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Psalmody & Noetic Prayer

April 9, 2010

Psalmody is not suited (it is proper for beginners and the passionate) for constantly praying for one’s sins or against evil thoughts and the passions, because of the multitude of words employed, some to glorify God, others beholding His creatures or God’s dispensation and providence or His threats and promises or that He is pre-eternal and incomprehensible, and such things as these which the passionate and ailing mind cannot behold. In psalmody one’s thoughts fall into fantasy and only passively observe. A person thus only keeps to an external quantity and when he gets used to keeping it, he falls into a kind of complacent self-satisfaction and boasting of the heart of which St. John Climacus, who was experienced in such things, has said:

“Do not begin with being overly wordy, lest the mind be distracted by searching for words. A single word of the publican evoked the mercy of God and a single utterance saved the thief. A multitude of words has frequently distracted the mind and robbed it, while a few words gather it together well.”

What the New Theologian wrote is correct. After the withering of the passions chanting comes naturally for the tongue. For how can one sing or chant the hymn of the Lord in a foreign land [Psalm 136:4]—that is, in a passionate heart? – Elder Basil of Poiana Marului

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From “The Shell of Death”

April 7, 2010

How beautifully our people in the Balkans decorate eggs. The more beautifully to decorate Easter. To increase the joy of Pascha. To make their guests more happy. Sometimes the colored eggs are truly art. If the colored eggs are let to stand too long, they become rotten inside, and give off an unbearable odor, or at the end completely dry up.

That is when the colored shell holds within itself death. 

More dreadful is Jesus’ picture of the hypocrites who are like “whitewashed tombs, which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanliness”… 

All their outward, fixed-up appearance, is only a colored shell of death, a whitewashed tomb. When it comes to them, that which we call death, alas, all that really comes to them is the confirmation and seal of their already long past, dead soul.  

But you, do not be like the hypocrites, Christ taught the people. Do not be like the hypocrites when you give charity, “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:2,3) 

Do not be hypocrites when you pray to God. “But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:5-13) 

Do not be like the hypocrites when you fast. “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:16-18)  “For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light.” (Mark 4:22) 

God will reveal to you great secrets at a time when you do not expect it. The prophets and righteous knew this, but the scribes and Pharisees did not, and still don’t. – St. Nikolai Velimirovich

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Spirit & Truth

March 31, 2010

Half-belief, which is afraid of falling into unbelief, fearfully clings to the forms of religious life. Not capable of seeing in them the crystallized realities of Spirit and Truth, it evaluates them as juridical norms of law. It has an external attitude towards them, and values them not as windows to the light of Christ, but as the conditional requirements of external authority. The Christian consciousness, however, knows that the established ways of the Church are not accidental, and are offered by her as favorable conditions for salvation. – St. Paul Florensky

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The truth of our faith

March 27, 2010

The great misfortune of our times is that people consider it to be a virtue to have a liberal attitude toward matters of faith and morality…To justify themselves, they present arguments that seem to merit our attention. They say: every man can judge religious matters from his own point of view and freely express his convictions, whatever they may be, according to his conscience, and he must respect the religious convictions of others. No one will object to freedom of religion and of the conscience. One must not, however, forget that Christian faith is not a human invention, but rather the word of God, and it cannot be changed to suit people’s concepts. If people’s convictions stand in opposition to the Divine truth, is it reasonable to recognize these convictions, to consider them correct and to guide one’s life by them? We must, of course, be tolerant of those who do not agree with us, and bear with even those who have clearly gone astray, but we must turn away from their errors, and prove that they are unfounded. The pastors of the Christian Church and all sincere followers of Christ’s teachings should consider this their duty. – St. Vladimir, Metropolitan of Kiev & New Martyr

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The line between good & evil

March 26, 2010

It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer, and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains an uprooted small corner of evil. – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

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Self-Examination

March 24, 2010

Each day examine yourself: What have you sown for the age to come: wheat or weeds? Having tested yourself, arrange to become better the next day, and spend the rest of your life in that manner. In the event that you spent today badly, did not honestly pray to God, did not feel even once contrition in your heart, did not become humble in thought, gave no alms and did no act of charity, but instead did not refrain from anger, from words, from food and drink, or if you sank your mind in unclean thoughts, honestly examine all of this, condemn yourself for it, and firmly resolve that tomorrow you will be more careful to do good and to avoid evil. – Elder Moses of Optina

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The dignity of man

March 22, 2010

‘Let Us make man according to Our image and likeness’ (Gen. 1:26). From this, begin to know yourself. These words had not yet been applied to any of the creations. Light appeared, and the commandment was simple. God said, ‘Let there be light.’ The firmament came into being and there was no deliberation concerning its coming to be. The luminaries came to be without any previous deliberation regarding them. The sea and the boundless ocean: a command and they were brought into being. The wild beasts: one word and they came to be. At this point, man does not yet exist, and there is deliberation regarding man. God did not say as He did for others, ‘Let there be man!’ Note the dignity befitting you. He has not initiated your origin by a command, but there has been counsel in God to determine how to introduce into life this living being worthy of honor. ‘Let us make man,’ the wise One deliberates, the artisan ponders. Do you not fall short of His art? And does not He, with care offer to His masterpiece its intended achievement: perfection and exactitude? – St. Basil