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On Hearing the Gospel

Fr. Matthew the Poor (Matta El-Maskeen)

By: Fr. Matthew the Poor (Matta El Meskeen)

Take heed how your hear the Gospel. It seems that the Lord wants to say that we hear with our hearts rather than our ears, and that the inner life affects the word of God, either killing it, or making it live and thrive. So whoever wants to hear the word well, understand it, and hold it fast in an honest and good heart should prepare his heart inwardly so that the word may safely take root there, finding in his heart faithfulness to God and truthfulness in word and promise. It is absolutely impossible that anyone should understand what he hears of the word of God, if he is not completely honest before God and has not determined to surrender his life, his responsibilities, his interests, his money, his future, and his own honor and lay them at God’s feet.

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On Pushing God Aside

By: Pope Benedict XVI

At the heart of all temptations … is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives. Constructing a world by our own lights, without reference to God, building on our own foundation; refusing to acknowledge the reality of anything beyond the political and material, while setting God aside as an illusion – that is the temptation that threatens us in many varied forms.

Moral posturing is part and parcel of temptation. It does not invite us directly to do evil – no, that would be far too blatant. It pretends to show us a better way, where we finally abandon our illusions and throw ourselves into the work of actually making the world a better place. It claims, moreover, to speak for true realism: What’s real is what is right there in front of us – power and bread. By comparison, the things of God fade into unreality, into a secondary world that no one really needs.

God is the issue: Is he real, reality itself, or isn’t he? Is he good, or do we have to invent the good ourselves? The God question is the fundamental question, and it sets us down right at the crossroads of human existence.

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Overcoming Loneliness

By: Sergei Fudel

The Church is a mystery of overcoming lonely solitude. Overcoming solitude must be experienced realistically. Attending a church service, you come close to the wall of God’s Church only when a ray of love slowly but inexorably melts the ice of your loneliness. Then you stop noticing that which seemed to build a barbed wire fence around you, the real or imaginary lack of faith of the priest, the viciousness of the old women on the watch for proper church behavior, the barbaric curiosity of two gaping youths who happened to drop in, the commercial arguments around the sale of candles. The, through all of this you reach out to the blind soul of people, to the human being who in a minute may hear better and more clearly than you the voice of Jesus Christ, Man and God.

A True Christian

St. Theophanes the Recluse

St. Theophanes the Recluse

The true Christian tests himself every day. Daily testing to see whether we have become better or worse, is so essential for us that without it we cannot be called Christians. Constantly and persistently we must take ourselves in hand. Do this: from the morning establish thoughts about the Lord firmly in your mind and then during the whole day resist any deviation from these thoughts. Whatever you are doing, with whomever you are speaking, whether you are going somewhere or sitting, let your mind be with the Lord. You will forget yourself, and stray from this path; but again turn to the Lord and rebuke yourself with sorrow. This is the discipline of spiritual attentiveness.

On Doing the Right Thing

St. Daniel in the lions den

We are told throughout our first reading today how it was the fault of “some men” that Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den. It emphasized over and over how the king himself did not want to put Daniel in there. He “worked until sunset to rescue him” and “sleep was impossible” that night. After Daniel himself, we are supposed to feel bad, I suppose, for the king, but who issued the royal decree? Who insisted that no one should pray to anyone except the king for one month?

Those men who are accusing Daniel tell us who it was, “Daniel, the Jewish exile, has paid no attention to you, O king, or to the decree you issued.” The king issued the royal decree. So if he spent a sleepless night without dinner or entertainment, I think he deserved it. He never does, but he could have even taken responsibility for his own actions. Continue reading ‘On Doing the Right Thing’

Good Friday: The Third Nocturne

crucifixion of christ

By: Monk Peter Abelard

Alone to sacrifice Thou goest, Lord,
Giving Thyself to death whom Thou wilt slain.
For us Thy wretched folk is any word,
Whose sins have brought Thee to this agony?

For they are ours, O Lord, our deeds, our deeds.
Why must Thou suffer torture for our sin?
Let our hearts suffer for Thy passion, Lord,
That very suffering may Thy mercy win.

This is that night of tears, the three days’ space,
Sorrow abiding of the eventide,
Until the day break with the risen Christ,
And hearts that sorrowed shall be satisfied.

So may our hearts share in Thine anguish, Lord,
That they may sharers of Thy glory be:
Heavy with weeping may the three days pass,
To win the laughter of Thine Easter Day.

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Call Upon God Always

St. Nectarius of Aegina

By: St. Nectarius of Aegina

Put up all your cares to God. He cares for you. Do not become faint-hearted, and do not distress yourselves. He who searches out the hidden depths of a man’s soul, knows your desires too, and has the power to fulfil them as he knows. For your part, ask of God, and do not lose your courage. Do not think that, since the longing you have is holy, you have a right to complain, when your prayers are not heard. God fulfils your longings in a way that you do not know. So be at peace then, and call upon God.

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Examine Your Heart

St. John of Kronstadt

Watch your heart during all your life—examine it, listen to it, and see what prevents its union with the most blessed Lord. Let this be for you the science of all sciences, and with God’s help you will easily observe what estranges you fromGod, and what draws you towardsHim and unites you to Him. It is the evil spirit more than anything else that stands between our hearts and God; he estranges God from us by various passions, or by the desires of the flesh, by the desires of the eyes, and by worldly pride.

Excerpt taken from the book: My Life inChrist, by: Saint John of Kronstadt

Recognize the Reality of Our Sinfulness

St. Basil of Poiana Marului

By: St. Basil of Poiana Marului

Yes, we sin every day, at times unconsciously or out of forgetfulness, without intending to or involuntarily, or because of weakness we sin every day willingly and unwillingly. Because of our human nature and weakness we sin every day willingly and unwillingly. Is this not what the apostle Paul refers to when he says, “I do what I do not want and what I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:15)? All of us commit excusable sins without asking to be excused. Or rather, we fall into sins that can be forgiven and yet we feel no contrition and thus become guilty of God’s judgment and bring God’s wrath upon ourselves. In the words of an ancient saying, “we have made a habit of sitting with her own free will”–– that is, we are consciously aware of committing sins and have developed the habit of sitting with our own free will.

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The Prayer of Jesus

St. John Chrysostom

By: St. John Chrysostom

The remembrance of the name of Jesus rouses the enemy to battle. For a soul that forces itself to pray the Prayer of Jesus can find anything by this prayer, both good and evil. First it can see evil in the recesses of its own heart, and afterwards good. This prayer can stir the snake to action, and this prayer can lay it low. This prayer can expose the sin that is living in us, and this prayer can eradicate it. This prayer can stir up in the heart all the power of the enemy, and this prayer can conquer it and gradually root it out. The name of the Lord Jesus Christ, as it descends into the depths of the heart, will subdue the snake which controls its ranges, and will save and quicken the soul. Continue constantly in the name of the Lord Jesus that the heart may swallow the Lord and the Lord the heart, and that these two may be one. However, this is not accomplished in a single day, nor in two days, but requires many years and much time. Much time and labor are needed in order to expel the enemy and instate Christ.

 Letter to Monks (PG 60, p. 753).


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St. Poemen the Great

"A man may seem to be silent, but if his heart is condemning others, he is babbling ceaselessly. But there may be another who talks from morning till night and yet he is truly silent, that is, he says nothing that is not profitable."

St. Gregory the Great

"Every day you provide your bodies with good to keep them from failing. In the same way your good works should be the daily nourishment of your hearts. Your bodies are fed with food and your spirits with good works. You aren't to deny your soul, which is going to live forever, what you grant to your body, which is going to die."

St. Paisius Velichkovsky

"Remember, O my soul, the terrible and frightful wonder: that your Creator for your sake became Man, and deigned to suffer for the sake of your salvation. His angels tremble, the Cherubim are terrified, the Seraphim are in fear, and all the heavenly powers ceaselessly give praise; and you, unfortunate soul, remain in laziness. At least from this time forth arise and do not put off, my beloved soul, holy repentance, contrition of heart and penance for your sins."

St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

“Prayer does not consist merely in standing and bowing your body or in reading written prayers….it is possible to pray at all times, in all places, with mind and spirit. You can lift up your mind and heart to God while walking, sitting, working, in a crowd and in solitude. His door is always open, unlike man’s. We can always say to Him in our hearts Lord , Lord have mercy.”

St. John of Kronstadt

The candles lit before the icons of the Theotokos are a symbol of the fact that She is the Mother of the Unapproachable Light, and also of Her most pure and burning love for God and Her love for mankind.