Monday, April 23, 2018

Prayer is the elevation of one’s mind and heart to God. ( Saint John of Kronstadt )

Prayer is the elevation of one’s mind and heart to God. From this it becomes apparent that if a person’s mind and heart are attached to something carnal, for example, money, esteem, or has hatred or envy toward others, he is unable to pray. This is because passions bind the heart, whereas God gives it genuine freedom.

Attempt to acquire a child-like simplicity in your dealings with people and in your prayers to God. Simplicity is the greatest blessing and attribute in a human being. God is totally simple because he is totally spiritual, totally good. And don’t let your soul be divided into good and evil.

During prayer, remind yourself of the simplicity of truth and say: "Everything is simple!"  "I believe simply and request simply; but your deceptions, my enemy, your doubts and desires , I reject." May the basis and source of all your words and deeds be the humble realization of your personal insignificance and the greatness of God , Creator and controller of everything (1 Cor 12:) He who is infected with pride is inclined to be contemptuous of everything. By its very nature, pride defiles every decent thought, every word and act. It is the death-dealing breath of Satan.


Saint John of Kronstadt

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Why did God not make the path to the Kingdom of Heaven light and pleasant? ( St. Innocent - Bishop of Alaska )

Why did God not make the path to the Kingdom of Heaven light and pleasant? Only God knows. Who would question His divine wisdom? He saw that the narrow path is what we need! We who are below see only bits and pieces, but He, Who is above all creation, sees our lives from the standpoint of eternity. However, though not completely understanding the plans of our Creator, let us consider the following:

1. The Kingdom of Heaven is the highest beatitude and inexhaustible wealth. If great efforts are necessary to obtain meager and temporary earthly advantages, then how can it be possible to obtain such a great and eternal treasure without any effort?

2. The Kingdom of Heaven is the most coveted reward. Where else are rewards given freely and for nothing? If we struggle to get temporary benefits, so much more should we struggle to obtain the eternal reward.

3. We must bear our cross because we want to be with Christ and to participate in His glory. If Jesus Christ, our Master and Teacher, gained heavenly glory through suffering, would it not be shameful for us to share His glory when we faintheartedly shun any trials or sorrows?

4. Besides, lifelong crosses are not the lot of Christians alone. Everyone carries their own cross, both Christians and non-Christians, believers and pagans. The difference is that for some, their crosses serve as a means of attaining the Kingdom of Heaven, while for the others they bring no such value. For the Christian, the cross gradually becomes lighter and more joyful, while for the nonbeliever it becomes heavier and more burdensome. Why is this so? Because where the one carries their cross with faith and devotion to God, the other carries it with grumbling and anger.

Therefore, Christian, do not shun your lifelong cross, but, on the contrary, thank Jesus Christ that He honored you to follow and imitate Him. If Christ had not suffered and died, then none of us, no matter how much we suffered and struggled, would enter the Kingdom of Heaven, for then we would have had to suffer as slaves, and slaves deserve no rewards. Now, however, we suffer as sons for our own salvation. O merciful Lord! How great is Thy love for us. How great are Thy benefits to us. Thou bendest evil itself for our benefit and salvation!

Christian! Gratitude alone to Jesus Christ, your benefactor, obliges you to follow Him. Christ came down to earth for you. Can it be possible that you would prefer some worldly thing to Him? For you Jesus drank the cup full of suffering; can it be that you would refuse to suffer a little for Him?

5. Jesus Christ redeemed us by His death, and, therefore, by the right of redemption we belong to Him and must do all that He wills. Christ wills only one thing: that we should attain eternal bliss.

6. Finally, we cannot avoid the narrow path into the Kingdom of Heaven, since every man has sins and sin in itself is an ulcer that cannot be cured without strong medicine. Suffering is the medicine with which God cures our souls. When somebody is ill, then, regardless of his surroundings — even though he is in the most magnificent of palaces — he will still suffer. Such is the fate of every sinner; no matter where he settles, even in Paradise itself, he will suffer because the elements of hell reside within him. Similarly, a righteous person can be as happy in a shack as in a palace. When our heart is filled with the Holy Spirit, wherever we may find ourselves, there we will always feel joy, since Paradise is within us.

And so, brethren, if you wish to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, you cannot bypass the path taken by Jesus Christ. Indeed, all the prophets, the Apostles, the martyrs, the saints and countless other righteous ones walked along this path. There is no other.

Some might object, saying, how can we who are sinful and weak be like Jesus Christ or the saints! We live in the secular world and have families and many responsibilities. Oh, brethren! This is a cunning excuse and an insult to our Creator. To justify our carelessness by such reasoning means to accuse our Maker of being unable to create us properly. After all, the saints, like us, were not sinless at first but participated in worldly affairs, labored and had various obligations and families to care about. Surely they were not perfect in everything. They had their share of temptations and low moments. Notwithstanding this, living in circumstances similar to ours and having their ups and downs, they steered toward the main objective of their life: the Kingdom of Heaven. Undoubtedly, we also, if we truly desire to, can be good citizens, faithful spouses, loving parents, and simultaneously good Christians. Our faith will not be an obstacle but, on the contrary, will aid all our good undertakings. The essence of Christianity is pure and selfless love, which is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, brethren, if you wish to attain the Kingdom of Heaven, follow the path which Jesus Christ took, and He, the all-merciful one, will help you every step of the way.
 
St. Innocent - Bishop of Alaska

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Our intercessors in Heaven - the Orthodox Veneration of Saints ( Bishop Alexander Mileant )


During baptism a person receives a name in honor of a saint, who from that time becomes his heavenly protector. Every Orthodox Christian should be acquainted with the life of his heavenly protector and should appeal to him in prayer for help and guidance. Our righteous ancestors always tried to mark the day of commemoration of their saint – their “Namesday” – by partaking of the Holy Mysteries, and celebrated this day with greater ceremony than their birthday.

What is the reason for the Orthodox worship of God’s saints? Do the saints in heaven know of our needs and difficulties, and do they show any interest in us? Do they hear our prayers and do they try to help us? Should we appeal to the saints for help at all, or does it suffice to pray only to God? Members of sects, who have lost the apostolic tradition, do not understand the essence and the purpose of Christ’s Church and, therefore, reject the need to pray to the saints in heaven. We will briefly expound the Orthodox teaching on the subject.

The Orthodox veneration of God’s saints stems from the belief that all of us, both those who are working on their salvation and those who have already achieved salvation, both the living and the reposed, make up a single divine family. The Church is a great society which encompasses both the visible and invisible worlds. It is a huge, universal organization, built on the principal of love, in which each individual must not only take care of himself, but also be concerned with the benefit and salvation of other people. The saints are those people who, more than others, showed love for their neighbors during their life on earth.

We, Orthodox Christians, believe that when a righteous person dies, he does not break off his tie with the Church, but enters its higher, celestial domain – enters the triumphant Church. Having attained the spiritual world, the soul of a righteous person does not cease to think, desire, feel. On the contrary, these qualities of the soul unfold here more fully and perfectly.

Contemporary non-Orthodox Christians, having lost their living tie with the heavenly-earthly Church, have the vaguest and conflicting notions of the other world. Some of them believe that a man’s soul goes to sleep after death and becomes disconnected from everything; others believe that even if a man’s soul continues its activity after death, it no longer has any interest in the world which it has left. Still others believe that one should not pray to the saints in principle, since Christians are in direct communion with God.

What is the teaching of the Holy Scriptures in regard to the righteous ones who have departed from this world and the power of their prayers? In apostolic times the Church was regarded as a single heavenly-earthly spiritual family. Apostle Paul wrote to newly-converted Christians: “But ye are come unto mount Sinai, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect” (Hebrews 12:22-23). In other words, you, having become Christian, have merged with a great family and have come into close contact with the heavenly family and the righteous ones therein. Apostle Peter’s words of farewell to the Christians of Asia Minor – “Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance” (2 Peter 1:15) – clearly confirm that he promises to continue to take care of them when he departs for the other, spiritual world.

The ancient practice of appealing to the holy martyrs and saints for help is based on the realization of live contact between the heavenly and the earthly Church and on belief in the power of their prayers.

We know that the most earnest and righteous people were still in their lifetime called by God His friends and were glorified by Him with gifts of the Holy Spirit and with miracles. Thus, Christ said to His apostles at the Mystic Supper: “Ye are My friends!… For whosoever shall do the will of My Father Who is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother” (John 15:14; Matt. 12:50). The Holy Scriptures provide many examples of the saints’ spiritual nearness to God and power of intercession before Him. Thus, for example, Abraham asked God to have mercy upon the denizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God was ready to fulfill his request if at least ten righteous people could be found in those cities. Another time God refrained from punishing Abimelech, king of Gerar, because of Abraham’s prayers for the latter. The Bible tells us that God spoke with the Prophet Moses face to face, “as a man converses with his friend.” When Miriam, Moses’ sister, sinned and was punished with leprosy, Moses was able to obtain forgiveness for her from the Lord. There are many other examples of the special power of the saints’ prayers.

The saints do not replace God and do not decrease the need to appeal to the Heavenly Father. After all, adult members in a family do not lessen the authority of the parents when they take care of their children together with them. Moreover, nothing gives greater joy to parents than to see older brothers taking care of younger ones. In the same manner our Heavenly Father rejoices when the saints pray for us and try to help us. God’s saints have a stronger faith than we do and are closer to God because of their righteousness. Therefore, let us appeal to them as to our older brothers who intercede for us before the throne of the Almighty.

It is noteworthy that the righteous ones, while still living on earth, saw and knew much of what is inaccessible to general comprehension. Even more so are these gifts inherent to them in the celestial realm, where they have gone after shedding their mortal flesh. During their life on earth, the saints were able to penetrate into the celestial realm by means of their spirit, and some saw hosts of angels, others were worthy enough to contemplate the image of God, still others were raised up to the third heaven and heard mysterious indescribable words there, as, for example, Apostle Paul. Now, residing in heaven, they are even more capable of knowing what takes place on earth and of hearing those who appeal to them, because the saints in heaven are “equal to angels.” From the Lord’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus we learn that Abraham, while being in heaven, could hear the cry of the rich man suffering in hell, despite the “great abyss” which divided them. Abraham’s words: thy brothers have Moses and the prophets, let them heed them, – clearly show that Abraham knew of the life of the Jewish people after his repose, knew of Moses and his law, of the prophets and their writings. The spiritual vision of the righteous ones’ souls in heaven is, undoubtedly, greater than it was on earth. Apostle Paul writes: “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Cor. 13:12).

The saints’ nearness to the throne of God and the power of their prayers for the faithful living on earth is evident in the book of Revelation, in which Apostle John writes: “And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands.” Further on he describes a vision of the righteous ones, praying in heaven for people suffering on earth: “And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand” (Rev. 5:11; 8:3-4).

Great is the power of prayer! “Pray for each other, so that ye may be healed: the earnest prayer of the righteous can do much,” – instructs us Apostle James. Prayer for others is an expression of love for them; thus, by praying for us, the saints in heaven show their brotherly love and care for us.

In the Gospel and in other New Testament books we find numerous instances which testify to the power of prayer for others. Thus, for example, the Lord healed the son of a courtier in response to the latter’s plea; the entreaty of the woman of Canaan resulted in her daughter being freed from possession by demons; at the request of a father the Lord healed his possessed son, while at the request of friends He forgave and healed a man sick of the palsy, whom the friends had lowered down from the roof on ropes; the faith of the Roman centurion led to the healing of his servant. Moreover, the Lord performed the majority of His miracles from afar, without actually seeing the sick person.

Thus, if the prayers of plain people had such power, then even more powerful are the prayers of saints who stand before the throne of God. “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He heareth us,” – assures us Christ’s beloved disciple (1 John 5:14).

For this reason from ancient times the Church expounded a teaching on the benefit of prayerful appeals to saints. We see this, for example, in ancient liturgies and other written testimonials. In the liturgy of the Apostle James we read: “We especially commemorate the Holy and Glorious Virgin, the blessed Theotokos. Remember Her, Lord God, and by Her pure and holy prayers have mercy upon us and save us.” In commenting on the liturgy of the church of Jerusalem, St. Cyril of Jerusalem remarks: “We also commemorate (at the liturgy) the previously reposed – primarily the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, – in order that by their prayers and intercession God would accept our own appeal.”

The testimonies of the Church Fathers and teachers on the Church’s veneration of the saints are numerous, especially starting with the 4th century. But even from the beginning of the 2nd century there is direct written testimony of early Christians on their faith in the prayers of saints in heaven for their brothers on earth. Witnesses of the martyric end of St. Ignatius the God-bearer (early 2nd century) say: “Returning home in tears, we served an all-night vigil… Afterwards, having slept a bit, some of us saw the blessed Ignatius arising and embracing us, while others also saw him praying for us.” Similar records referring to the martyrs’ prayers and intercession for us can also be found in other narratives dating from this epoch of the persecution of Christians.

Belief in the holiness of a departed person can be confirmed by special testimonials, such as: martyrdom for Christ, a fearless confession of one’s faith, selfless service to the Church, the gift of healing, etc. This is especially true when the Lord affirms the holiness of a departed person through miracles occurring after the latter’s death and upon prayer to him.

Besides the assistance of prayer, the saints help us achieve salvation by the example of their lives. An acquaintance with the lives of the saints enriches a Christian through the spiritual experience of those who had embodied the Gospel in their lives more earnestly than others. We see here so many vivid examples of living faith, courage, patience. Being people just like us, and having overcome most difficult temptations, they encourage us to travel along the path of our life with patience and humility.

Apostle James urged Christians to imitate the patience of the ancient prophets and of Job the Long-suffering, and to acquire the strong faith of people like the prophet Elias. Apostle Peter instructed Christian wives to take an example of modesty and obedience from the righteous Sarah, wife of Abraham. The holy Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to imitate the spiritual labors of ancient saints, beginning with Abel and ending with the Maccabees. At the end of a detailed instruction on this subject he writes: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1).

The Lord says: “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:15-16). The saints are the bright stars which show us the way to the Heavenly Realm.

Let us treasure the saints’ nearness to God and let us appeal to them for help, bearing in mind that they love us and are concerned for our salvation. An acquaintance with the lives of the saints is especially important in our times, when the concept of the Christian ideal has become so shallow and distorted among the wide mass of “Christians” of the most different varieties.

Bishop Alexander (Mileant)

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Upbringing of Children .. ( St.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. The embryo hears and feels in its mothers 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 honour!

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 colours 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 behaviour 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?1', 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!'

'What tactic?'

'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:

'We'll pray.'

'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!3

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 chil-Eph,6:4 dren 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 tra vail 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.

A selection from Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, trans. by John Raffan (Limni, Evia, Greece: Denise Harvey, 2005), 195-205.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Serving the Lord ... ( St. Seraphim of Sarov )

Those who have truly decided to serve the Lord God should practice the remembrance of God and uninterrupted prayer to Jesus Christ, mentally saying: 
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

St. Seraphim of Sarov