Archive for April, 2011

Mary Of Egypt Shows Us How To Repent. How To Cultivate A Repentant Spirit.

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

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Synopsis: In our continuing series of small homilies between Vespers and matins, based upon the texts of the services, we examine the repentance of St Mary of Egypt, and see how we can emulate it. Her repentance was not a one time, unique event! We must find ways to cultivate a repentant spirit; the hymns discussed today give us much to do to accomplish this.
 
"The pollution of past sins prevented thee from entering the church to see the elevation of the Holy Cross; but then thy conscience and the awareness of thine actions turned thee, O wise in God, to a better way of life. And, having looked upon the ikon of the blessed Maid of God, thou hast condemned all thy previous transgressions, O Mother worthy of all praise, and so hast gone with boldness to venerate the precious cross" (5th Sunday of Lent, Sat Vespers, Lord I have cried)
 
"I am held fast in the mire of sin, and there is no strength or courage in me; the tempests of my trespasses hast overwhelmed me. Look upon me, O Virgin, I entreat thee, for thou hast borne the Word who alone loves mankind. Deliver me from every sin, from all the passions that destroy my soul, and from every ill inflicted by the enemy, that I may sing with joy; Intercede with thy Son and God, O undefiled, that remission of transgressions may be given to those who in faith take refuge beneath thy protections." (5th Sunday of Great Lent, Matins, Sessional Hymn after the 3rd Ode)

More homilies on the 5th Sunday of Great Lent are HERE


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Excellent Russian/English Confession charts for confession and preparation for confession

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Many Russian people find it difficult to  confess in English, even if they are fluent. These two charts are excellent. The longer one is great to use for preparation, and FOR A PERSON TO TAKE NOTES AND BRING THE NOTES TO CONFESSION. Of course, this PRESUPPOSES that there is preparation for confession, which is absolutely necessary for a good confession

These charts are in pdf format, and were provided to one of our ROCOR clergy list some time ago.

Confession chart, 2 column, Russian and English, longer version, suitable for preparation for confession

 

Confession chart, brief version, Russian and English, suitable to bring to confession.


 

More confession links


 

PREPARING FOR CONFESSION

EXAMPLES OF CONFESSIONS

ABOUT CONFESSION

 

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Newsletter, March 28/ April 10, 2011 – 5th Sunday of Great Lent

Friday, April 8th, 2011

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

Electronic Newsletter

March 28/ April 10, 2011

5th Sunday of Great Lent / St. Mary of Egypt

Announcements
Prayer Requests
Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week
Fasting in the Coming week
Links related to the coming week

Brothers and sisters, the Great Fast is drawing to a close. This Sunday the Scripture readings will tell us much about Christ and our relationship with him. We will hear about him tell His disciples, as he travels toward Jerusalem, about his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection. We will hear how two of the disciples seek honor and our Lord responds by teaching them the importance of humility and service, "for even the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a ransom for many." We will hear about how there is no sin that God cannot or will not forgive, provided we are willing to repent.

And then, throughout the coming week, the services will speak again and again about how Christ approaches Jerusalem, preparing to raise Lazarus from the tomb – and we must, of course, consider this an image of our own resurrection from sin by His almighty power.
 


Announcements

Passion week is approaching! We will have services every day from April 15 through April 24, as we accompany our Lord on His march to Calvary and give Him thanks for all that He has done for our salvation.

On Lazarus Saturday (April 16), we will have a general parish clean-up after the Divine Liturgy. This is our annual opportunity to get the church and grounds clean for the celebration of the feast of feasts. Many hands make light work, so please plan to join us and help out!

Remember that on Pascha Sunday, the Divine Liturgy takes place immediately after the Festal Matins service, in the early morning. There will be no service at 10AM on Sunday, April 24th, and our festal trapeza will be after the Vespers service at 3PM, with with lots of good food and no rice and beans in sight!
 


Our new facility brings with it many new maintenance and upkeep tasks. Matushka Marina and Reader David Hawthorne need volunteers to help get all the work done.If you can give a few hours of our time to help care for God's house, please contact Matushka Marina, Reader David or Deacon Nicholas and we'll tell you how you can help.

We have a list of things our parish needs. If you or somebody you know wish to supply one of these items, please contact us.
 


Prayer Requests

For the Health and Salvation.

  • Kateryna (Kayla) Bayda. (employment)
  • David and Elizabeth Ash.
  • Priests Jean and Grégoire and all the faithful and suffering of Haiti.
  • The suffering people of East Japan.
  • Metropolitan Hilarion (recent knee surgery)
  • Archbishop Kyrill (on leave of absence because of health problems)

For a more complete listing, please see our parish prayer list. Anyone can make requests.
 


Schedule of Divine Services in the Coming week

Saturday 4/9. 

  • 4PM Confession
  • 5PM  Vigil

Sunday 4/10

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy
  • 12:45PM Church School for adults and children
  • 6PM at St. Seraphim's in Dallas. Pan-Orthodox Vespers

Monday 4/11

  • 7:30PM Great Compline or Moleben

Wednesday 4/13

  • 6:00PM Lenten Hours
  • 7:00PM Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts

Friday 4/15

  • 7PM Vespers and Matins for Lazarus Saturday

Saturday 4/16. Lazarus Saturday Wine, Oil and Caviar allowed  

  • 9AM Divine Liturgy
  • 11AM General Church Clean-up
  • 3:30PM Parish Council Meeting
  • 4PM Confession
  • 5PM  Vigil

Sunday 4/17 PALM SUNDAY Fish, Wine and Oil allowed

  • 10AM  Divine Liturgy followed by Procession with Palms
  • 12:45PM Church School for children
  • 6PM 1st Bridegroom Matins

Fasting in the Coming week

Throughout Great Lent, we abstain from all animal products, wine and oil on weekdays. Wine and Oil are allowed on weekends. Fish is allowed on Palm Sunday.

LINKS

LAZARUS SATURDAY

PALM SUNDAY

 

    QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:

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    Annunciation resources. Homilies by the Fathers, Trebnic prayer.

    Thursday, April 7th, 2011

    Annunciation

    Gabriel stood before thee, O Maiden,/ revealing the pre-eternal counsel,/ saluting thee and exclaiming:/ "Rejoice, O earth unsown!/ Rejoice, O bush unburnt[i]!/ Rejoice, O depth hard to fathom!/ Rejoice, O bridge leading to the heavens/ and lofty ladder, which Jacob beheld[ii]!/ Rejoice, O divine jar of Manna[iii]! Rejoice, annulment of the curse!// Rejoice, restoration of Adam: the Lord is with thee!

    ·        Annunciation Sermon by St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan

    ·        Annunciation Sermon by Pope Leo the Great

    ·        Sermon on the Annunciation by St Proklos, Patriarch of Constantinople

    ·        Annunciation Homily by St. Jerome

    ·        Annunciation of the Theotokos – March 25- a Prayer
    A Prayer from the Orlov Trebnic on the Annunciation of the Most Holy Theotokos – March 25

     


    [i] Exo 3:1-5 KJV  Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father in law, the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.  (2)  And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.  (3)  And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt.  (4)  And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.  (5)  And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.

    [ii] Gen 28:10-17 KJV  And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.  (11)  And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.  (12)  And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.  (13)  And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;  (14)  And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  (15)  And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.  (16)  And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.  (17)  And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

    [iii] The manna was the “bread from heaven”. Jesus Christ said that he was this bread from heaven, so that the jar which contained the mannah, which was placed in the ark is likened to the Theotokos, whose womb was a receptacle (jar) for the bread of life.

    Exo 16:31-34 KJV  And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.  (32)  And Moses said, This is the thing which the LORD commandeth, Fill an omer of it to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt.  (33)  And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the LORD, to be kept for your generations.  (34)  As the LORD commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the Testimony, to be kept.

     

     

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    Preparing for confession and lots of information about Confession

    Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

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    Synopsis: A short talk on how to prepare for confession. Some of it is not what you might expect, but several practical items are mentioned.

    More Stuff about Confession

    PREPARING FOR CONFESSION

    EXAMPLES OF CONFESSIONS

    ABOUT CONFESSION

     

     


    If the "LISTEN NOW" link does not work, copy this URL into your browser: http://www.orthodox.net/catechism/orthopraxis_2011-04-03+how-to-prepare-for-confession.m3u

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    Life of St Mary of Egypt – By the numbers

    Tuesday, April 5th, 2011


    St Mary of Egypt http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/mary-of-egypt-03.jpg0.

    ·         St Mary had never read any books; she was illiterate. She evidently never went to church after her baptism, until the day of her repentance.

    I never learned from books. I have never even heard anyone who sang and read from them. But the word of God which is alive and active, by itself teaches a man knowledge.

    1.

    ·         St Mary walked across the Jordan one time (each way); during the second meeting with Abba Zosimas when he brought her the Holy Mysteries.

    “And as he was pondering thus he saw the holy woman appear and stand on the other side of the river. Zosimas got up rejoicing and glorifying and thanking God. And again the thought came to him that she could not cross the Jordan. Then he saw that she made the sign of the Cross over the waters of the Jordan (and the night was a moonlight one, as he related afterwards) and then she at once stepped on to the waters and began walking across the surface towards him.”

    ·         Abba Zosimas was the only human being she saw after she went into the desert.

    "Believe me, I have not seen a human face ever since I crossed the Jordan, except yours today. I have not seen a beast or a living being ever since I came into the desert.”

    ·         St Mary’s life is the only one that is appointed to be read in a service in church.

    2.

    ·         Abba Zosimas saw St Mary alive 2 times, and traveled into the desert 2 times in the story. He met her the first year after a twenty days journey into the desert, and the second year he was ill and unable to travel, and met her near the monastery, and the third year he traveled to the same place he had met her on his first journey, and found her dead with instructions to bury her.

    ·        
    St Mary received the holy mysteries after her repentance just two times; on the day of her repentance, and during the second meeting with Abba Zosimas.

    Running on I passed the gates and still weeping went on my journey. Those I met I asked the way, and after walking for the rest of that day (I think it was nine o'clock when I saw the Cross) I at length reached at sunset the Church of St. John the Baptist which stood on the banks of the Jordan. After praying in the temple, I went down to the Jordan and rinsed my face and hands in its holy waters. I partook of the holy and life-giving Mysteries in the Church of the Forerunner and ate half of one of my loaves.

    ·         The Life of St Mary is read in two parts during matins for the 5th Thursday of Great Lent, when the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete is also sung in its entirety.

     

    St Mary of Egypt with St Zosimas http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/mary-of-egypt-02.jpg3.

    ·         The third time Abba Zosimas saw St Mary, she was dead, and had written him a message to bury her.

    ·         St Mary most likely was in an Orthodox Church only three times in her life – at her baptism, when she venerated the Holy Cross, and when she received Holy Communion at the Monastery on the Jordan.
     

    ·         When St Mary left the church of the resurrection, she was given three coins, with which she bought loaves; this would be the only cooked food she would eat until she met Abba Zosimas for the last time.

    With these words I left the porch of the church and set off on my journey. As I was leaving the church a stranger glanced at me and gave me three coins, saying: `Sister, take these.'  And, taking the money, I bought three loaves and took them with me on my journey, as a blessed gift.

    ·         There are three Saints involved in the life of St Mary: St Sophronius, who wrote it down, and of course, Abba Zosimas and St Mary.

     

    4.

    ·         St Mary attempted to enter the church of the resurrection unsuccessfully 3 or 4 times.

    The holy day of the Exaltation of the Cross dawned while I was still flying about — hunting for youths. At daybreak I saw that everyone was hurrying to the church, so I ran with the rest. When the hour for the holy elevation approached, I was trying to make my way in with the crowd which was struggling to get through the church doors. I ad at last squeezed through with great difficulty almost to the entrance of the temple, from which the life-giving Tree of the Cross was being shown to the people. But when I trod on the doorstep which everyone passed, I was stopped by some force which prevented by entering. Meanwhile I was brushed aside by the crowd and found myself standing alone in the porch. Thinking that this had happened because of my woman's weakness, I again began to work my way into the crowd, trying to elbow myself forward. But in vain I struggled. Again my feet trod on the doorstep over which others were entering the church without encountering any obstacle. I alone seemed to remain unaccepted by the church. It was as if there was a detachment of soldiers standing there to oppose my entrance. Once again I was excluded by the same mighty force and again I stood in the porch. Having repeated my attempt three or four times, at last I felt exhausted and had no more strength to push and to be pushed, so I went aside and stood in a corner of the porch.

    St Mary of Egypt with St Zosimas. Coptic Icon. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/mary-of-egypt-coptic.jpg5.

    ·         The Life of St Mary is read in two parts during matins for the 5th Thursday of Great Lent.

    ·         The fifth time St Mary attempted to enter the church, she was able to, because of the intercession of the Mother of God.

    And only then with great difficulty it began to dawn on me, and I began to understand the reason why I was prevented from being admitted to see the life-giving Cross. The word of salvation gently touched the eyes of my heart and revealed to me that it was my unclean life which barred the entrance to me. I began to weep and lament and beat my breast, and to sigh from the depths of my heart. And so I stood weeping when I saw above me the icon of the most holy Mother of God. And turning to her my bodily and spiritual eyes I said:

    `O Lady, Mother of God, who gave birth in the flesh to God the Word, I know, O how well I know, that it is no honor or praise to thee when one so impure and depraved as I look up to thy icon, O ever-virgin, who didst keep thy body and soul in purity. Rightly do I inspire hatred and disgust before thy virginal purity. But I have heard that God Who was born of thee became man on purpose to call sinners to repentance. Then help me, for I have no other help. Order the entrance of the church to be opened to me. Allow me to see the venerable Tree on which He Who was born of thee suffered in the flesh and on which He shed His holy Blood for the redemption of sinners an for me, unworthy as I am. Be my faithful witness before thy son that I will never again defile my body by the impurity of fornication, but as soon as I have seen the Tree of the Cross I will renounce the world and its temptations and will go wherever thou wilt lead me.' Thus I spoke and as if acquiring some hope in firm faith and feeling some confidence in the mercy of the Mother of God, I left the place where I stood praying. And I went again and mingled with the crowd that was pushing its way into the temple. And no one seemed to thwart me, no one hindered my entering the church.”

     

    A “few years”

    ·         St Mary ate the bread she brought into the desert very slowly.

    "I had two and a half loaves when I crossed the Jordan. Soon they dried up and became hard as rock. Eating a little I gradually finished them after a few years."

    St Mary of Egypt. http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/mary-of-egypt-01.jpg

    6.

    ·         Saint Zosimas met St Mary as he was singing the Sixth Hour.

    He had already walked for 20 days and when the 6th hour came he stopped and, turning to the East, he began to sing the sixth Hour and recite the customary prayers. He used to break his journey thus at fixed hours of the day to rest a little, to chant psalms standing and to pray on bent knees.

    “And as he sang thus without turning his eyes from the heavens, he suddenly saw to the right of the hillock on which he stood the semblance of a human body”

    9.

    ·         St Mary saw the cross at nine in the morning, probably at matins.

    (I think it was nine o'clock when I saw the Cross)

     

    12.

    ·         St Mary lost her virginity and began her life of debauchery at 12 years old.

    My native land, holy father, was Egypt. Already during the lifetime of my parents, when I was twelve years old, I renounced their love and went to Alexandria. I am ashamed to recall how there I at first ruined my maidenhood and then unrestrainedly and insatiably gave myself up to sensuality It is more becoming to speak of this briefly, so that you may just know my passion and my lechery.

     

    17.

    ·         St Mary lived profligate life in Alexandria for 17 years.

    “For about seventeen years, forgive me, I lived like that. I was like a fire of public debauch.

    ·         St Mary struggled in the desert against her profligate passions for seventeen years before she felt great relief. We should remember this regarding our struggles. Relief will happen if we endure and are patient.

    "Believe me, Abba, seventeen years I passed in this desert fighting wild beasts — mad desires and passions. When I was about to partake of food, I used to begin to regret the meat and fish which of which I had so much in Egypt. I regretted also not having wine which I loved so much. for I drank a lot of wine when I lived in the world, while here I had not even water. I used to burn and succumb with thirst. The mad desire for profligate songs also entered me and confused me greatly, edging me on to sing satanic songs which I had learned once. But when such desires entered me I struck myself on the breast and reminded myself of the vow which I had made, when going into the desert. In my thoughts I returned to the icon of the Mother of God which had received me and to her I cried in prayer. I implored her to chase away the thoughts to which my miserable soul was succumbing. And after weeping for long and beating my breast I used to see light at last which seemed to shine on me from everywhere. And after the violent storm, lasting calm descended.

    And how can I tell you about the thoughts which urged me on to fornication, how can I express them to you, Abba? A fire was kindled in my miserable heart which seemed to burn me up completely and to awake in me a thirst for embraces. As soon as this craving came to me, I flung myself on the earth and watered it with my tears, as if I saw before me my witness, who had appeared to me in my disobedience, and who seemed to threaten punishment for the crime. And I did not rise from the ground (sometimes I lay thus prostrate for a day and a night) until a calm and sweet light descended and enlightened me and chased away the thoughts that possessed me. But always I turned to the eyes of my mind to my Protectress, asking her to extend help to one who was sinking fast in the waves of the desert. And I always had her as my Helper and the Accepter of my repentance. And thus I lived for seventeen years amid constant dangers. And since then even till now the Mother of God helps me in everything and leads me as it were by the hand."

     

    20.

    ·         Abba Zosimas met Mary for the first time on his 20th day of travel in the wilderness  (see entry for 79)

     

    42.

    ·         The brothers of the Monastery by the Jordan would spend the whole of the fast, 42  full days, when the would go into the desert in the evening of Forgiveness Sunday and arrive back to the Monastery on Palm Sunday (Lent is 6 full weeks of seven days)

    There was a rule in that monastery which was the reason why God brought Zosimas there. At the beginning of the Great Fast [on Forgiveness Sunday] the priest celebrated the holy Liturgy and all partook of the holy body and blood of Christ. After the Liturgy they went to the refectory and would eat a little Lenten food.

    Then all gathered in church, and after praying earnestly with prostrations, the elders kissed one another and asked forgiveness. And each made a prostration to the abbot and asked his blessing and prayers for the struggle that lay before them. After this, the gates of the monastery were thrown open, and singing, "The Lord is my light and my Savior; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defender of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 26:1) and the rest of that psalm, all went out into the desert and crossed the River Jordan. Only one or two brothers were left in the monastery, not to guard the property (for there was nothing to rob), but so as not to leave the church without Divine Service. Each took with him as much as he could or wanted in the way of food, according to the needs of his body: one would take a little bread, another some figs, another dates or wheat soaked in water. And some took nothing but their own body covered with rags and fed when nature forced them to it on the plants that grew in the desert.

    After crossing the Jordan, they all scattered far and wide in different directions. And this was the rule of life they had, and which they all observed — neither to talk to one another, nor to know how each one lived and fasted. If they did happen to catch sight of one another, they went to another part of the country, living alone and always singing to God, and at a definite time eating a very small quantity of food. In this way they spent the whole of the fast and used to return to the monastery a week before the Resurrection of Christ, on Palm Sunday. Each one returned having his own conscience as the witness of his labor, and no one asked another how he had spent his time in the desert. Such were rules of the monastery. Everyone of them whilst in the desert struggled with himself before the Judge of the struggle — God — not seeking to please men and fast before the eyes of all. For what is done for the sake of men, to win praise and honor, is not only useless to the one who does it but sometimes the cause of great punishment.

     

    47.

    ·         St Mary spent 47 years in the desert after her repentance.

     “Zosimas asked her:  "How many years have gone by since you began to live in this desert?" She replied: "Forty-seven years have already gone by, I think, since I left the holy city."

     

    53.

    ·         At the age of 53, Abba Zosimas left the Monastery of his repentance, and traveled to Palestine, to a monastery by the river Jordan. 

    Zosimas used to relate how, as soon as he was taken from his mother's breast, he was handed over to the monastery where he went through his training as an ascetic till he reached the age of 53. After that, he began to be tormented with the thought that he was perfect in everything and needed no instruction from anyone, saying to himself mentally, "Is there a monk on earth who can be of use to me and show me a kind of asceticism that I have not accomplished? Is there a man to be found in the desert who has surpassed me?"

    Thus thought the elder, when suddenly an angel appeared to him and said:

    "Zosimas, valiantly have you struggled, as far as this is within the power of man, valiantly have you gone through the ascetic course. But there is no man who has attained perfection. Before you lay unknown struggles greater than those you have already accomplished. That you may know how many other ways lead to salvation, leave your native land like the renowned patriarch Abraham and go to the monastery by the River Jordan."

     

    76.

    ·         St Mary was 76 years old when she met Zosimas (She began her life of debauchery at 12 years, lived in Alexandria for 17 years from that time, and then in the desert for 47 years until she met Abba Zosimas).

     

    77.

    St Mary died the day of the second meeting with Abba Zosimas, in her 77th year. On Abba Zosimas second trip into the desert, when he thought he would see the saint alive for the 3rd  time, he found her dead, and the words in the sand showed him that she had died on the day she saw him the previous year.

    Then on the opposite bank of the river, her face turned towards the rising sun, he saw the saint lying dead. Her hands were crossed according to custom and her face was turned to the East. Running up he shed tears over the saint's feet and kissed them, not daring to touch anything else.

    For a long time he wept. Then reciting the appointed psalms, he said the burial prayers and thought to himself: "Must I bury the body of a saint? Or will this be contrary to her wishes?" And then he saw words traced on the ground by her head:

    "Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary. Return to dust that which is dust and pray to the Lord for me, who departed in the month of Fermoutin of Egypt, called April by the Romans, on the first day, on the very night of our Lord's Passion, after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries." [St.

    Reading this the elder was glad to know the saint's name. He understood too that as soon as she had partaken of the Divine Mysteries on the shore of the Jordan she was at once transported to the place where she died. The distance which Zosimas had taken twenty days to cover, Mary had evidently traversed in an hour and had at once surrendered her soul to God.

     

    100.

    Abba Zosimas lived to be almost one hundred years old.

    Zosimas returned to the monastery glorifying and blessing Christ our Lord. And on reaching the monastery he told all the brothers about everything, and all marveled on hearing of God's miracles. And with fear and love they kept the memory of the saint. Abbot John, as St. Mary had previously told Abba Zosimas, found a number of things wrong in the monastery and got rid of them with God's help. And Saint Zosimas died in the same monastery, almost attaining the age of a hundred, and passed to eternal life. The monks kept this story without writing it down and passed it on by word of mouth to one another.”

     

    522.

    "Abba Zosimas, bury on this spot the body of humble Mary. Return to dust that which is dust and pray to the Lord for me, who departed in the month of Fermoutin of Egypt, called April by the Romans, on the first day, on the very night of our Lord's Passion, after having partaken of the Divine Mysteries." [St. Mary died in 522 A. D.]

     

     

    Priest Seraphim Holland 2011.     St Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, McKinney, Texas

     

    This article is at:

    http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-04-05+life-of-saint-mary-of-egpyt-by-the-numbers.doc

    http://www.orthodox.net/journal/2011-04-05+life-of-saint-mary-of-egpyt-by-the-numbers.html

     

    RELATED LINKS:

    ·         Synaxarion for the Fifth Sunday of Great Lent

    ·         Questions about St. Mary of Egypt

    ·         The Life of our Holy Mother Mary of Egypt – From The Great Canon, the Work of Saint Andrew of Crete

     

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    Scourged By The Whips Of Sin. Understanding Sin And Repentance

    Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

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    Synopsis: We must understand the nature and effect of sin. The Matins canon, especially, in the Triodion, describes this in many important ways. Sin is not so much things we do or do not do, as it is our condition – weakened and often estranged from God. Let us look at the Matins Canon for the 4th week of Great Lent as it continues the Lenten theme of exploring the parable of the prodigal son and understand about the "whips of sin", but looking at 3 stichera form the canon:
     
    "My mind has been scourged by the whips of sin by wicked thieves and evil thoughts. Heal me, Christ my Savior, and save me for Thou art rich in mercy" (Matins Canon, 4th Sunday of Great Lent, Ode 1)
     
    "I have wasted my God-given life on the passions, O Master, and I am fiercely scourged in every part by my transgressions; but I turn to Thee for refuge and I pray: Have pity on me" (Matins Canon, 4th Sunday of Great Lent, Ode 6)
     
    "Scourging my mind with the passions, thieves have seized my wealth and left me as one dead, but take pity on me and save me O Lord. " (Matins Canon, 4th Sunday of Great Lent, Ode 1)

    More homilies on the 4th Sunday of Great Lent are HERE


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    What does fasting do. 4th Sunday of Great Lent.

    Monday, April 4th, 2011

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    Synopsis:Why do we fast? Few people understand that we fast because of a requirement of our nature and because of the nature of the demons. "This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting" (Mark. 9:29). Let us understand why we fast and put off all legalism concerning this essential practice.

    More homilies on the 4th Sunday of Great Lent are HERE

    Mark 9:17-31 17 And one of the multitude answered and said, Master, I have brought unto thee my son, which hath a dumb spirit; 18 And wheresoever he taketh him, he teareth him: and he foameth, and gnasheth with his teeth, and pineth away: and I spake to thy disciples that they should cast him out; and they could not. 19 He answereth him, and saith, O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him unto me. 20 And they brought him unto him: and when he saw him, straightway the spirit tare him; and he fell on the ground, and wallowed foaming. 21 And he asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, Of a child. 22 And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. 23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. 24 And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. 25 When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. 26 And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. 27 But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. 28 And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? 29 And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. 30 And they departed thence, and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. 31 For he taught his disciples, and said unto them, The Son of man is delivered into the hands of men, and they shall kill him; and after that he is killed, he shall rise the third day.


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    Christianity is simple. Lent is about changing. Exegesis of the Beatitudes.

    Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

    Fourth Sunday of Great Lent
    Saint John Climacus

    Christianity is simple. Lent is about changing.

    Exegesis of the Beatitudes.

    In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

    The Ladder of Divine Ascent, http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/ladder-of-divine-ascent-04-russian-16thc.jpg Today, brothers and sisters, on this fourth Sunday of Great Lent, we remember Saint John Climacus who is known as Saint John of the Ladder. The icon of The Ladder of Divine Ascent in our church shows the monks that are climbing up towards Jesus Christ. It is a metaphor for our life and for how we must continually ascend, we must continually add virtue to virtue.

    But where should we begin? The Lord gives us a place to begin. He says to us, “Blessed are the poor in spirit because theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”  This is the beginning.

     
    Pride destroys anything that is good. To be poor in spirit is to be humble, to recognize what is in yourself, to recognize how strong you are, that you are weak without Christ. It is to recognize that you are like the man who looks in the mirror but unlike the one in the scriptures, remembers when he leaves what he still looks like. It is to be the person who knows that he owed ten thousand talents and had it all forgiven. This is to be poor in spirit.

     

    This is not a small step. It is the beginning, but it is a great step because it is in direct contradiction to the world. The world is full of pride, full of arrogance, blind and self-centered self-love.  And unfortunately we should not be of the world, but we are, and so we are like that as well. We love ourselves more than others. We think of ourselves more highly than others. We continually put ourselves in advantageous positions. If you look at your life carefully, you will see that you’re far from being poor in spirit, and this is only the first rung. But to at least begin is a good thing.

    So let us remember that we are the person who did owe the ten thousand talents. We are the person that was formerly far off in exile and has now been brought near to Christ, and by grace we have been saved through faith and that it is not of ourselves.

    If we remember those things, then there will be opportunities in our life when we somehow by the grace of God and not of ourselves that we recognize the kind of person we are, and that recognition motivates us to do the right thing at the right time.

     

    It is not possible to be good until we are humble. There are two things we need to know in order to be saved. We need to know about God, and we need to know about ourselves. We need to know the greatness of God and to know the littleness of ourselves. And if we see the difference between the two, then we will not think of ourselves so highly. But this is just the beginning. The Lord gives us, as it were, the ladder in the beatitudes. They ascend.

     

    So you start with being humble. You start with recognizing in yourself that there is nothing good without God. It’s so easy for us to say this. We can quote the Scriptures about it, but do we really live it? If we live it, then we consider others more important than ourselves, then we consider that we are slaves of God and that we should do like we are told. To be humble encompasses all of the virtues.

    Then also, it says that “blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.” What is this?

     

    In order to truly be Christian, one should have mourning in our heart. Mourning for what? Mourning for the human condition, mourning for the fact that things are not as they should be. We see sadness. We see violence. We see disillusionment. We see depression. We see all these things in the world. They’re not as the world is supposed to be. That’s not what God intended for us. Isn’t this terribly sad? Shouldn’t we mourn this? And shouldn’t we have within ourselves the knowledge of who we are, and that should make us sad as well?

    We should *not* have some sort of neurosis and always consider that there is nothing good about ourselves, since God lives within us. But isn’t it sad that so much is given to us and yet so little is done by us and that in the world how there is cacophony of evil? This is terrible. Every time that someone dies it’s a tragedy. It’s not what God intended. Every time that someone is proud, every time that someone is hurtful, every time that someone steals or lies, this was not as God intended. This is terribly sad. We should mourn this, and the first place to start is to mourn within yourself that you have been given so much and yet do so little.

    Now, the world doesn’t understand this, and that’s why there is so much pop ideology about accepting ourselves. That’s why every sin there is, is accepted because we cannot understand as a society what it is to truly mourn that which is within us that is not good. We consider it to be neurotic. We say, oh, we don’t love ourselves then. The Christian loves himself because God loves him, but the Christian is realistic about the kind of person he is and wishes to become better. This is a very hard thing to learn because our society just continually hammers against it.

    It’s very difficult to recognize in yourself the things that need improvement and not to fall into some sort of neurotic self loathing. It’s not what God has intended. We should just be like, say, the athlete who wishes to become faster and recognizes that he is not yet at the goal that he has given himself, so he works hard for that goal. Every day that he runs does he lament and say, oh, “woe is me; I’ll never be able to be fast enough?” Not if he is a great athlete. If he is a great athlete, he continually presses towards the mark and eventually he gains it.

    It’s the same thing with Christianity. We must recognize that we are missing the mark and desire with all of our heart to have this mark. That really is also part of the — one of the beatitudes ties into it: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled. You can’t hunger and thirst for something unless you’re hungry and thirsty, unless you recognize what is wrong. If we are to climb this ladder successfully, first we must humble ourselves. Next we must mourn our condition and mourn that of the human condition.

    A Christian never thinks of just ourselves; it begins with understanding ourselves and understanding how God has been good to us, and then immediately translates into concern for everyone else. That’s why Jesus Christ spoke so often about loving our fellow man. If we say we love God and hate our brother, we are a liar and the truth is not within us, says Saint John.

    So if we see within ourselves that which is lacking and we mourn it, then we should also see that other people also lack and we should mourn their lack, not to judge them but just to know that they are also part of the human condition which expresses itself in many different ways. Weaknesses that we have, other people don’t have. Strength that we have, other people have weaknesses. It matters not. It is from the same source. That is, our weakness of the human condition, and we should mourn this.

    “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”

     

    That’s a difficult thing. To be meek is to allow the will of God to occur in our life in everything. Do you see how it builds? How can you trust God unless you don’t trust yourself? To be poor in spirit is to not trust yourself. To be meek is to completely and totally trust God. You cannot trust God until you put aside your own esteem for your own opinions. And you cannot truly trust God until you mourn that which is lacking within you because God can give it.

    Now, this is the one thing that I really wanted to talk about, that we can apply. It is very difficult for us to be humble. It is very difficult for us to really mourn all that we are and that we are not. But there is something that we can do. It is a virtue that is above humility. It is above mourning, and yet it also is reachable even if we have not yet become completely humble and completely mourn our condition.

     

    We must be merciful. “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy.” If you can live your life by some creed, live it by this one. Be merciful as our Lord was merciful.

    What does it mean to be merciful? It means that we empathize with everyone’s condition. You cannot empathize with everyone’s condition until you’ve really understood your own. And we reach out to others whether it is through prayer or whether it is through some work or whether it is through some action, we’re merciful.

    Just recently I saw something where at work there is a particular person who sort of is the scapegoat for all kinds of things. She often is kind of confused when she gets her reports, and she’s a little bit haphazard and sometimes even possibly a little bit lazy in some of the care she gives. And so people who consider themselves so great and high and mighty are constantly talking about her: “Can you believe what she did yesterday? Can you believe what she told me? She didn’t even know that this person had this operation”, and such. What kind of ugliness is this? It’s so easy to be merciful and just to not speak about it. Or to be merciful and to give a word of encouragement to this person who really feels kind of beaten on. And it’s true, she is beaten on.

     

    To be merciful is to put yourself in her position. Now, perhaps she does some things that are not right. Being merciful doesn’t mean we pretend that something doesn’t exist. But to be merciful is to put yourself in her position. How does she feel?

    To be merciful is to consider the feelings of others. We can do this. We can do this right now. And this ladder is not just where you ascend and you have to have one virtue before you have another; before you have the perfection of the next virtue in the ladder, you must have perfected the virtue below it. But we can in some extent, to some degree, participate in all of these virtues on the ladder. We can attempt to humble ourselves. We can mourn. We can be meek. We can be merciful. But I submit to you that it should be easy for us to not judge others and to be merciful to them if we just look at ourselves. And so this higher virtue also helps us to fulfill the lower ones. It’s a difficult task.

    Look in your life. And see how often you are petty with someone, how often you judge them, how often you’re not kind to someone. And notice how you’re not kind to people that really can’t return anything to you or can’t hurt you in any way. I mean, you’re certainly kind to your boss, right? Or at least in his presence, right? But you don’t necessarily have to be kind in your own mind, shall we say, to someone who is not that important, like this nurse I told you about. She doesn’t have a very good reputation among the other nurses. So if a person wants to take a pot shot at someone, she is a likely target because she doesn’t have any credibility. What a sad thing to do though. Because then we are forgetting what we are like, forgetting that we are capable of the same mistakes she makes.

    To be merciful is to be like God. It says that God is love, right? But what is love except to be merciful to others, to care about others, to empathize with others?

     

    Christianity is quite simple; I’ve told you this many times. And Lent is quite simple. Oh, yes, there are complicated services, and we have to be concerned about what foods we eat or don’t eat, and many of us try to read more and try to pray more and try to do all sorts of things that are good for the soul.

    In its essence, Lent is all about changing. It’s all about becoming better. And what better way is there to be changed than to be more merciful because, if we are more merciful, we are more like our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

    Christianity is very simple. We complicate it because we want to complicate it. Because then we sort of have a smoke screen around us. It’s hard to be brutally honest with ourselves. Christianity is brutal honesty with ourselves and with others.

    And Christianity is to become like Jesus Christ. What better way to attempt to be like Jesus Christ and attempt to be merciful as He was merciful. Look in your life. See how often, the way you live, what you say, what you do, how you treat people, is far from merciful. I mean, all of us have heard of the golden rule, right? Everyone knows it, even people that don’t believe in God. If we live according to this way of life, to treat others as we would wish to be treated, regardless of whether or not they in our mind are worthy of such treatment, then we will be fulfilling the Gospel, the law of God.

    Make no mistake about it; Christianity is about fulfilling the commandments, all of them. And this ladder continues to stretch higher and higher. I haven’t even mentioned all of the beatitudes. And the beatitudes themselves are a distillation of the Old Testament law. And they even are not complete. Because the only way to really complete all of the virtues is to live the Christian life fully. And the beatitudes only mention but a few things, as it were the cornerstones, the main things.
    But as we grow in the Christian life we will see virtue upon virtue that we didn’t know existed before.

    May God help us during this Lent and all of our life to be merciful. I ask you, I beg of you, look in your life today and tomorrow and the next day. This week, see where you have not been merciful. If you look and you ask, you will find and you will be amazed how often you’re not merciful to others. You should be able to think of a dozen instances or more of times, places, people that you don’t care about enough.

    Remember that if we do not judge, we won’t be judged. I have told you before, this is the easiest way to get into the Kingdom of God, is to not judge. But this not judging, which is really inherent in being merciful, is a middle ladder. It’s not a beginning ladder. So in order to not judge, you must humble yourself and you must really desire righteousness, and you must trust God.

    So it is true, if you do not judge, you will be saved, but in order to not judge, you must encompass the other virtues as well. But I’ve said just a minute ago, these virtues, although they ascend, you can also have one that is higher help one that is lower. So let us be merciful to others, and God will be merciful to us. Amen.

     

     

    Priest Seraphim Holland 2007.    

     

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    The Significance of Fasting in the Struggle against Fallen Spirits. By St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)

    Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

    Homily on the Fourth Sunday of Great Lent

    The Significance of Fasting in the Struggle against Fallen Spirits

    By St. Ignatius (Brianchaninov)

     

    Saint Ignaty Briachaninov http://www.orthodox.net/ikons/ignaty-briachaninov-03.jpgThe Lord said to His Apostles about the evil spirits, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark. 9:29).

     

    Here is a new aspect of fasting!

     

    Fasting is acceptable to God when it is preceded by the great virtue of mercy; fasting prepares a reward in heaven when it is foreign to hypocrisy and vainglory; fasting works when it is joined with another great virtue – prayer.

     

    How does it work? It not only tames the passions in the human body, but it enters into battle with the spirits of evil, and conquers them.

     

    How can fasting, which is actually a bodily podvig [ascetical labor], work or cooperate with prayer in a war against spirits? Why do the bodiless spirits submit to the power that fasting has over them?

     

    The reason fasting works against the evil spirits lies in its powerful influence upon our own spirits.

     

    When the body is tamed by fasting, it brings freedom, strength, sobriety, purity, and refinement to the human soul. Our spirit can withstand its unseen enemies only when it is in such a state.

     

    But as for me”, said the God-inspired David,When they (the demons) troubled me, I put on sackcloth. And I humbled my soul with fasting, and my prayer shall return to my bosom” (Psalm 34:13).

     

    Fasting gives the mind sobriety, while prayer is the weapon the mind uses to drive away the invisible adversary. Fasting humbles the soul, and frees it from the callousness and inflatedness brought on by satiety; while the prayer of one who fasts becomes especially strong. Such prayer is not just external, but comes from the very soul, from the depths of the heart. Fasting directs and carries prayer to God.

     

    The dark and evil spirits committed two serious crimes:[1] the first crime caused their expulsion from the hosts of holy angels; the second crime was the cause of their irrevocable banishment. They lifted their heels against God in heaven. Their chief, blinded by conceit, wanted to become equal to God. For their crime they were cast out of heaven to the earth below, and there they began to envy the blessedness of newly-created man.

     

    Then they committed a new crime: seducing man, and luring him into his fall. This latter crime of the fallen angels finally decided their lot – they impressed themselves into evil by it; God’s grace entirely departed from them because of it; they were given over to their own selves, to their own evil, and to their own sin that they had conceived and borne in themselves, and which they allowed to penetrate their nature.

     

    Now, a good thought or feeling will never come to an outcast angel. He is entirely submerged in evil, desires evil, and invents evil. Scorched with an unquenchable thirst for evil, he seeks to be sated with evil, but cannot. All the evil he does or can perform seems to him little next to the evil that he imagines and which his insufferable thirst for evil seeks. Created as a light-bearing angel, he was cast down lower than all the beasts of the earth for his crimes. "Because thou hast done this murder of a man, said God in His wrath to Satan when He caught him at the scene of the crime in paradise, near the man and woman whom he had caused to fall, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life (Gen. 3:14).

     

    A bodiless spirit is condemned to thoughts and feelings that are only earthly and passionate; his life and treasure is in them. A spirit, he has lost the ability to do anything spiritual – he is completely engrossed in fleshly works. A spirit who lives a mental life is demoted from the hosts of spirits to a fleshly state, and he takes a place lower in rank than all cattle and beasts of the earth. Cattle and beasts act according to the laws of their nature, while the fallen spirit, who is mingled into the nature of cattle and beasts, is mingled into a nature that is foreign to his own, and humiliating. He neither wants nor is able to act correctly in this nature – he continually abuses this nature.

     

    This sinful materiality of the fallen angel makes him subject to the effect of fasting, which frees our spirit from the flesh’s reign.

     

    When the fallen angel approaches a person who is fasting,

    he does not see the material domination that he needs and desires;

    he cannot stir up the blood that has been beneficently cooled by fasting;

    he cannot arouse the flesh that is not inclined to play, for it has been restrained by fasting;

    the mind and heart are not obedient to him, for they have felt an especial spiritual vigor due to fasting.

     

    Seeing this resistance, the proud, fallen spirit departs, because he cannot endure being resisted or contradicted. He loves unhesitating agreement and submission. Despite the fact that he crawls upon his belly, despite the fact that he eats only dust, the thought of being like God has not left him, and he looks for people to worship him.

     

    He audaciously showed the Son of God all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and promised to give him all power over them and the glory of them, demanding to be worshipped in return (Luke 4:5-7). Even now, he does not cease to present to those who follow the Son of God all the beauty of the world, painting it in their dreams with the most tempting features and colors in order to extract worship of himself by whatever trick. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, said the Apostle James (James. 4:7); and another Apostle said, Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked (Ephesians. 6:16).

     

    Let us raise our eyes to eternity through the power of faith, to the unspeakable blessedness that awaits the righteous in eternity; likewise let us observe the equally unspeakable torments that await the serpent’s unrepentant and stubborn followers. We can have such contemplation when the body is put in order and maintained within the order of fasting; when with the pure prayer that is only obtainable through fasting, we cleave to the Lord, and become of one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17) with Him.

     

    “The serpent crawls continually upon the ground as he was sentenced to do from on High,” says St. John Chrysostom. “If you wish be to safe from his poisonous bite, let your mind and heart be always above the earth.”[2] Then you will be able to resist him, and that proud serpent who cannot endure resistance will flee from you.

     

    Where are the people who are possessed by evil spirits? Where are those people whom he would tear and torment, like he tore and tormented the youth mentioned today in the Gospels? Apparently there aren’t any, or they are very rare – thus reasons the person who sees everything superficially, and brings his life as a sacrifice to distractions and sinful pleasures.

     

    But the holy fathers saw things differently. They say, “From the moment they caused man to be exiled from paradise and separated from God through disobedience, the devil and the demons received the freedom to mentally stir any person’s rational nature, both day and night.”[3]

     

    Very similar to those torments and tearing of the Gospel youth’s body by the evil spirit are the sufferings of the soul that willfully submits itself to the influence of the evil spirit, and who accepts as truth that murderous lie which the devil ceaselessly shows to us in order to make us perish, hiding it behind a façade of truth to more easily deceive us, and to succeed in his wickedness. Be sober, be vigilant, the Apostle Peter warns us, because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith (1 Pet. 5:8–9).

     

    What does the fallen angel use against us? Mostly sinful thoughts and fantasies.

     

    He runs from those who resist him, but he sways, torments, and destroys those who do not recognize him, who enter into conversation with him, and entrust themselves to him. He himself crawls on his belly and is incapable of spiritual thought. He vividly depicts this transitory world with all its allurements and pleasures; meanwhile he enters into conversation with the soul about how it can make its pipe dreams come true. He offers us earthly glory, he offers us riches, he offers us satiety, and delight in fleshly impurities. As St. Basil the Great expresses it, the devil not only received a feeling for fleshly impurities, but since he was created as a bodiless spirit, he gave birth to them.[4]

     

    He presents all this as a fantasy, but he also provides illicit ways to realize these illicit dreams. He casts us into sorrow, depression, and despair. In a word – he tirelessly works to obtain our destruction in seemingly decent as well as indecent ways: by obvious sin, by sin hidden behind a good façade, and by waiving the bait of pleasure in front of us.

     

    This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith, says St. John the Theologian (1 John 5:4). Faith is our weapon of victory over the world; it is also our weapon of victory over the fallen angels.

     

    Who has looked with the eye of faith to the eternity proclaimed by God’s Word and not cooled to the world’s quickly-passing beauty?

     

    What true disciple of our Lord Jesus Christ will want to trample upon His all-holy commandments for the sake of sinful pleasure, which seems alluring before it is tasted, but is vile and murderous after tasting?

     

    What power over the disciple of Christ has the enchanting picture of earthly benefits and pleasures, or even the horrifying picture of earthly calamities, which the evil spirits draw in order to bring the viewer to depression and despair, when magnificent pictures of eternity are impressed upon his soul through the power of God’s Word, before which all earthly scenes are pale and insignificant?

     

    When St. John the Theologian proclaims that the victory that overcometh the world is our faith, he salutes the true children of Christ who have overcome the world on their victory over the fallen angel and his minions: I write unto you, young men, he says, because ye have overcome the wicked one (1 John. 2:13). Here “young men” is what he calls Christians who are renewed by Divine grace.

     

    When a servant of Christ shows courage and constancy in his struggle against the evil spirits as he should, then Divine grace descends into his soul and grants him victory, and his youth shall be renewed as the eagle’s (Ps. 102:5) – youth which never ages, with which he was adorned by the Creator when he was created, and which he exchanged for incurable agedness at his voluntary fall. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever (1 John. 2:15–17).

     

    Beloved brethren! Why shouldn’t we also be victors over the world and over its prince?

     

    People like us have overcome them, people clothed in flesh and human weakness. Not only valiant men have been victorious over them, but also frail elders, weak women, and little children; they won, and left us no excuse for losing if we give ourselves up to them. The same world with all its allurements was before them, the same invisible serpents crawled around them, applying every effort to taunt out their souls and make them to live in the dust. The hearts and thoughts of the conquerors were raised up!

     

    Guarding their bodies with fasting, they tamed them and stopped the impulse for earthly pleasures in them!

     

    Through fasting, they gave their spirit the opportunity to abide in ceaseless sobriety and vigilance, and the opportunity to unsleepingly heed and watch out for the multifarious snares of the devil!

     

    By lightening their bodies – and even their very spirits – with fasting, they gave the spirit the opportunity to cleave to the Lord with pure and constant prayer, to receive Divine aide, to enliven their faith from hearing (cf. Rom. 10:17), from hearing to make their faith substance (cf. Heb. 11:1) and spiritual strength – and by this strength to obtain decisive victory over the world and the evil spirits.

     

    St. John the Theologian calls such faith the confidence that we have in God, and he teaches us from his own holy experience that it is attained through prayer that is heard [by God].[5]  The righteous as if see the invisible God through such faith, as the Apostle Paul said.[6] Naturally, the world hides from view at the sight of God! The transitory world becomes as if non-existent, and the prince of the world has no support in his warfare.

     

    Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith (1 Pet. 5:8–9), taking the shield of faith (Eph. 6:16) – faith that is active, living, grace-filled.

     

    Only the ascetical laborer of Christ is capable of such faith. He has prepared himself for warfare with the evil spirits by forgiving his neighbors’ sins – that is, through mercy and humility – and has entered the fight bearing the weapon of fasting and prayer. Amen.

     

     

     

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    [1] St. John Cassian, Discourses 8, 9, 10.

     

    [2] St. John Chrysostom, “Homily 8, on the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans.”

     

    [3] St. Symeon the New Theologian, The Philokalia, Part 2. See the Homily of Nicephorus the Monk.

     

    [4] From the Kanonik, (Canon Book), the first prayer against defilement.

     

    [5] See 1 John 5:13–15

     

    [6] See Hebrews 11:27

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