for the whole world doesn’t allow me to remain silent. When I speak, my lungs remain without oxygen and that’s very bad because the heart is harmed. I have suffered something much worse than a heart attack. And yet I live. Isn’t that an intervention of God? Yes, and I am obedient to God’s will, to my illness. I suffer without complaint and… with annoyance at myself because no one is devoid of uncleanness.  I’m in a bad state. My spirit is also sick.
I say to a hermit with whom I am in contact, ‘Pray for me. I love you. Love me too and pity me and pray for me and God will have mercy on me.’
‘You’re the one who should pray,’ he says to me.
‘I’m beginning now to be unable to do all that I did for so many years,’ I tell him. What does the hymn say?
My mind is sorely wounded, my body has grown enfeebled,
my spirit is sick, my speech has lost its power,
my life is brought to death; the end is at the door.
And so, O wretched soul of mine, what will you do
when the Judge appears before you to investigate your deeds? 
This hymn reflects my present state. I think that if I hadn’t done this or that I wouldn’t be in pain now, I would be close to Christ. I say this about myself because I’m thoughtless…
If you want to enjoy good health and live for many years, then listen to what Solomon the Wise has to say: Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the counsel of saints is understanding; for to know the law is the mark of a sound mind, for in this way you will live long and years of your life will be added to you.’  This is the secret: for us to acquire this wisdom, this knowledge, and then everything functions smoothly, all things are put in order and we will live with joy and health.
 The holy Elder suffered from the following illnesses: myocardial infarction (anterior diaphragm with lateral ischaemia), chronic kidney disease, duodenal ulcer (with repeated perforations), operated cataract (loss of lens and blindness), herpes zoster (shingles) on the face, staphylococcus dermatitis on the hand, inguinal hernia (frequently strangulated), chronic bronchitis and cancer of the pituitary gland. Cf. Dr. Georgios Papazachou in an article in the periodical Synaxis, 41 (Jan–Mar) 1992, 93.
 Heb. 12:6.
 Rom. 14:8.
 A theory that a soul after death has to pass through a series of ‘tollgates’ where it is interrogated about a variety of sins.
 Matt. 22:12.
 Prayers of Preparation for Holy Communion, Prayer 7.
 Matt. 21:21.
 Sir. 38:1, 4, 12.
 Wisd. 1:1.
 Cf. Job 14:4.
 Great Canon by Saint Andrew of Crete (1st Troparion of the 9th Ode).
 Prov. 9:10–11.
From Wounded By Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, pp. 224-231, as edited from an archive of notes and recordings by the Sisters of the Holy Convent of Chrysopigi (Life-Giving Spring).