Archive for February, 2010

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One Day

February 24, 2010

History shows us how God guides the nations and gives as it were moral lessons to the world. Worldly life measures years, centuries, millennia; but the most important thing is that ‘it was morning and it was evening, one day.’ In the process there may be narrowing and widening, but no matter how long a man lives it will always be the same: ‘morning, evening—one day.’ The hardest object is stone, and the most gentle is water. But drop after drop the water pierces through the stone. – Elder Nektary of Optina

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Asking amiss

February 20, 2010

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts (James 4:3). When we ask something of God “amiss”, then He manifests His wrath if he fulfills our petition, and manifests loving-kindness when he does not fulfill it. – Blessed Augustine

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You never know…

February 18, 2010

Once two sisters came from St. Petersburg to Elder Ambrose [of Optina]. The younger one was a prospective bride in a joyful mood; the older one was quiet, thoughtful and reverent. The first asked a blessing to be married, the other to go to a monastery. The Elder gave a prayer rope to the fiancée and said to the elder sister: “What kind of monastery? You’ll get married — but not at home that’s what you’ll get!” And he named a province, to which she had never traveled. They both returned to the capital. The bride learned that her bridegroom had betrayed her. This brought about a terrible change, for her emotional attachment was deep. She comprehended the vanity of all that had occupied her before; her thoughts turned to God, and she soon entered a monastery. Meanwhile, the elder sister received a letter from that distant province from an aunt she had forgotten about, a devout woman who lived close to a women’s monastery. She was summoning her to have a look at the life of the nuns there. But it turned out otherwise: while living with her aunt, the niece became acquainted with a man no longer young but quite suited to her by his character, and she married him.

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Fantasy & Reality

February 16, 2010

Religions and philosophies have tried, in vain, to define nature itself by reducing the practice of spirituality into a purely mental experience. The Christian faith teaches the opposite. It is precisely mental imagery, the realm of fantasy or imagination, that is the most dangerous to the spiritual life. Pure prayer and communion with God is not primarily a mental exercise, in the narrow sense of the cognitive process, but is rather an experience of God Himself, directly to the nous, unrelated to one’s own thoughts and imagination. It is by putting aside fantasies and thoughts, the raw material for demonic activity, and clinging to the image of God, both within and without, that we may receive true spiritual revelation. So profound is this human need for the image of God, that we’re constantly moving toward one of two poles. Either we recognize the true God and His image in us or we construct our own God or gods in our own image. – Fr. Michael Shanbour

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Keeping the Faith

February 15, 2010

Confession of faith is a spiritual necessity for every nation—persecution increases its necessity. Faith deepens, being contracted and accumulated, and it bursts out with new energy. So it was in the past, and so it will be in our country. – St. Ambrose the Confessor (Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgia)

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Reason for Marriage

February 10, 2010

From a conversation of a young lady with Elder Anatole Potapov of Optina:

“Now you’re going to tell me you want to get married?”

I was silent.

“You love him now for his good looks. Marry him when you feel that you can’t live without him. I know of one case: the husband was at war and was killed. His wife died at home in that same hour. When it’s like that with you, then get married.” 

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True Knowledge

February 10, 2010

The more a man exercises himself in the virtues, the greater becomes his knowledge of God. The more he knows God, the greater is his asceticism. This is an empirical and pragmatic path. “If any man will do his [God’s] will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it be of God” (John 7:17).  In other words: It is by living the truth of Christ that one comes to know its veracity and uniqueness. This is truly an empirical, experimental and pragmatic path. The knowledge of the truth is not given to the curious, but to those who follow the ascetic way. Knowledge is a fruit on the tree of virtues, which is the tree of life. Knowledge comes from asceticism. For the true Christian, Orthodox philosophy is in fact the theanthropic ascesis of the intellect and of the whole person. Here, those arresting words of the Savior are especially significant. “Him who hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” – St. Justin Popovich