WHY DOES THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL HAVE A MARTIAL APPEARANCE?
As we celebrate the synaxis of the holy Archangel Michael, let us turn our pious attention to the image of the leader of the heavenly host and make use of the instruction which the Church wishes to give to all the faithful through him. On his icon we see Archangel Michael depicted in military dress. What does this mean? Why does a denizen of heaven, where peace and love reign, appear to be fully armed? In heaven, where, according to the Scriptures, nothing unclean can enter, there is undoubtedly no movement of impure passions such as we have on earth, and there is a total absence of the impure desires that cause strife among people, and, therefore, everything in heaven is peaceful and harmonious. But there was once warfare even in that kingdom of peace and love. Who rose up and fought against whom? One of the supreme spirits, who possessed the greatest perfection – Lucifer, rose up with arrogance and pride against his Creator and Master of all; he was followed by many other spirits, who made up a terrible host of disturbers of heavenly order. It was then that from the midst of the angels emerged a fighter for the glory of God – the holy Archangel Michael. Gathering all the angelic ranks and hosts that were loyal to God, he loudly cried out: “Let us stand in good faith before our Creator, and let us not take part in any revolt against God.” Then, standing at the head of the bodiless spirits, he sang the triumphant hymn: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord of Sabaoth!” And soon afterwards all the evil spirits were cast down from heaven.
It is for this reason that the Archangel Michael, as the major combatant for the glory of God, as the vanquisher of the devil and his angels, is considered by the Church to be the leader of all the angels, supreme among all the heavenly hosts and commander of all heavenly ranks. For this reason he is always depicted in military fashion, with a sword or lance in his hand, and having under his feet the dragon, the evil spirit whom he conquered and cast down.
The victory over the evil spirits that took place in heaven was only the beginning of the warfare that went on and to this day continues on earth. God’s enemy, cast down from heaven, arose with renewed fury and power against God’s entire earthly kingdom: out of envy towards the bliss which God had granted to man, he upset the paradisiacal life of our forefathers, and amid sweet paradise he sowed thorns and thistles. It is impossible to even list all the misfortunes, all the sorrows and suffering of mankind which this enemy of God and man brought into the world, to even enumerate all the machinations which this “original man-killer” employs against humans, in order to hinder our communion with God and bar our way to rapture. He was an enemy of man not only prior to the coming of the Son of God into the world to destroy the devil’s deeds, but even now, after the coming of the Saviour to earth, after the devil’s kingdom has been destroyed, he continues to wage war against the Church of God and against each one of us.
He either incites wars and struggles between nations, or sows heresies and schisms or the chaff of iniquity and depravity among the faithful; he spies upon man’s innermost thoughts, notices his weaknesses and inclinations, flatters his passions, leads him into temptation, uses every possible instance to destroy the servants of God and, in order to seduce them more easily, often transforms himself into a bright angel.
No one is free from his wiles. Who is it, then, who combats this ancient enemy here on earth? Undoubtedly the holy Archangel Michael and his heavenly warriors are among the first to do so. So to what does the martial appearance of the leader of the heavenly host, who zealously fights for the glory of God, spur us? To have the same zeal for God, to always be alert, to always be ready to stand firm against the devil’s attacks. It spurs us, while we are being attacked by God’s enemy, to appeal to the Archangel with a prayer for help and intercession, for the leader of the bodiless host in heaven is obviously the best defender of those who are subjected to the devil’s attacks on earth.
In order for us to be in constant contact with the heavenly forces, we must follow the example of their purity and loyalty to the Lord of the hosts. Otherwise, what will we have in common with the heavenly host if we allow our heart to become the domain of vices and passions? What help will we receive from the heavenly warriors if we ourselves, through transgression of God’s commandments, maintain a criminal union with the enemy? For this reason the holy Church, summoning us to this present feast, proclaims: “Come, all ye faithful of Christ, let us venerate the host of the Archangels with pure thoughts and in good conscience.” O holy Archangel of God Michael, together with the host of the bodiless powers, save us from our enemies! Amen.
ENTRY OF THE MOST-HOLY THEOTOKOS INTO THE TEMPLE
The feast of the Entry of the Holy Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, into the temple is a feast of the Church itself. It is also a feast of all of us, because the Holy Virgin, ascending the steps of the temple of Jerusalem, presages not only Her future life, Her ascension into the Holy of Holies, but also presages the affiliation of mankind with Christ’s way of the cross and with His Resurrection. This feast tells us that the Mother of God, Who now enters the Holy of Holies, is even greater than the Holy of Holies. By the grace of God She is more honorable than the cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the seraphim. She is above all creation. And not only by the grace of God, but by the hope of all of mankind, which has rushed towards this light, towards this holy of holies, towards this focal point of life and the source of life itself – the Lord – through the darkness of ages, through all sorrows, through all the sins and horrors of history.
The entry of the Most-holy Mother of God into the Holy of Holies is revealed to us as the path each one of us must take. It has been said: “The virgins that follow Her shall be brought unto the king, Her companions shall be brought unto Thee” (Psalm 45:14). This has been said about every person and primarily about children. For this reason children participate in a special way in today’s feast along with us. This is always very joyful, because if everyone were to participate in what the Lord gives us, our entire being would be transformed. The salvation which the Lord grants us depends on our offering of our children and on our own lives. It also depends primarily on how we lead our children through life, for what we prepare them and to what we actually dedicate them. What Joachim and Anna did was a great labor of love. Having been barren their entire life, they gave up their sole daughter. They gave Her to God, dedicated Her to the Lord, as though they separated Her from themselves, in order that She belong entirely to God alone.
What Joachim and Anna have done, offering to God the fruit of their prayers, far exceeds any spiritual labors that we could set up as an example. But let us ponder the following: often we find ourselves in a situation similar to these people – Joachim and Anna, – when misfortune befalls us, when we are in need, when we are ready to promise the Lord everything, say all kinds of words of love, just so He would help us, would deliver us from such a state. And then sorrow passes, need passes. But when the time comes to fulfill our promise, we begin to vacillate. We begin to delay the fulfillment of our own words: “I will definitely do this, Lord, only I pray Thee, do such-and-such for me, what I ask of Thee…”. And for this reason our life turns out to be barren. It is barren not in terms of childlessness (although that may also be possible), but in a deeper and more significant sense.
Thinking about this, we should pray today to the Lord and the Mother of God that we may be granted the grace of understanding that we have a true life, that we may be aware that the event which the Church celebrates today is the entry of the holy 3-year-old maiden into the Holy of Holies and Her sanctification by the grace of God for Her future encompassing of God the Word. And all of this for the fulfillment of the sacrament of God’s incarnation and for our salvation, which is already coming to pass. For it is not in vain that we sing: “Christ is born – glorify Him, Christ descends from heaven – meet ye Him.”
Remember that our salvation has actually come to pass already, and it is not only a remembrance. Over and over again we are given the Lent and the approach to the Nativity of Christ in order for our life to become truly more profound, truly deepen with the knowledge of the one unique mystery – that God has become man, that He is present in the life and destiny of each one of us. He always hears our every prayer, because there is no longer that curse which used to hang over every person, there is no longer that inescapable and ineffaceable stamp of evil which tainted mankind before Christ’s incarnation. The way to heaven is open to every person. We must only desire and want genuine truth, genuine beauty, and the light which had once shone for us, the light which the Lord sometimes gives back to us, and without which everything becomes extinguished.
What can we bring to the Lord on this feast day? The parents of the Most-holy maiden Mary – Joachim and Anna – brought Him their own child, but what shall we give the Lord? Does the One to Whom belongs the entire earth and before Whom all the stars in heaven shine need the candles and the vigil lights which we offer to God? They are needed only to testify to the meaningfulness of our prayers and our standing before God. There are no other sacrifices which we can offer Him except one, of which He says: “Son, give Me thy heart,” because our heart is the only thing which does not yet fully belong to Him. He has given us His own heart and wishes us to give Him ours. He, Who loves us and gives all of Himself for us, is waiting for our love in return.
Let us pray to God that we may learn this love. Every person understands what reciprocal love is, and how terrible is unrequited love. It is precisely love which each person needs, every human soul needs. And the Lord Himself needs us to love Him with all our heart, all our thoughts, all our strength, our entire life. And to love God means to keep His commandments, as He Himself has said. Only when we keep His commandments can we learn what this all means and of what kind of love Christ is speaking. Only then can we learn this love and be worthy of the Lord, be able to stand up for Christ’s honor in this world where childhood, purity, and sanctity are being defiled. And this we can accomplish only when we go to church and receive God’s grace there, which is always given as long as we are turned towards the Lord.
Let us entreat the Lord for this incorruptible wealth, which He bountifully grants to all of us by the prayers and intercession of the Holy Theotokos. Let us also entreat Him for the ability to respond to His immeasurable gifts with our love, our entire life, the offering of our children to Him. And most precious of all – the unity which we achieve through Him. Amen.
A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR THE CHRIST-CHILD
One of the church hymns that is sung for the feast of the Nativity of Christ contains the following moving words: “What will we give Thee, O Christ, for having appeared on earth as a man for our sake? Each of Thy creations gives Thee thanks: the angels offer their singing; the heavens give the star; the Magi bring gifts; the shepherds bear witness to the miracle; the earth provides the cave; the desert extends the manger. And we – we give Thee the Virgin Mother.”
In that very year, over 2,000 years ago, when the Lord Jesus Christ was actually born on earth, mankind gave Him the very best and most precious gift it had – the Pure Virgin Mary, the only One Who could become the Mother of God and Who could help Him achieve His incarnation. Since that time, however, within the Church the Lord continues to be born for us every year, and every year He comes down to earth for our salvation. And thus every year, in gratitude, we must offer Him some gift.
What kind of gift, dear brethren, are we able to give each year to the newborn Babe, our Saviour? The Lord Himself provides the answer in the words of the prophet, by saying: “Son, give me thy heart.” And King David entreats the Lord in one of his psalms: “Create in me a pure heart, O God.”
So how are we to obtain this gift for the Lord – a pure heart? A pure heart is acquired by ascending a small kind of ladder. The first step of this ladder is regular church attendance. In church we cleanse our hearts of the wicked influence of the outside world and fill them with the goodness of the word of God.
The second step is the observance of the Nativity Lent. But this observance should not be solely in terms of food. The main thing is to keep spiritual lent in terms of the heart, i.e. restrain ourselves from anger, resentment, quarrels, irritation, and other passions – from everything that darkens our souls. Through spiritual lent we proceed even further to purify and enlighten our hearts.
The third step is the sacrament of penitence. As we come to confession and repent of our sins before God, we discard this heavy and unnecessary burden, and immediately lighten our hearts.
And then the last and highest step towards acquiring a pure heart is to partake of the Holy Mysteries. In the sacrament of communion we draw into ourselves the Lord God Himself, the Sacred Fire that consumes all of our inner uncleanliness and gives that purity of heart, toward which we are striving. Therefore, it is extremely important in this period of the Nativity Lent to come to church and take communion.
In society we have the custom, whenever we go to someone’s birthday party, especially a child’s, to bring nice and valuable gifts. Right now, dear brethren, we are getting ready to participate in the birthday party of the Heavenly Child, the Lord God Himself, the One Who created us to enjoy heavenly bliss, and because of Whom we are able to celebrate our own birthdays. Let us prepare for Him and bring to Him, in the sacred night of His Nativity, the best and most precious gift that we can give – our pure hearts. Amen.
SUNDAY OF THE HOLY FOREFATHERS
So, dear brethren, we are now approaching the great feast of Christ’s Nativity, and our Church, preparing us for a worthy reception of this great feast, reminds us today of our Lord’s progenitors, the holy forefathers, the Old Testament righteous ones who lived in pre-Christian times.
Their knowledge of God was only perhaps one-hundredth of what we know, they strived for salvation through faith in Messiah the Saviour Who was yet due to come, and besides the prophecies in the Old Testament Scriptures which, moreover, were sometimes quite difficult to comprehend, they essentially did not know anything. To us, on the other hand, has been revealed the entire truth of divine knowledge of God, for the Son of God came down from heaven to earth and granted us the light of truth and knowledge of God worshipped in the Trinity.
Today the Church reminds us of these Old Testament righteous ones. First place among them belongs to the original forefather, the father of all of us – the first-created man Adam, to whom sinners often refer in justifying their sins. They often say: we are descendants of the sinful Adam, and so it is not surprising that we sin, for our forefather was a sinner! Those who speak thus instead of repenting, hide behind Adam’s sinful fall from God’s judgment, which will overtake them for their own sins. Yes, Adam did sin, but he repented his entire life, and since the Heavenly Realm is filled with repentant sinners (for there is not a single person without sin), the first among these righteous ones is the forefather Adam. When a person talks of sinning because he is a descendant of Adam, let him ask his conscience: can this justify his own sins? At each single moment of our sinful action we are fully aware that were we to wish it, we could stop sinning. That is the foundation of all repentance. If man did not have free will, but sinned involuntarily, of necessity, – the Lord would not have called him to judgment. But as we sin, we are fully aware of what we are doing, and when we repent and confess our sins, we mentally review the committed sin and fully recognize the fact that we could have avoided it, but did not, and for this reason we condemn ourselves and ask the Lord for mercy and forgiveness. Although the infection of sin and the tendency towards sin has been inherited by us from Adam, yet with the help of divine grace each one of us can refrain from sinning at any single moment. Look at the holy fathers, the great righteous ones – as we know, they, too, were sinful people just like us; however, with the help of divine grace they vanquished sin and became holy, they became “earthly angels and celestial humans.” The Church commemorates not only Adam, but also his wife Eve, who, although being the sinner who had tempted Adam, was still the mother of all of mankind, while the temptation which she brought into the world, according to the Church, was rectified by the Most-blessed Virgin Mary! If sinning came from Eve, then from the Blessed Virgin issued life and eternal bliss, eternal joy.
We also know other holy ones: Noah, who remained God-fearing among widespread depravity and was saved from the universal flood; the righteous Enoch, who lived in Old Testament times and did not possess New Testament grace, yet so pleased God that the Lord took him up alive from this sinful earth into heaven. We commemorate Abraham, the father of all believers. What a moving and heart-wrenching event is described to us by the Holy Bible, in which we can see the mighty faith of the great forefather. Abraham agonized over the fact that he had no successor. Finally, by God’s promise, a son was born to him in extreme old age – Isaac, the child of his parental love and parental hopes. And suddenly the Lord said to him: “Take your only-begotten son Isaac, whom you love, and sacrifice him to Me on the mountain which I will indicate to you.” I repeat – all of Abraham’s parental hopes and all his love were centered on Isaac, and yet he does not hesitate even a second: as the Lord said, so it should be! Without any hesitation or even a shadow of doubt in God’s benevolence, knowing that the Lord does not do anything bad, but that everything He does is good and wonderful, the father of all believers takes Isaac and all that is necessary for the sacrifice and goes into the mountains. As they traveled among the mountains and approached Mount Moriah, the Lord said to him: “This is the mountain.” Abraham left his fellow travelers – his servants – who had carried all the necessary items, placed the wood for the sacrifice upon Isaac, and the two of them began to ascend the mountain. But do not forget that Abraham was a living person. This was a terrible labor of love for him. It was as though he had nailed his son alive to the cross of obedience to God, for he was so ready to do God’s will that in his mind and heart Isaac was already dead. And at this point, when the fatherly love is in such anguish, Isaac asks a question: “Father!” – “What, child?” – says Abraham. – “We have everything, we have wood and fire (which they carried along with them, because matches did not exist at that time, and fire was obtained with difficulty), but where is the lamb that must be sacrificed?” And although this question was like a knife turning in the father’s heart, Abraham replies to his son with unshakeable strength: “God will find Himself a lamb for sacrifice, my son.” They ascend the mountain and build an altar. Abraham ties up his son and places him upon the wood. Isaac is young and full of vigor, he could have pushed his father aside and run away, yet he does no such thing, but obediently submits. And the only reason the father ties him up is because, seeing the knife raised above him, he could purely instinctively flinch from it. Abraham placed his son on the altar… raised the terrible knife… but a second before he brought it down upon his son’s body, he heard the voice of an angel: “Abraham, Abraham, do not raise your hand upon the youth, for the Lord says: ‘I have seen your obedience and your faith,’ and the Lord continues: ‘I swear by My own self (for there is nothing higher in the world than God) that in blessing I will bless you and in multiplying I will multiply you’.” And for Abraham at this point, as the holy fathers say, it was as though Isaac truly did arise from the dead, because in his heart he had already sacrificed him. And thus this sacrifice presaged that supreme sacrifice in which God the Father sacrificed His Only-begotten and Beloved Son on the altar of the cross for the sins of the entire world; but that sacrifice of atonement was not stopped, and the Son of God, in His incarnation as Man, was crucified on the cross and died for us sinners. It was this power of faith and faithfulness to God’s will, described to us by the Holy Bible, which made Abraham the person of whom Apostle Paul spoke, saying that Abraham is the father of all of us who are believers…
We also know other examples of such sacrifice. Here is one of them: once the great Saint John of Kronstadt, while still a young priest, became ill. It was during the Great Lent. The doctors demanded that the patient eat meat, otherwise he would weaken and die. St. John did not agree; finally he said, probably foreseeing the result: “My mother brought me up in obedience to the Church and in keeping the fasts. She is still alive – I will ask her. If she, as a mother, gives me permission to do what you want, then I will do it.” A letter was written to the mother, asking her permission. The following answer came back: “My beloved son, I give you my maternal blessing, and I ask you for your priestly blessing, but under no circumstance do I give you permission to eat non-lenten food during the fast. The doctors say you will die – well then, die. You will have to die sometime, anyway, but do not transgress your obedience to the Church.” Did not this mother also sacrifice her beloved son for the sake of obedience to the Church?
Among other Old Testament righteous ones the Church also commemorates the great prophet Daniel, the prophet and God-seer Moses, and the three holy youths who bravely stepped into the burning furnace, were miraculously delivered from death, and were thus forever glorified, because at every matins, in the eighth and ninth odes of the canon, the Church remembers these three youths and their great miracle. How great were all these people! We are like small children before them. But I repeat again: let us not forget that they knew of God, His truth, and of spiritual life much less than we do. This condemns our idleness; condemns it because much has been given us, yet we strive to learn a lot of trivial things and have little interest in what is most important. For this reason we are ignorant of many of the things which every faithful son or daughter of the Church can and must know.
Thus, dear brethren, as we prepare for the coming of the great feast, let us make sure not to be ignorant of our faith, of the teaching of the holy Church, and let us try to acquaint ourselves with everything the Church teaches us, so that we would know how to defend our faith and how to explain it to anyone who should ask about it. And when we place Christ’s sacred teaching and obedience to His holy will as the cornerstone of everything, then we will be able to meet Him properly, to worship Him, and bring pleasing gifts: faith, hope, and Christian charity! Amen.
On combatting the evil spirits
In the Gospel narrative on the man from the land of the Gadarenes, who was possessed by evil spirits and was healed by the Lord Jesus Christ, we hear of how the demons took possession of the unfortunate man and of how they tormented him. We see the divine power of Jesus Christ over an entire legion of demons, i.e. over many thousands of them. We see the unexpected destruction of a multitude of animals, into which the demons entered with the Lord’s permission. This story from the Gospel confirms beyond doubt that evil spirits do exist, and that they are able to cause great harm and even death to both humans and animals.
The existence of evil spirits, their burning hatred for people, and their constant struggle with them are described countless times in the Holy Scriptures. From the very beginning of man’s existence, the devil urged Adam and Eve towards disobedience, so that they became transgressors of the Lord’s commandment and were consequently exiled from the bliss of paradise and condemned to misfortune and torment. For that reason the devil is known as the original man-killer.
The book of Job describes how the devil, with God’s tolerance, took away from Job all his possessions, destroyed his children, and afflicted Job himself with horrible leprosy. Apostle John the Theologian openly teaches us that whoever commits sin comes from the devil, because the devil was the first to sin. It is for this reason that the Son of God appeared, in order to destroy the work of the devil. And Apostle Peter writes: be wary and alert, because your enemy the devil walks as a roaring lion, seeking to devour ye. The devil tried to tempt even the Lord Himself, offering Him power over all the kingdoms of the world.
The Christian Church teaches us that there is a kingdom of the devil, that there are fallen angels, who are fierce not only in themselves, but are full of burning hatred towards God and men, and who put all their efforts towards harming man’s soul and body, and yet a true Christian can and must oppose them.
How should we struggle with such a ferocious enemy? The Lord Himself said: “Demons are expelled only by means of prayer and fasting.” The evil spirits themselves confessed to some of the saints that nothing vanquishes them as quickly as humility and that they are unable to look upon the sign of the cross, but flee from it, because it burns them like fire and chases them far away.
The Church Fathers advised combating the evil spirits with the name of Jesus – there is no stronger shield and no mightier weapon than the Jesus prayer: “O Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner,” since the demons dare not approach anyone who is conversing with God.
Some saints also advised thinking constantly about something good, so that the devil would always find us engaged and would be unable to approach us by way of our thoughts. The reading of the Holy Scriptures and religious literature is also a great defense against the devil’s attempts to incite us towards sin.
Dear brethren! Never forget that for us, Orthodox Christians, the evil spirits are the most real and the most malicious enemy in the whole world. The Lord Himself said: “Fear not those who kill the body, but fear those who can destroy both body and soul in fiery hell.” And it is precisely the demons who are trying to destroy our souls, in order to prevent us from enjoying the heavenly rapture of which they themselves have been deprived for eternity.
But let us not despair. If we follow the advice of the Holy Fathers – those experienced soldiers of Christ – then we, too, will come out victorious in the difficult struggle with the enemies of our salvation, and we, too, will be able to unite with our Lord Jesus Christ in eternal bliss. Amen.
ORTHODOX VENERATION OF THE MOTHER OF GOD
VI. “Zeal not according to knowledge”
The Roman Catholics’ distortion of the true veneration of the Most-holy Theotokos Virgin Mary by means of the newly-invented dogma of the “immaculate conception.”
The teaching on the complete sinlessness (immaculate conception) of the Mother of God:
(1) Does not accord with the Holy Scriptures, which make innumerable mention of the sinlessness of “the One Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5), but refer to all other people with the words: “Who is free of impurity? Not one, even if he has lived only a single day on earth” (Job 14:4).
(2) This teaching also contradicts the Holy Tradition that is maintained in the numerous patristic writings, which speak of the Virgin Mary’s supreme holiness from the moment of Her birth, and of Her purification by the Holy Spirit at Her conception of Christ, but not at Her own conception by Anna.
(3) The teaching that the Mother of God was purified prior to birth, in order that the pure Christ could be born from Her, is entirely senseless, since if the pure Christ could be born only if the Virgin were purified while still in Her parents’ womb, then in order for the Virgin to be born pure, Her parents would have had to be pure of original sin, and they, in turn, would have had to be born of purified parents, etc., and proceeding thus further, we would have to conclude that Christ could not have become incarnate, if all His ancestors in the flesh, way back to Adam inclusively, were not preliminarily cleansed of original sin; but then there would have been no need for Christ’s incarnation, since Christ came down to earth in order to destroy sin.
(4) The teaching that the Mother of God was preserved from original sin, and that She was preserved from personal sins by the grace of God, presents God as unmerciful and unjust, for if God could preserve Mary from sin and purify Her even before birth, why does He not purify other people before birth, but allows them to remain in sin? It also appears that God saves people against their will, predetermining some to salvation even before they are born.
(5) This teaching, apparently aimed at elevating the Mother of God, in reality completely rejects all Her virtues. For if Mary, while still in Her mother’s womb, when She could not yet choose between good and evil, was by the grace of God preserved from impurity and was then by the same grace preserved from sin after birth, wherein lies Her merit? If She was placed in a position of being unable to sin and thus did not sin, for what was She so glorified by God? If She remained pure without any effort or without any motivation to sin, for what, then, was She crowned above all others? There is no victory without an enemy.
The righteousness and holiness of the Virgin Mary were precisely manifest in the fact that She, being “a human being just like us,” so loved God and gave Herself to Him, that by Her purity She far surpassed the rest of mankind. For this She became worthy to have the Holy Spirit descend upon Her and purify Her, so that She conceived from Him the Saviour of the world Himself. The teaching on the grace-filled sinlessness of the Virgin Mary negates Her victory over temptations, and from a vanquisher worthy of being crowned with glory turns Her into a blind tool of God’s Providence.
It is not elevation and greater glory, but rather diminishment that is offered to Her in the “gift” presented by Pope Pius IX and all the others who thought to glorify the Mother of God with the revelation of new truths. The holy Virgin Mary has been so glorified by God Himself and is so regal in Her life on earth and Her glory in heaven, that human fantasies cannot add anything to Her honor and glory. Whatever people themselves made up serves only to tarnish Her image in their eyes. “Brothers, beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ,” – wrote Apostle Paul, guided by the Holy Spirit (Coloss. 2:8),
The teaching on the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary by Anna is precisely such a “vain deceit,” which at first glance elevates Her, but in reality diminishes Her. As all deceit it is a seed of the “father of deceit” – the devil, who was able to tempt many with it through their inability to understand their blasphemy against the Virgin Mary. Together with this teaching must be rejected all the others that issue from it or are similar to it. The attempt to elevate the Holy Virgin to the rank of Christ, considering Her maternal torments at the Cross to be equal to the sufferings of Christ, as taught by the Papists, or saying that “the human essence of the Mother of God, together with the God-man Jesus, represents the fullness of the human image,” as taught by the Sophianists, is equally a vain deceit and a spoiling through philosophy. In Jesus Christ “there is neither male, nor female” (Gal 3:28), and Christ redeemed the whole of mankind, for which reason both “Adam exulted and Eve rejoiced” in His resurrection, while through His ascension the Lord elevated the entire human nature.
Furthermore, the belief that the Mother of God is “an addition to the Holy Trinity,” or the “fourth hypostasis,” or that the Virgin Mary is a “creation, but already more than creation,” – all of this is the fruit of false reasoning, which is not content with the teachings kept by the Church from the time of the Apostles, and attempts to glorify the Holy Virgin more than She was glorified by God.
The words of St. Epiphanius of Cyprus are coming to pass: “Some who engage in mad ravings about the Holy Virgin Herself have attempted and are attempting to place Her in God’s stead.” But that which is offered to the Virgin in the raving of the mind, instead of lauding Her turns out to be a blasphemy, while the Most-pure One rejects falsehood, being the Mother of Truth.
VII. Orthodox veneration of the Theotokos
The Orthodox teaching on the Mother of God contains only that which Holy Tradition and the Holy Writ have revealed about Her, and glorifies Her daily in its churches, asking Her for help and protection. Tradition says that Mary was the daughter of the elderly Joachim and Anna; moreover, Joachim came from the royal ancestry of King David, while Anna was of priestly ancestry. Despite such noble provenance, they were very poor. However, it was not this that saddened these righteous people, but the fact that they had no children and thus could not expect any descendants of theirs to see the Messiah. Once when the two of them, being shunned by the Jews for their barrenness, were praying to God with sorrowing souls, Joachim on a mountain, where he took refuge in solitude after one of the priests refused to offer his sacrifice in the temple, and Anna in her own garden, weeping over her childlessness, – an Angel appeared to both of them and announced that they would give birth to a daughter. With great joy they promised to dedicate their child to God.
Nine months later a daughter was born to them, who was called Mary and who from early childhood exhibited the highest spiritual qualities. When She reached the age of three, the parents, in fulfillment of their promise, led little Mary with great ceremony to the temple of Jerusalem, where She ascended the high steps by Herself, while by divine revelation the High Priest who welcomed Her took Her into the very Holy of Holies, where She filled with the grace of God that was upon Her the formerly graceless temple. (This was a newly-built temple, upon which the glory of God had not yet descended, as it had done on the tabernacle or the temple of Solomon.) She settled in one of the maidens’ rooms that were available at the temple, but spent so much time praying in the Holy of Holies that one could say She practically lived there. Adorned with all manner of virtue, She presented an example of an extraordinarily pure life. Submissive and obedient to all, She never insulted anyone, never said a harsh word to anyone, was polite to everyone, and never entertained even a single unclean thought.
Despite the righteousness and chastity of the life the Theotokos led, sin and external death were still a part of Her. They could not simply disappear: such was the true and exact teaching of the Orthodox Church on the Mother of God in terms of Her relation to original sin and death. She was not a stranger to the temptation of sin. Only God alone is without sin, while man will always have something in him requiring additional rectification and improvement, in order to fulfill God’s commandment: “Be ye holy as I, your Lord God, am holy” (Levit. 19:2). The purer and more perfect one becomes, the more one notices one’s imperfections and believes oneself to be unworthy.
The Virgin Mary, having given Herself completely over to God, although guarding Herself from all motivation to sin, was more aware than anyone else of the frailty of human nature and ardently wished for the Saviour’s coming. In Her humility She believed Herself unworthy of being even a servant of the maiden who was due to give birth to Him. So that nothing would deflect Her from prayer and inner concentration, Mary offered a vow of celibacy to God, in order to spend Her entire life in pleasing Him alone. When Her age did not allow Her to remain any longer at the temple, She was betrothed to Joseph and went to live in his home in Nazareth. Here the Virgin was honored with the appearance of Archangel Gabriel, who announced to Her the glad tidings that She would give birth to the Highest. “Hail, Thou that art highly favoured! The Lord is with Thee; blessed art Thou among women… The Holy Spirit shall come upon Thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow Thee; therefore also the holy One that shall be born of Thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:28-35).
Mary accepted the angel’s tidings with humility and obedience. “At that moment the Word, in a manner known only to Himself, descended and entered Mary, and dwelt within Her… As lightning illuminates all that is hidden, so Christ purified the hidden corners of nature. He purified the Virgin and was then born from Her, to show that wherever Christ resides, purity is manifested there in all its strength. He purified the Virgin, made Her ready through the Holy Spirit, and afterwards the womb, becoming pure, conceived Him. He purified the Virgin while She was still chaste, and for this reason He left Her a Virgin even after His birth. I do not say that Mary became immortal, but that being illuminated by grace, She was not disturbed by sinful desires… The Light dwelled within Her, purified Her mind, made Her thoughts chaste, sanctified Her virginity” (Saint Ephraim the Syrian).
Mary did not tell anyone about the appearance of the Angel, but the Angel himself told Joseph of Mary’s miraculous conception from the Holy Spirit, and upon Christ’s Nativity, together with a great multitude of the heavenly host, he announced the glad tidings to the shepherds. The shepherds, coming to venerate the Newborn, told of everything they had heard about Him. Mary silently listened and preserved in Her heart all the words about Her Son’s majesty. Forty days later She heard Simeon’s laudatory prayer and his prediction of the sword which would pierce Her soul. Afterwards She saw how Jesus grew in wisdom, heard Him teaching in the temple at the age of 12, and preserved everything in Her heart.
Although She was filled with grace, She did not yet fully comprehend the exact nature of Her Son’s service and grandeur. She still clung to the Jewish understanding of the Messiah, while natural feelings fueled Her concern for Him and Her effort to protect Him from seemingly overwhelming hardships and dangers. As no other person on earth, She experienced feelings similar to Christ’s, uncomplainingly suffering maternal anguish when She saw Her son being persecuted and martyred. Rejoicing on the day of the Resurrection, on the day of the Pentecost She became adorned with strength from above. The Holy Spirit that descended upon Her taught Her everything and instructed Her in all manner of truth. Enlightened, She strived even more earnestly to fulfill all that She had heard from Her Son and Redeemer, in order to ascend to Him and be together with Him.
The end of the Holy Theotokos’ life on earth was the beginning of Her grandeur. Adorned with divine glory, She stands, and will continue to stand on the Day of Judgment and in eternal life, on the right hand of Her Son’s throne; She reigns with Him and has access to Him, as His Mother in the flesh and His equal in spirit, having fulfilled God’s will Herself and having taught others to do so. All-loving and merciful, She shows love for Her Son and God by loving mankind, interceding for it before the Merciful One, and traversing the earth in order to help people.
Having experienced all the difficulties of life on earth, the Intercessor for Christians sees each tear, hears each moan and prayer addressed to Her. She is especially close to those who work at combatting their passions, and who strive towards a God-pleasing life. But She is also an indispensable helper in all daily cares and concerns.
“The joy of all who sorrow, the intercessor of all who hurt, the feeder of all who hunger, the comfort of all wanderers, the haven of all strugglers, the visitation of all who are sick, the protection of all who are frail, the staff of old age, – Thou art the Mother of God on high, O Most-pure One” (stichera to the Mother of God). “The hope and intercession and haven of Christians,” “the Theotokos Who is sleepless in Her intercessions,” “saving the world with Her continuous prayers,” “She prays for us day and night, and the scepters of kingdoms are strengthened by Her prayers” (from various prayers to the Mother of God).
There are no words adequate enough to express the majesty of the One Who was born among sinful humanity, yet became more honorable than the Cherubim and more glorious than the Seraphim.
LIVES OF THE SAINTS
On December 17th (the 4th by the old calendar) the Church commemorates the Great-martyr Saint Barbara.
Saint Barbara was born in the 3rd century A.D. in the city of Heliopolis in Phoenicia, which was then under the rule of the Roman Emperor Maximian – a vicious persecutor of Christians. St. Barbara’s father was a wealthy and powerful pagan named Dioscorus. Her mother died early, and after his wife’s death Dioscorus began to guard his only daughter, who was a rare beauty. He said: “People are unworthy to look upon my daughter’s face,” and so, in order to separate her from the surrounding world, he built a high tower and settled her there, attended by a multitude of servants and slaves.
St. Barbara had a tender and fragrant soul. Even before she knew God, she sought Him avidly. At night, when she could not sleep, she opened the high windows of her tower and gazed at the stars and the moon. Often she would query them: “O stars, O moon, who created you?” But they were silent. “O sun, O beautiful sun, who created you?” – she would ask, but the sun only shone radiantly in response. The birds sang in a multitude of voices, glorifying their Creator, and St. Barbara marveled at the orchards, the mountains, the quiet streams… Above all she loved God’s wondrous sky. “Whose hand created the beauty of the earth – the fields, the mountain peaks, the blue seas, the tranquil lakes?” – she asked her servants. The servants answered: “Everything that you see has been created by our gods.” The saint laughed and said: “Our gold and silver gods have been created by our craftsmen. These gods cannot walk on their feet and move their arms.”
Once, gazing at the sky on a starry night, St. Barbara asked again: “Who are You, Who have created the mysterious sky?” All of a sudden, miraculously, the grace of God descended upon her, illuminating her heart and mind, and immediately she understood that it was the One and only God Who had created everything.
At that time St. Barbara was a young girl of about 13 years of age. Many rich and noble youths began to seek her hand in marriage. Then Dioscorus came to his daughter and told her that it was time for her to get married. But the maiden trembled with fear and refused. Dioscorus decided that it was her seclusion which had such an ill effect on his daughter, and allowed her to go out of her tower and talk with people.
Soon afterwards Dioscorus went away on a long business trip. Before his departure he ordered his builders to build a new bathhouse in his garden, decorate it, and cut out two windows on the south side. Meanwhile, St. Barbara began to go out of her tower and meet with Christian maidens, who told her about our Lord Jesus Christ and acquainted her with the Christian faith. St. Barbara came to love the Son of God with all her heart and became secretly baptized, vowing never to marry.
Once, as she entered the new bathhouse that was being built in the garden and saw its two windows, St. Barbara ordered the builders to cut out a third window in honor of the Holy Trinity, and afterwards, on the east side of the building, she drew the sign of a cross. When Dioscorus returned and saw the three windows and the cross on the bathhouse, he realized that his daughter had become a Christian and was filled with great wrath. Angrily he whipped out his sword and wanted to strike her, but she fled from him, trying to hide in some nearby mountains. As St. Barbara ran, a high cliff suddenly loomed in her path; there was nowhere else to go. The saint then prayed to God and the mountain opened up, and St. Barbara disappeared into a rocky cave. Dioscorus could not understand where his daughter had vanished, and asked two shepherds standing nearby. One of the shepherds was kind and wanted to conceal the maiden, but the other one silently pointed Dioscorus to the cave. The Lord punished the unkind shepherd: he was immediately turned into a stone pillar. Dioscorus burst into the cave and mercilessly beat his daughter, then dragged her home by her hair over a sharp rocky path. At home he locked her up in a small dark room and proceeded to starve her. Later he handed her over to the ruler of the land, the evil Martianus, to torture her if she did not agree to worship the idols.
At first Martianus quietly attempted to talk St. Barbara into kneeling before the idols, but the saint said: “I worship the One God Who created heaven and earth, while your gods did not create anything. Your gods are themselves created by people out of gold and silver.” Then Martianus ordered St. Barbara to be cruelly tortured. Throughout her long and painful torture the young maiden did not utter a single sound, but joyfully bore her martyrdom for Christ. Afterwards, barely alive, she was thrown into prison, where she prayed: “O Lord, my God, do not leave me!” At midnight a bright light illuminated the prison and the voice of God was heard, saying: “Fear not, I am with you!” The Lord then healed Saint Barbara of all her wounds and became invisible.
The following morning St. Barbara was once again brought before Martianus, and everyone saw her completely healed, with her face shining radiantly like the sun. “It is our gods who have healed you, offer them thanks,” – said the ruler. “I have been healed by my Lord Jesus Christ,” – replied the saint. Martianus became enraged and once more ordered the saint to be cruelly tortured. The surrounding crowd of people looked upon all of this with indifference and did not say a word in her defense.
However, amid the crowd there was a certain pious woman named Juliana, who saw St. Barbara being tortured, and cried bitterly. Then she fearlessly came up to the ruler and began accusing him of madness and cruelty. The angry Martianus asked her about her faith. “I am a Christian,” – courageously answered St. Juliana. Then Martinius ordered her to be tortured together with St. Barbara. The merciful Lord gave strength to both the holy women in their martyrdom. Seeing their courage and patience, Martianus became even more enraged and ordered St. Juliana to be thrown into prison, and St. Barbara to be led naked through the city. But the Lord did not allow His holy bride to be desecrated and sent a bright Angel to cover up the holy maiden’s nakedness.
Finally the vicious ruler saw that no manner of torture would persuade the holy martyrs to give up their faith in Christ, and he ordered them to be beheaded. One of the soldiers took out his sword and beheaded St. Juliana, while St. Barbara was taken to the place of execution by her own father. As she was being led away, St. Barbara prayed to God, saying: “O God Eternal, after my death grant Thy bounty to everyone who will remember me and my suffering! May sudden illness and violent death never befall them!”
Then the voice of God sounded from heaven, promising to grant St. Barbara her request. And even unto this day St. Barbara is a fervent intercessor before God on behalf of all who pray to her, guarding them from sudden illnesses and unexpected death.
After that the accursed father beheaded his own daughter. This occurred in circa A.D. 306. Soon afterwards Martianus and Dioscorus were struck down by lightning, receiving just punishment from the Righteous Judge. The bodies of the holy martyrs were buried by a pious Christian, and became the source of numerous miracles and healings.
On December 26th the Church commemorates the feast of the icon of the Mother of God “The Three Joys.”
In early 19th century a certain pious painter brought with him from Italy a copy of the painting of “The Holy Family” and left it in Moscow with his relative, the priest of the Trinity Church on Pokrovka, while he himself soon went back abroad, where he died. The priest, receiving the news of his relative’s death, donated this icon to his church and placed it over the entrance. Forty years passed. A certain noblewoman suffered heavy losses one after another within a brief period of time: her husband was slandered for something and sent into exile, her estates were impounded by the Treasury, and her only son was captured by the enemy during the war. The unfortunate woman sought comfort in prayer and entreated the Heavenly Queen to intercede for her and beseech God’s mercy for the innocent sufferers. One time she heard a voice in her dreams, commanding her to find an icon of the Holy Family and pray before it. For a long time the sorrowing woman sought this icon among the churches of Moscow, until she finally found it at the entrance into the Trinity Church on Pokrovka. After earnestly praying before this icon, she soon received three pieces of joyful news: her husband was vindicated and returned from exile, her son was liberated from captivity, and her estates were returned to her by the Treasury. For this reason the icon was named “The Three Joys.”
Even in our times the icon does not cease to perform miracles. It is an intercessor for all who are slandered, separated from their relatives, who have lost their rightful property; it is a helper in family needs, and a protector of family well-being.
SCIENCE AND RELIGION
The power of the sign of the cross
“We have confirmed that the ancient custom of making the sign of the cross over food and drink before a meal has profound mystic meaning, – says physicist Angelina Malakhovskaya. – A practical benefit is hidden behind it: food becomes purified literally in a single moment. This is a great miracle which happens literally every single day.” Angelina Malakhovskaya has been conducting research into the power of the sign of the cross for almost 10 years.
A major series of experiments was conducted, and these were checked out numerous times before the results were published. They are phenomenal: unique bactericidal properties were discovered, which appear in water after it is sanctified by prayer and the sign of the cross. A new and hitherto unknown property of the Word of God to transform the structure of water, significantly increasing its optical density in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum, has been discovered.
For Angelina Malakhovskaya and her colleagues in St. Petersburg the very possibility of this research was a miracle – it was not financed, was not a subject pursued by any scientific research institute. But the scientists performed an enormous amount of work gratis – for the sole purpose of giving people the possibility to experience and see the healing power of God.
The scientists tested the effect of the Lord’s Prayer and the sign of the cross on pathogenic bacteria. For this research samples of water were taken from diverse water reservoirs – wells, rivers, lakes. All of the samples contained E. coli bacteria and staphylococcus aureus. But it turned out that when the Lord’s Prayer was read over the samples and the sign of the cross was made over them, the number of harmful bacteria decreased sevenfold, tenfold, a hundredfold, and even over a thousandfold!
Under the conditions of the experiment, in order to exclude the influence of possible mental suggestion, the prayer was read by both believers and non-believers; however, the number of pathogenic bacteria in various mediums (with diverse arrays of bacteria) still decreased in comparison to the control sample.
The power of prayer and the sign of the cross are beneficial for man as well – in all tested individuals their blood pressure stabilized and blood indicators improved. It is an extraordinary fact that the indicators change in the exact direction needed for healing: for hypotension sufferers the pressure increases, for hypertension sufferers it decreases.
It was noticed that if a person made the sign of the cross carelessly, not folding three fingers together firmly or not touching the requisite points (middle of the forehead, center of the solar plexus, right and left shoulders), then the positive result of the effect was much less or was altogether absent.
The scientists measured the optical density of water before and after the sign of the cross was made over it and it was blessed. “It turns out that the optical density increases in comparison to its initial value before the blessing, – explains Angelina Malakhovskaya. – This means that the water appears to “distinguish” the meaning of the prayers being said over it, remembers this effect, and retains it any amount of time – in the form of an increase in the value of optical density. It appears to become saturated with light. The human eye is naturally unable to perceive these healing changes in the structure of water, but the spectrograph provides an objective assessment of this manifestation.”
The sign of the cross changes the optical density of water practically instantaneously. The optical density of tap water, blessed by the making of the sign of the cross over it by a plain believer, increases almost 1.5-fold! And when blessed by a priest – almost 2.5-fold! In other words, it appears that water “distinguishes” the degree of blessing – whether by a layman or by a priest, whose fingers of the right hand are folded for the blessing in such a way that they represent the first letters of Christ’s name.
The result of water being blessed by a baptized but unbelieving person, who does not wear a body cross, is interesting. It turned out that water “distinguishes” even the degree of faith – the optical density changed by only 10%! It has been truly said that “according to your faith let it be to you” (Matt. 9:29).
Since the human body consists of over two-thirds water, this means that when we were created God placed within us a system of physical channels, regulating all biochemical processes in the body, which distinctly “recognize” the name of Jesus Christ!
It may be said that the sign of the cross is a generator of light. Under no other folding of the fingers of the hand (with the palm, or with carelessly folded fingers, or a quick and irreverent waving of the hand) were any changes (increase) in the optical density of tap water discovered.
NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE FORMATION OF THE RELIGION OF THE FUTURE
(beginning see here)
10. The Vague Expectancy of the “New Man”
If, as we have said, the worldview of the “new religious consciousness” is entering into all aspects of human thought, what are some of the signs by which one can identify it? It can be seen, first of all, in the common sentiment that all religions are one, all are equal, all are saying the same thing, only in different ways. On the surface this idea appears attractive because it seems to give everyone a fair shake. On a deeper level, however, it can be seen how this concept, under the pretense of fostering “unity in diversity,” actually destroys diversity. If an adherent to a religion believes that all other religions are equal to his own, he can no longer truly hold to that religion; he can no longer be who he is. Instead, while perhaps holding to some outward cultural artifacts, he becomes essentially a blank – a blank waiting to be filled by some new revelation. He has become as blank as everyone else who has been infected with the same modern mentality. Thus there is no true unity ordiversity, only sameness based on blankness. This false “unity in blankness” is precisely what Satan will use in order to hypnotize the mass mind in the last days. As Father Seraphim once pointed out in a lecture: “Such a vague thing is exactly what the devil likes to grab hold of. In any particular religious belief you may be mistaken, but at least you put your heart into it, and God can forgive all kinds of mistakes. But if you do not have any particular religious belief and you give yourself over to some kind of vague idea, then the demons come in and begin to act.”
The religious mentality of modern man is becoming more amorphous and hazy all the time. A poll taken in 2002 indicates that 33% of Americans consider themselves “spiritual but not religious,” which is to say that they do not identify with an organized religion but are creating their own personal spirituality. According to the same poll, the number of such people is increasing by over two million each year, even as the number of those who consider themselves religious is declining at the same rate.
The new, “spiritual” man of today can browse through bookstores or surf the internet to find any religious idea or practice that strikes his fancy, from Western to Eastern, from Sufism to Satanism. The more data he stores in his head, however, the more vague his worldview becomes. He has religious interests in several areas, but he basically believes that all is relative: i.e. “My ideas work for me, your ideas work for you.” He believes in everything at once, but in nothing very deeply, and in nothing that will demand a sacrifice from him. He has nothing worth dying for. But his antennae are out, feeling for something else that will strike his fancy, that will satisfy his vague unrest without asking that he honestly look at himself and change, without disturbing his constant endeavor to satisfy his ego. His spiritual interest is intimately connected to his quest for ego gratification, and thus he stands poised to receive anything from anywhere that will provide this gratification. He is clay in the hands of the spirit of Antichrist, which, as the Apostle teaches, is already in the world (1 John 4:3). He is a candidate – or rather a target – for the “religion of the future” about which Fr. Seraphim wrote.
A sad indicator of the spiritual condition of contemporary man is seen in the enormous popularity of the Conversations with God books by Neale Donald Walsch, which have sold over seven million copies since the first book appeared in 1995. At the 1997 summit conference of the United Religions Initiative, Walsch said of himself: “I represent the new paradigm of a religionless religion – a religion without structure – a spirituality that transcends all boundaries.” Walsch claims to channel a being whom he calls “God.” Flattering readers with the idea that they, too, are God, Walsch’s “God” tells them there is no such thing as sin and no need for repentance, for the “Original Sin” was really the “Original Blessing” – an ascent to knowledge. Walsch’s “God” speaks to the blank mind of the new, “spiritual” man: “You may want to consider the possibility that what would work for the world right now – given what the world says it wants to experience, which is peace and harmony – is a New Spirituality based on New Revelations… A spirituality that enlarges upon organized religion in its present form. For it is many of your old religions, with their inherent limitations, that stop you from experiencing God as God really is. They also stop you from experiencing peace, joy, and freedom – which are other words for God as God really is… The world is hungry, the world is starving, for a new spiritual truth.”
In these revelations from Walsch’s “God,” one can recognize the same basic message that was channeled by earlier occultists such as Alice Bailey. But while this message resonated with a relatively small number of occultists during Bailey’s time, today it resonates with mainstream society, with the emerging “global consciousness.”
If one perceives a common thread among occult and New Age teachings spanning generations, this is because there is a single mind directing the formation of the new religious consciousness. It is the mind of the same fallen angel who tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden with the words: Ye shall be as Gods (Genesis 3:5). But while the evil one’s servant, the Antichrist, will appear to triumph for a time, in the end it is he whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming (2 Thess. 2:8).
From all that has been said above, it can be seen how, in the years following the publication of Father Seraphim’s book, the formation of an actual “religion of the future” has become increasingly real and believable. Now we can see even more clearly how humanity is being made open to the “demonic Pentecost” that Father Seraphim predicted, in which the multitudes of the world – including those who call themselves Christians – can actually be initiated into the realm of demons.
Only Orthodox Christianity – with its Patristic standard of spiritual life and its thoroughly refined teachings on spiritual discernment – can cut through all the deceptions of our times at once. For this reason, Satan sees it as his greatest enemy, and is doing all in his power to undermine it. But for the same reason we must do all that we can to cling to it, as Father Seraphim exhorts us.
“He who does not experience the Kingdom of God within him,” writes St. Ignaty Bryanchaninov, “will not be able to recognize the Antichrist when he comes.” In Orthodoxy we behold Christ undistorted. We can know who He is, and we can know His Kingdom within us, without fantasies, hysteria, heated emotional states, and without any mental images. Knowing this, we will not be starving for a new spiritual truth, for we have found the Truth, not as an idea but as a Person – and we partake of Him in Holy Communion. We will not be a blank waiting to be filled, for we will already be filled with Christ, Who is all, and in all (Col. 3:11). Having Christ’s Kingdom within us, we will inherit it for eternity.
(Reprinted from “The Orthodox Word,” No. 5, 2004 )
Fall, o fluffy snow, keep falling,
Like a veil spread over all;
Fall, o light one, fall, o pure one,
Cover thou the frozen earth.
Spreading haziness o’er yonder,
Every color, hue, and shade
In the purity of whiteness
Do attire like a shroud.
And to nature, now so placid,
Silent, colorless, and mute
And at times so very lifeless,
Give tranquility and rest,
To forget all during winter,
And to sleep until the spring,
Dreaming all the pleasant visions
Thou hast wafted onto it,
Storing up new inner power
For a different plane of being,
And in spring be resurrected
By the mystery of creation.
— K. R.
— Translated by Natalia Sheniloff