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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

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Sunday, 23 November 2014

MONASTIC WISDOM FROM ST ELIZABETH'S CONVENT (MINSK) - I

ORTHODOXY AS KNOWLEDGE OF LOVE 
by Archpriest Andrew Lemeshono


We live in the Orthodox land that is soaked in blood and sweat of martyrs and saints who created the Holy Russia, whom we glorify and whom only the Lord knows. In order for a country to be called that, its people must be holy, sanctified with God's grace. Holiness is God acting in a person. God came to the earth for the sinners. The people who had lived on this earth — pagans who had worshipped idols and had not known the true light, could finally see it, and, getting to know God, ultimately fell in love with Him.

Christ established the Church on earth. It is a place where one leaves the temporary world and proceeds to the eternity. The Church is the Last Supper that the Lord had before his suffering on the Cross, and that He celebrates every day as He calls the faithful to his wedding feast. People come to the Church, crippled and disfigured by sin though they are. The Lord washes, sanctifies, and cleanses their souls with His Love, and people start to see, hear, and love God in their midst. The holiness that God gives empowers one to struggle with the whole world, with the devil, with sin — that terrible disease of the humankind that fell out of the unity with God. We all are ill but we have the Great Doctor who treats us. His treatment is holiness, and He pours it on us abundantly, entrusting us with His own Body and Blood, with Himself. As He tries to break us loose from sin, from all temporary and transitory things, as He shows us the Heaven, God helps us to come to Him now, in this life. The Lord humbles down before us to save us. He humbles before the sinful, the proud, the ungrateful people that we are. He does not argue with us, He does not condemn us, but instead patiently waits for us to come around. He has to wait for a very long time. However, when a person responds to God's love with her love, she starts to resemble God.

What is Orthodoxy? Come and see (John 1:46), as we read in the Bible. In Orthodoxy, God is so close that He is united with human. The purpose of an Orthodox person's life is theosis, holiness, sanctification of her life, not temporary comforts and material assets but the eternity. Only Love will continue into the eternity; knowledge and prophecies will be ceased (Cf. 1 Cor.13:8). So Orthodoxy is the knowledge of Love, it is the Love that lives inside human beings. Apostle John the Theologian says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”(Cf. John 13:35). It is impossible to love in this world without God. The human that hid from God in the paradise, must approach God and sanctify herself with the Light of Love that Christ brought to the earth. The Lord gives this love abundantly in the Orthodox Church. Everything that we see in a church: the church itself, the worship — everything is a revelation of the life to come, a revelation that is hard for us to comprehend because we are deafened by the world, our reason is blurred, and our hearts are anxious.

The Lord takes us onto His shoulders, carries us into the Church, washes, cleanses, and feeds to us His Body and Blood with a spoon, as if we are silly and naughty babies. When we receive the Holy Sacraments, we start to perceive (albeit for a short moment) our neighbour, ourselves, our lives, and realise the Holy Divine Providence behind all that.

Love is hard to preserve. We suffer from many sinful illnesses but we believe that God triumphs over sin. We are now in the Militant Church that fights with the sinful world and the devil, and if we remain within its ranks, we will go on to become part of the Triumphant Church.

When we want to tell someone about Orthodoxy, it is very difficult for us to talk about it. The Protestants find thousands of persuasive words but we lack their eloquence. Why is it so? It is because Orthodoxy is to be seen. We realise that if God dwells inside us, if the grace of the Holy Spirit is present within us, words are unnecessary. The life and the image of a person who found the Love of Christ will be a testimony of God's victory and God's truth. We do not know what our way in this world will be like but, when we enter the church, we must keep that grace that we receive from God and from His Holy Church. Let us thank God for His love towards us and ask Him to reveal to us the simple truths that we should always bear in mind: that God is always near; He loves us and never abandons us; He forgives us and is waiting for us.

November 11, 2014

MONASTICISM Archpriest Andrew Lemeshonok (from the St Elizabeth Convent website)

People are tied to the earth. They depend on the inevitable changes that occur there. It is difficult for a person who lives in this world in accordance with temporary laws to become free from sin. Sin kills her soul, breaks up her connection with God and makes that person dead. This is why people are seeking for God. Faced with earthly cares, vanity, competition‌ (that comes both from the outside and from the inside), people ache and suffer, and they cannot find the permanent place designated for God. The Lord says that He does not have a place to lay His head. God, the Creator of the Earth, does not have a place in this world. The world sends God to the Cross because it does not accept His love.

There are souls that made up their minds to follow God to the end, without compromises, without falsehood, without illusions. These people decided to exchange all the riches of the world, everything that the world can give for the inner freedom of being with God and not depending on this world.

Of course, this is not a formal decision but an earnest drive to reach the Heavenly Kingdom, a desire to preserve the grace and not to lose love towards God in one's heart. Earthly cares are devastating for one's soul. When people rely only on themselves, on their egos, on their fallen reason and wicked desires in building their lives as they deem fit, they cannot see God and their neighbour. Monasticism is a way of life where everything is subjected to the will of God and renunciation of sin. It is a passage from the earthly kingdom into the Heavenly Kingdom; it is the resurrection of one's soul but it does not come easily and quickly. An individual who is totally subdued by sin, has to humble herself down, see her wretchedness and the beauty of her neighbour, and get to know God's love. This should happen not only when one feels calm and content but also when life is tough and she has to suffer. Monasticism means a permanent struggle and renunciation of one's ego. There was an Elder who, when asked about monasticism, took a skufia off his head, threw it on the ground and trampled it underfoot — that’s what a monk must be like, he said. A monastic is a person who has forgotten herself; she lives not on the earth but in the heaven already. Things that are high in this world are an abomination before God: this is why they world does not see the value of monastic life; it sheds tears for those who have put on the black robes and turned down all its advantages and comfort; the world mourns those who live not for their own sake, but instead crucify their egos, their passions and lust. The aim of monasticism is love towards God and one’s neighbour; a monastic strives for acquiring love in her heart. When a person rejects her own ego and becomes a novice, when she begins to obey without trusting herself, it is then that she steps onto the road that leads to the Jerusalem on high: the painful and harsh road it is indeed, for one has to struggle with oneself but it is also full of joy, for the Lord is near and He always comforts those who follow Him.

The world has no time to pray and to think about the eternity. A monastic has to fill in what is missing by praying for the entire world, by looking for God’s glory in everything, and by finding the beauty of the love of Christ in each person. The Lord says, Learn of me, because I am meek, and humble of heart (Matthew 11:29). People who come to God and devote their entire lives to serving God, they unite into one family called a monastery to build their relationships that go beyond the earthly laws while being here on this earth. They are looking for the love of Christ, who is in our midst. Jesus Christ is the centre to which these souls are drawn through repentance, self-restraint, and humility before each other. A person who does not seek her own, who puts herself into God’s hands, who does her best to thank God for everything, never gets depressed and does not spare herself. Everything she has belongs to God, so she does not show off her own merits; she is ashamed to do so. A monastic prays for the world and asks the Lord to allow all people more time to get to know God’s love and to enter the Heavenly Kingdom. A monastic is not a mummy in black clothes but a living human being who lives a beautiful life. With God, everything bears the trace of the heavenly beauty. Struggle with herself, with the world, and with the devil takes up all the time of a monastic, so she has no time to be depressed or to judge her neighbour. A monastic concentrates on the inner person, she is not quick with words and reluctant to pass judgements; she is looking for God’s Word that, when it comes, becomes alive for everybody. It is God’s mercy that monasteries are being restored and built nowadays. People who have got tired of the hustle and bustle of this world and its disappointments are looking for a quiet harbour where they can learn to love God and neighbour. Therefore, the Lord builds monasteries and gathers His earthly warriors in order to make them His heavenly army. The Church is the people united into one single whole around Christ. Monastics are the vanguard of this army.

The vows that a monastic takes during the rite of monastic profession are not fulfilled by her as they must be, which is why her soul constantly has to humble down, admonish herself, and ask God to forgive her. God grants His grace to the humble. The Lord tells the pious young man, If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast: and come follow me (Cf. Matthew 19:21). The young man in this Gospel account did not follow Christ because he was reluctant to abandon the earthly things he had; monastics, on the contrary, are the people who follow God, and the Lord comforts those who choose this narrow path. Joy and tenderness that dawn on one’s soul after the hard times of temptations give her strength to go ahead and to be the light for those who cannot see this path yet.

One’s soul wants to be alone with God, and it finds joy everywhere there is God. Such a soul runs away from sin.

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Cf. Matthew 5:3). A monastic does not boast about her gains or earthly beauty; all she can boast about is God, and she keeps saying, I can do all these things in him who strengtheneth me (Phil. 4:13)


SHINING FORTH THE LIGHT
Brother Rodion
my source: St Elizabeth Website

When you come to the hospital and talk about confession and communion, you would like people to see the light in you. As usual, one day I came to one of the hospital wards and started to tell the patients about repentance. Many of them were interested. Once a person falls ill, he comes to realise that he needs confession and communion, and that he needs to repent or at least share his thoughts with God. There was a man named Andrew whom I had often seen at the railway station. He is deaf-mute and beside that he has many mental and physical handicaps like no fingers and he’s very crippled overall.

When I entered the ward, I noticed that he was glad and met me with awe. He looked very wretched: exhausted, drawn, and pale, as if he did not eat or sleep for a long time; nevertheless, Andrew met me with enthusiasm. I told him that a priest would come to their ward the following day, and read a book on confession to him. I was absent at the day of the confession and it turned out that Andrew was the only one who confessed and took communion that day. The following week I opened the door to the ward and saw that everybody except Andrew were dull, whereas Andrew was shining with joy. So I said, “See how beautiful it is!” I saw God shining through the eyes of that man, I saw God's light, I don't know if it was the Tabor Light but it was a Living Light for me.

I recall another story. There was a man in a grave condition — he lost both legs — in the hospital unit that I visit. He had never confessed or took communion, though he was willing to do it. The priest who served a moleben in the hospital, gave him a christcross after it. The man accepted that christcross with awe, like a great treasury. He confessed. A priest came to his ward the following morning and, kneeling in front of him because the patient was unable to get up from his bed, read the prayers and gave him communion. That man died the following day. The night before he died, for the first time in my life, I saw the spiritual fear and the detachment from the world that is possible only when a person is dying and there is nothing left of his flesh. I could feel that the arrival of the priest was salvation and light for that person. Like the Apostles… The Lord knew that these people were able to see and carry on the Light of God; this is why He took them with Him, and they carried this light to the entire world. It is this light that enlightens all of us even today.

October 27, 2014


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