May the Lord send forth into your holy souls the comforting Spirit

MAY the God and Lord of all Who dwells in the heavens, Who gives us breath and life and everything, and constantly cares for our salvation, send forth into your holy souls the comforting Spirit; may He enlighten Your nous as He enlightened the Disciples of our Savior; may He shine the light of His divine radiance upon your entire spiritual and noetic being; may your whole heart burn with divine eros as did Cleopas’s, and may it leap for joy learning of the conception of the new Adam, and the utter destruction of the old Adam along with all his passions.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Then, in this manner, tears will continuously flow every moment like a fountain streaming forth sweetness. Amen.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast. “Monastic Wisdom”, Letter XXXVI, p. 186.

(The nous is the eyes of the heart or soul.)

St Æthelburh: wise virgin in the Lord, a house filled with a great light

REJOICE and delight, my beloved child, together with the entire holy synodia, or should I say the entire spiritual fragrance.

Rejoice, wise virgins in the Lord, for you have been blessed to live such an angelic way of life upon the earth.

Blessed is God Who maketh His angels spirits: blessed is God Who raises mortals still in the body to the way of life of the bodiless angels.

From a letter to a nun written by Elder Joseph the Hesychast. In “Monastic Wisdom”, Letter 29 (p. 150).

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A Serbian Orthodox nun

“Rejoice, wise virgins in the Lord, for you have been blessed to live such an angelic way of life upon the earth.” A Serbian Orthodox nun.

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Today was at one time the feast day of St Æthelburh (Ethelburg), Abbess of Berecingum (now Barking). She reposed in the Lord sometime after 686.

Sister of St Earconwald, Bishop of London, “she showed herself in all respects worthy of her brother the bishop” St Bede tells us, “by her own holy life and by her regular and pious care of those under her rule, as was also manifested by heavenly miracles”.

St Bede devotes several chapters to the miracles of this Abbey, chiefly during a long and catastrophic plague.

Interestingly, these were not miracles of St Æthelburh as an individual, so much as experiences of the whole monastery – a testimony, as St Bede clearly felt, to the care and example of the mother Abbess.

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ONE of the same handmaids of God, being smitten with the same disease, and reduced to the last extremity, began on a sudden, about midnight, to cry out to them that ministered to her, desiring they would put out the lamp that was lighted there.

And, when she had done this many times, and yet no one did her will, at last she said,

“I know that you think I am raving when I say this, but be assured that it is not so; for I tell you truly, that I see this house filled with so great a light, that that lamp of yours seems to me to be altogether dark.”

An Orthodox nun holding a candle, for a light by which to read prayers

“My light will come to me at the dawn of day.” An Orthodox nun holds a candle, for a light by which to read prayers

And when still no one replied to what she said, or did her bidding, she added,

“Burn your lamp, then, as long as you will; but know, that it is not my light, for my light will come to me at the dawn of day.”

Then she began to tell, that a certain man of God, who had died that same year, had appeared to her, telling her that at the break of day she should depart to the eternal light.

The truth of which vision was speedily proved by the maiden’s death as soon as the day appeared.

St Bede, “Ecclesiastical History” IV.8. Source.

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CRUCIFYING thy body, with its passions, O [Æthelburh], and concentrating all thy love upon Christ thine eternal Bridegroom, thou hast obtained an everlasting crown of glory and art now numbered with the choirs of the Angels, fervently entreating Christ on behalf of those who honor Thee, O holy one.

Theotokion

TROUBLED by the storm of my many sins, and the turmoil of my estranged thoughts, do thou have compassion on me; and lend me, thy servant, thy sovereign right hand, and save me, O all-immaculate one, that I may magnify thee.

From the General Menaion, Office for a Nun. Source.

Ye shall find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.

THEN shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

Jeremiah 29:12-13

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Elder Joseph the Hesychast

Elder Joseph the Hesychast (+1959)

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Today is the (Old Calendar) anniversary of the repose of Elder Joseph the Hesychast in 1959.

SINCE God is continuously present, why do you worry? For in Him we live and move. We are carried in His arms.

We breathe God; we are vested with God; we touch God; we consume God in the Mystery.

Wherever you turn, wherever you look, God is everywhere: in the heavens, on the earth, in the abysses, in the trees, within the rocks, in your nous, in your heart.

So can’t He see that you are suffering, that you are going through tribulations?

Tell Him your grievances and you will see consolation, you will see healing which will heal not only the body, but even more so the passions of your soul.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast (+August 28, 1959), “Monastic Wisdom”, Letter 30 (p. 161).

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O GOD, who is like to thee?

What afflictions many and sore hast thou shewed me! yet thou didst turn and quicken me, and broughtest me again from the depths of the earth.

Thou didst multiply thy righteousness, and didst turn and comfort me, and broughtest me again out of the depths of the earth.

I will also therefore give thanks to thee, O God, because of thy truth, on an instrument of psalmody: I will sing psalms to thee on the harp, O Holy One of Israel.

Psalm 70(71):19-22

May he open the eyes of my soul

WHEN Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou son of David, have mercy on us.

And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord.

Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you.

And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it.

Mt 9:27-30 (today’s Gospel reading at the Liturgy)

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The "Vladimir" icon of the Birth-giver of God

The "Vladimir" icon of the Birth-giver of God

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MY dear, sweet Mother, help me, show me how I may be saved!

Intercede, my dear Mother, with your Son that He may show me what he wants me to do and what I should seek from Him.

May he open the eyes of my soul, which are closed, and thus I do not see Him – while He sees me at every moment – and I constantly grieve Him.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast (+1959), “Monastic Wisdom” Letter Seventy, p. 306.

Rich, yet lower than all creation

LET nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

Philippians 2:3.

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Archimandrite Vasileos Gontikakis (centre)

Archimandrite Vasileos Gontikakis (centre)

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AS it says in the Gerontikon, when a young monk said to his spiritual father, “I see that my mind is constantly with God,” his spiritual father replied, “It is no great thing that your mind should be with God; what matters is what you should feel yourself lower than all creation.”

In this way the old man helped the young monk to transport himself into a different realm.

From a partial preoccupation with his own thoughts about God, he invited him to the total offering of himself, to a humbling which is true death and at the same time resurrection into a new life, self-effacing yet all-powerful.

Archimandrite Vasileios, in “Hymn of Entry”.

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THOU wouldest have contrived to build a tower, O my soul, and erect a stronghold for thy lusts, had not the Creator confounded thy plans, and brought thy schemes in ruin to earth.

DO not require of me fruits worthy of repentance, for my strength is spent in me. Grant me ever a contrite heart and spiritual poverty, that I may offer these gifts to Thee as an acceptable sacrifice, O only Saviour.

I ALONE have sinned against Thee, sinned above all men. O Christ my Saviour, spurn me not. Thou art the good Shepherd; seek me, Thy lamb, and neglect not me who have gone astray. Thou art my sweet Jesus, Thou art my Creator; in Thee, O Saviour, I shall be justified. I confess to Thee, O Savior, I have sinned, I have sinned against Thee, but absolve and forgive me in Thy compassion.

Excerpted from the Great Canon of St Andrew of Crete.

Joy in the heavens

AS for the married, I urge them to a pure family life, counselling them to abandon the heavy sin of child-murder and any attempts whatsoever to prevent conception.

I urge them to abandon quarrelsomeness, fault-finding, anger, drunkenness and hatred, and I urge them to be reconciled before the sun has set.

Elder Cleopa Ilie (1912-1998).

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An icon depicting a guardian angel

A guardian angel and a holy soul.

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I have posted some Pro-Life resources on this blog. One of them is this, a short passage in a letter written by Elder Joseph the Hesychast (+1959), which has made me look at the sanctity of life in a totally new light.

I FORGOT to write to you a sweet little story.

Once while I was kneeling – I had become tired while praying – I saw something wondrous: a fiery youth had two beautiful small girls beside him.

One of them was our Maria and the other was Virginia – the two little ones who had died.

The young man said to them, “This is your brother. Do you recognize him?” Maria was older. “I recognize him,” she said, “but many years have passed since then.”

The other one said, “I did not see him when I was alive.”

Then he said to them, “Embrace him and then we shall leave.” And the two little ones kissed me like sweet-smelling flowers and left.

Then I came to myself with eyes full of tears, recalling the joy which takes place in the heavens when sinners repent and when the righteous enter paradise.

From “Monastic Wisdom”, published by Saint Anthony’s Monastery in Arizona, and available from Skete.com.

Let us not turn back until we reach love, which is our sweet Jesus

Today is the Sixth Sunday after Pascha, the Sunday of the Blind Man (see John 9:1-39).

LET us purify our senses, and we shall see Christ shining forth, in the unapproachable light of the Resurrection, and we shall clearly hear him saying ‘Rejoice!’, as we sing the triumphal song.

Troparion at Matins.

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ONCE a man comes to repentance from his previous sinful life, he forces himself to stay within the divine Law.

And due to his passionate habits, he undergoes great struggles and suffers sharp pains.

Then divine grace secretly gives him comfort and joy, mourning, delight, and sweetness from the divine words he reads, as well as strength and boldness in his spiritual struggle.

This is called purifying grace which mystically helps the struggling penitent to be purified from sins and to remain in the state according to nature.

Sunrise at Rhu Noa pier on Loch Maree near Taagan in Scotland. © Tom Forrest, Geograph. Used under licence.

Sunrise at Rhu Noa pier on Loch Maree near Taagan in Scotland. © Tom Forrest, Geograph. Used under licence. Click for original.

So if he remains there, in the state according to nature, and does not stop struggling, does not turn back, is not negligent, and does not fall from his post, but endures and forces himself to bear good fruits, being patient and accepting the continuous changes of nature, and awaiting the mercy of God;

then his nous receives divine illumination and becomes entirely divine light, by which he noetically perceives the truth and discerns how he must proceed until he reaches love, which is our sweet Jesus.

Elder Joseph the Hesychast, “Monastic Wisdom” Letter 82 Chapter XI.

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THE Lord is my light and my Saviour; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the defender of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

When evil-doers drew nigh against me to eat up my flesh, my persecutors and mine enemies, they fainted and fell.

Though an army should set itself in array against me, my heart shall not be afraid: though war should rise up against me, in this am I confident.

One thing have I asked of the Lord, this will I earnestly seek: that I should dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, that I should behold the fair beauty of the Lord, and survey his temple.

Psalm 26(27):1-4 (LXX).