h1

On the Struggle Between the Flesh and Spirit by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

January 29, 2008

On the Struggle Between the Flesh and Spirit Which Occurs in a Christian

by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Walk in the spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Every Christian has a two-fold birth, the old one of the flesh, and the new spiritual one, as is said above, and the one is contrary to the other. The birth of the flesh is flesh; the spiritual is spirit. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (Jn. 3:6).

But since these two births are opposed to one another, there arises from this a conflict and struggle between the flesh and the spirit within the Christian: "for the flesh I lusteth against the spirit, I and the spirit against the flesh. "

The flesh wants to put the spirit to death; the spirit the flesh. The flesh wants to control the spirit, the spirit the flesh. The flesh wants to be proud, boast, be puffed up; the spirit does not want this, but desires to be humble. The flesh wants to be angry; irritable, argumentative, to take vengeance in word or deed; but the spirit does not want this, but wants to forgive in meekness. The flesh wants to commit fornication and adultery; but the spirit turns away from this and desires to be pure. The flesh wants to have what is someone else’s, to pilfer, to steal in every way; but the spirit turns away from this and wants to give away even what it has. The flesh wants to flatter, lie, cheat, swindle and be hypocritical; but the spirit hates this and wants to be truthful and to act straightforwardly. The flesh wants to hate another person, but the spirit wants to love him. The flesh wants to live in idleness, but the spirit turns away from this and wants to exercise itself in blessed labors. The flesh wants to have fun, get drunk, have banquets and dinners; but the spirit turns away from this and wants to live modestly or to fast. The flesh wants to seek out fame, honor, riches in this world; but the spirit despises all this and strives only for the good things of heaven, and so on. In this way the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh.

Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements
h1

The Orthodox Mind

January 29, 2008

The Orthodox Mind

I. Introduction

Imagine for a moment what this conference would be like and what we would be talking about if this were an Evangelical Missions conference rather than Orthodox. Aside from the obvious outward difference — the cleaner cut image, business suits… maybe we would have had a rock band lead us in the latest top 40 worship hits — but beyond that, the topics we would be discussing would be almost entirely different.

We would not be focusing on spiritual formation, and probably not much on worship — though certainly not on historic Christian worship. It’s unlikely that fasting, or spiritual discipline would come up as topics — more likely we would be talking about what we needed to do to accommodate our churches and worship to society, so as to make it more appealing and sellable. If it sounds to you like I’m being unfair, then you probably have not read much in the way of Protestant Church growth material.

Now suppose that an Evangelical were to leave a conference such as this and walk in on this one. Aside from being unfamiliar with the outward differences, such a person would not properly understand most of what has gone on here. It would not be out of stubbornness on his part — it would be because in a sense, we do not speak the same language. His entire frame of reference is alien to the Orthodox worldview. Certainly there are many points of contact between Protestantism and Orthodoxy — we use many of the same terms, we both use the Scriptures, speak of Jesus Christ, and of the Trinity — but these points of contact, in some ways, make it more difficult for a Protestant to understand and accept Orthodoxy — and perhaps to an even greater degree, are a huge stumbling block in the pathway towards developing a truly Orthodox mind.

Read the rest of this entry »

h1

A Prayer Rule by St. Theophan the Recluse

January 28, 2008

A Prayer Rule by St. Theophan the Recluse

A prayer rule for one who is on the path of a God-pleasing
life.

You ask about a prayer rule. Yes, it is good to have a prayer rule on
account of our weakness so that on the one hand we do not give in to
laziness, and on the other hand we restrain our enthusiasm to its
proper measure. The greatest practitioners of prayer kept a prayer
rule. They would always begin with established prayers, and if during
the course of these a prayer started on its own, they would put aside
the others and pray that prayer. If this is what the great
practitioners of prayer did, all the more reason for us to do so.
Without established prayers, we would not know how to pray at all.
Without them, we would be left entirely without prayer.

However, one does not have to do many prayers. It is better to perform
a small number of prayers properly than to hurry through a large number
of prayers, because it is difficult to maintain the heat of prayerful
zeal when they are performed to excess.

Read the rest of this entry »

h1

Prayer of Saint Ephraim

January 27, 2008

The Prayer of Saint Ephraim was the first orthodox prayer in
my daily prayers to gel with me. I found a refreshing view
point that I am a sinner that was lacking the last several years from
my spiritual life. It modern PC Christianinty we hear that God is not
mad at us which of course is true, but we need accountability in our
lives. We are always in need of where to turn next to develop a holier
life. There was no understanding of what to do after the prayer to ask
Jesus into our lives. I keep thinking of the story of the rich young
ruler. What must I do to be saved? When we ask Christ this question, we
also get answers, and like the rich young ruler we have to count the
cost. We are made to grow in the image of God. This prayer helps keep
me centered. Although traditionally it is a lenten prayer, it was
incorporated into the evening prayers of my first Orthodox Prayerbook.
It hits me everytime when I read and pray it. It gives me areas to work
on and virtues to strive for. I hope you enjoy.

Prayer of Saint Ephraim


O Lord and Master of my life,
Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
of discouragement,
of lust for power,
and of vain speaking.

But bestow upon me, Thy servant,
the spirit of chastity,
of meekness,
of patience,
and of love.

Yea, O Lord and King,
grant that I may perceive
my own transgressions,
and judge not my brother,
for blessed art Thou
unto ages of ages.
Amen.


h1

Saint Ephraim The Syrian

January 27, 2008

Saint EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN

EPHRAIM THE SYRIAN

Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone

With the rivers of your tears, you have made the barren desert fertile. Through sighs of sorrow from deep within you, your labors have borne fruit a hundred-fold. By your miracles you have become a light, shining upon the world. O Ephraim, our Holy Father, pray to Christ our God, to save our souls.

Kontakion in the Second Tone

At all times didst thou foresee the hour of reckoning, and pricked in thy heart, thou ever didst lament with tears; and, O righteous Ephraim, thou wast a mighty teacher in works and deeds. Hence, O Father for all the world, thou didst rouse the slothful unto change of heart.

Reading:

Saint Ephraim was born in Nisibis of Mesopotamia some time about the year 306, and in his youth was the disciple of Saint James, Bishop of Nisibis, one of the 318 Fathers at the First Ecumenical Council. Ephraim lived in Nisibis, practicing a severe ascetical life and increasing in holiness, until 363, the year in which Julian the Apostate was slain in his war against the Persians, and his successor Jovian surrendered Nisibis to them. Ephraim then made his dwelling in Edessa, where he found many heresies to do battle with. He waged an especial war against Bardaisan; this gnostic had written many hymns propagating his errors, which by their sweet melodies became popular and enticed souls away from the truth. Saint Ephraim, having received from God a singular gift of eloquence, turned Bardaisan’s own weapon against him, and wrote a multitude of hymns to be chanted by choirs of women, which set forth the true doctrines, refuted heretical error, and praised the contests of the Martyrs.

Of the multitude of sermons, commentaries, and hymns that Saint Ephraim wrote, many were translated into Greek in his own lifetime. Sozomen says that Ephraim “Surpassed the most approved writers of Greece,” observing that the Greek writings, when translated into other tongues, lose most of their original beauty, but Ephraim’s works “are no less admired when read in Greek than when read in Syriac” (Eccl. Hist., Book 111, 16). Saint Ephraim was ordained deacon, some say by Saint Basil the Great, whom Sozomen said “was a great admirer of Ephraim, and was astonished at his erudition.” Saint Ephraim was the first to make the poetic expression of hymnody and song a vehicle of Orthodox theological teachings, constituting it an integral part of the Church’s worship; he may rightly be called the first and greatest hymnographer of the Church, who set the pattern for these who followed him, especially Saint Romanos the Melodist. Because of this he is called the “Harp of the Holy Spirit.” Jerome says that his writings were read in some churches after the reading of the Scriptures, and adds that once he read a Greek translation of one of Ephraim’s works, “and recognized, even in translation, the incisive power of his lofty genius” (De vir. ill., ch. CXV).

Shortly before the end of his life, a famine broke out in Edessa, and Saint Ephraim left his cell to rebuke the rich for not sharing their goods with the poor. The rich answered that they knew no one to whom they could entrust their goods. Ephraim asked them, “What do you think of me?” When they confessed their reverence for him, he offered to distribute their alms, to which they agreed. He himself cared with his own hands for many of the sick from the famine, and so crowned his life with mercy and love for neighbor. Saint Ephraim reposed in peace, according to some in the year 373, according to others, 379.

Reading courtesy of Holy Transfiguration Monastery

Apolytikion courtesy of Narthex Press

Kontakion courtesy of Holy Transfiguration Monastery


h1

DYNAMIS, Trial, Temptation, and Sacrifice, January 28, 2008, Monday

January 27, 2008

Taken fromDynamis Yahoo Group Email List.

Trial, Temptaion, and Sacrifice

St. Mark 10:11-16 (1/30) For Wed of the 36th Week after 
Pentecost (Wed of 31st Week)

Becoming Little Children: St. Mark 10:11-16, especially vs. 15: 
”…whoever does not receive the Kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” In this verse, the Lord declares what is 
required to have life in Him: if we would have Him take us in His arms, 
lay His hands on us, and bless us (vs. 16), we must, before all else, 
convert and “become as little children” (Mt. 18:3). In today’s Gospel, the Lord reveals how one may be transformed within to become an untainted child, handed over to Him and touched by Him (vs. 13). To be a child again within ourselves, it necessary to strip away all that has 
grown up in us to prevent our from coming in innocence to Him (vs. 14). 
For what could be of more worth than to receive His blessing and the 
laying on of His hands (vs. 16)!

St. John Chrysostom points out that “the soul of a little child is pure from all the passions.” Though we show “him the queen with a diadem, he prefers her not to his mother clad in rags…and nothing more than necessary things doth he seek.” Furthermore, “The young child is not grieved at what we are grieved, as at the loss of money and such things 
as that, and he doth not rejoice again at what we rejoice, namely, at 
these temporal things.” The Lord’s injunction to become as little 
children is given so that we “by choice should practice these things, 
which young children have naturally.”1 The secret of being little 
children lies in recovering our natural, God-given virtues.

Notice that this passage clearly states that children did not come to 
the Lord “on their own account.” They were “brought to Him” (vs. 13). To be “brought to Him” one needs “good” parents who can bring us to Christ. Thus, if we are not borne in the arms of our Mother the Church, then we shall pursue the virtues of the world – which are not virtues. Instead, we shall depend on our imperfect, rational minds, and we shall be led astray. To have good Fathers – which we require – St. Nil Sorsky declares that the Holy Fathers who followed the Apostles must be the ”main guide for those who wish to be saved and…attain Christian perfection.”2

The Lord sharply corrected His as-yet-unillumined disciples when they 
prevented children from coming to Him (vs. 13). Following His example, 
let us countermand in ourselves whatever prevents our coming to Him as 
innocents (vs. 14). Acquiring pure, simple, natural virtues requires 
diligent work directed against all that arises from the sinful self, the 
world, and the devils – the attractions that suggest that we should indulge ourselves. As Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos reminds us: “when a person struggles to subject his body to his soul and his soul to God, the virtues of body and soul are produced.”3 Let us begin this work, of restraining and retraining.

Consider: the Lord’s desire that “little children” come to Him (vs. 14)is truly a positive prompting to cultivate those godly virtues that the Church reveals. Metropolitan Hierotheos provides us with some obvious 
starting points: “Self-control and love rid us of impassioned thoughts. 
By controlling anger and desire we quickly do away with evil thoughts. Vigils also contribute a great deal….Let us receive everything with a good thought. Even if everything is ugly, let us receive it with equanimity, and then God will right the anomalies of things.”4

Every newly awakened Christian who addresses the negative and positive 
work spoken of above, discovers the monumental task of coming to Christ 
as a little child. Let us not imagine that we can accomplish purity of 
life and holiness in our own strength. That fatal delusion will eventually plunge us into certain despair. Rather, let us be dependent upon the Church to bring us to Christ, and there learn to receive the touch of the Lord Jesus’ hand, His healing, and His blessing (vs. 16). The Church gives us birth and helps us put on the new man. St. Gregory Palamas says, “the deified saints…are engendered by God, God gave them the power to become children of God.”

Burn Thou the thorns of all my transgressions, cleanse my soul, and 
hallow my thoughts.5

h1

An Owned Devotion

January 27, 2008

This article has appeared in Handmaiden and was taken from the August 2006 newsletter of St. John the Forerunner Orthodox Church.

An Owned Devotion

By Kristen Michealis

In all the time that I’ve been Orthodox, I’ve only really ever been devoted to one saint – my patron, St. John the Wonderworker of San Francisco and Shanghai. All the other saints were just names listed on calendars whose stories I heard piecemeal.

Included in my lump of “other saints” was our most blessed Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary. Oh sure, I understood much of her theological value. I understood the Church’s teachings and pious beliefs concerning her. But, I was not what I would call devoted. I might have thrown a random prayer her way on occasion in addition to the usual prescribed ones, hardly anything special. I just didn’t have a real relationship with her. I’d listen to liturgical music addressing her and think it lovely, but I didn’t own the words if I sang along. Anyhow, all that changed one Saturday afternoon not so long ago.

On that particular weekend my husband Steve and I were at his parent’s house to celebrate some family birthdays. With everyone there for so many days, it was inevitable that things would get tense. By everyone, I mean my husband and his sister. They really can’t be around each other for more than a day before she starts getting easily offended and flustered by virtually everything he says and d oes. S he‘s a sw eet woman, really. But she just d oesn‘t und erstand his hum or, and he doesn‘t understand her boundaries. They simply rub each other wrong.

On that afternoon, we were all lounging in the living room on the extraordinarily spacious leather furniture with the exception of Jill, who was napping. Perched in an inviting chair, I quietly read my book while keeping half an eye on my surroundings. Steve and his sister were kind of poking at each other on the couch in that warm, affectionate way that siblings do, and she saw that one side of my husband ‘s cross has the Theotokos on it.

“Who’s that on your cross?,” she asked.

“It’s Mary, the Mother of God.”

“Mary isn’t the Mother of God.”

I looked up from my reading.

“Oh, come now. Of course she’s the Mother of God,” my husband

began. “Is Jesus God?” he asked.
Read the rest of this entry »