A Simple Rule of Prayer — Ascribed to St. Pachomius and to St. Seraphim of Sarov

The holy Apostle Paul has told each of us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Most of us know that we are far from achieving this goal: to pray without ceasing, we must first at least pray frequently; and to pray frequently most of us must first pray regularly according to some rule. The Church gives us many helpful rules of prayer. Most prayer books include useful sets of morning and evening prayers, prayers at mealtimes, and so on.

The following short rule is sometimes called the “Rule of St. Pachomius,” sometimes “The Little Rule of St Seraphim.” It is said to have been given by an angel (more…)

Elder Thaddeus on Falling Down and Getting Up

“All of us sin constantly. We slip and fall. In reality, we fall into a trap set by the demons.

The Holy Fathers and the Saints always tell us, ‘It is important to get up immediately after a fall and to keep on walking toward God’. Even if we fall a hundred times a day, it does not matter; we must get up and go on walking toward God without looking back.

What has happened has happened – it is in the past. Just keep on going, all the while asking for help from God.”

+ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, Our Thoughts Determine our Lives

St. John of Kronstadt on the Saints

Icon of St. John of Kronstadt“We ought to have the most lively spiritual union with the heavenly inhabitants, with all the saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs, prelates, venerable and righteous men, as they are all members of one single body, The Church of Christ, to which we sinners also belong, and the living Head of which is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. This is why we call upon them in prayer, converse with them, thank and praise them, It is urgently necessary for all Christians to be in union with them, if they desire to make Christian progress; for the saints are our friends, our guides to salvation, who pray and intercede for us.”

+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

Advice from St. Moses of Optina

“If at some time you show mercy to someone, mercy will be shown to you.

If you show compassion to one who is suffering (and of course, this is not a great deed) you will be numbered among the martyrs.

If you forgive one who has insulted you, then not only will all your sins be forgiven, but you will be a child of the Heavenly Father.

If you pray from all your heart for salvation – even a little – you will be saved.

If you rebuke yourself, accuse yourself, and judge yourself before God for your sins, with a sensitive conscience, even for this you will be justified.

If you are sorrowful for your sins, or you weep, or sigh, your sigh will not be hidden from Him and, as St. John Chrysostom says, ‘If you only lament for your sins, then He will receive this for your salvation.'”

+ St. Moses of Optina

If you fall . . .

posts-pic-st-john-of-kronstadt3“If you fall, rise and you shall be saved.’ You are a sinner, you continually fall, learn also how to rise; be careful to acquire this wisdom. This is what the wisdom consists in: learning by heart the psalm, ‘Have mercy upon me, O God, after Thy great goodness,’ inspired by the Holy Spirit to the king and prophet David, and say it with sincere faith and trust, with a contrite and humble heart. After your sincere repentance, expressed in the words of King David, the forgiveness of your sins shall immediately shine upon you from the Lord, and your spiritual powers will be at peace. The most important thing in life is to be zealous for mutual love, and not to judge anyone. Everybody shall answer for himself to God, and you must look to yourself. Beware of malice.”

+ St. John of Kronstadt, My Life in Christ

St. John Chrysostom on Fasting

Icon of St. John ChrysostomFor the value of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works! Is it said by what kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him! If you see in enemy, be reconciled to him! If you see a friend gaining honour, envy him not! If you see a handsome woman, pass her by! For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.

Let the hands fast, by being pure from rapine and avarice. Let the feet fast, by ceasing from running to the unlawful spectacles. Let the eyes fast, being taught never to fix themselves rudely upon handsome countenances, or to busy themselves (more…)

By the Waters of Babylon

posts-pic-waters-of-babylon“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion”.

In these words of the Lenten Psalm, we Orthodox Christians, the New Israel, remember that we are in exile. For Orthodox Russians, banished from Holy Russia,[2] the Psalm has a special meaning; but all Orthodox Christians, too, live in exile in this world, longing to return to our true home, Heaven.

For us the Great Fast is a session of exile ordained for us by our Mother, the Church, to keep fresh in us the memory of Zion from which we have wandered so far. We have deserved our exile and we have great need (more…)

Homily on Prayer from St. Theophan the Recluse

Why is it, you ask, that one can pray for so many years with a prayer book, and still not have prayer in his heart? I think the reason is that people only spend a little time lifting themselves up to God when they complete their prayer rule, and in other times, they do not remember God. For example, they finish their morning prayers, and think that their relation to God is fulfilled by them; then the whole day passes in work, and such a person does not attend to God. Then in the evening, the thought returns to him that he must quickly stand at prayer and complete his evening rule. In this case, it happens that even if the Lord grants a person spiritual feelings at the time of the morning prayer, the bustle and business of the day drowns them out. As a result, it happens that one does not often feel like praying, and cannot get control of himself even to soften his heart a little bit. In such an atmosphere, prayer develops and ripens poorly. This problem (is it not ubiquitous?) needs to be corrected, that is, one must ensure that the soul does not only make petition to God when standing in prayer, but during the whole day, as much as possible, one must unceasingly ascend to Him and remain with Him.

In order to begin this task, one must first, during the course of the day, cry out to God more often, even if only with a few words, according to need and the work of the day. Beginning anything, for example, say ‘Bless, O Lord!’ When you finish something, say, ‘Glory to Thee, O Lord’, and not only with your lips, but with feeling in your heart. If passions arise, say, ‘Save me, O Lord, I am perishing.’ If the darkness of disturbing thoughts comes up, cry out: ‘Lead my soul out of prison.’ If dishonest deeds present themselves and sin leads you to them, pray, ‘Set me, O Lord, in the way’, or ‘do not give up my feet to stumbling.’ If sin takes hold of you and leads you to despair, cry out with the voice of the publican, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ Do this in every circumstance, or simply say often, ‘Lord, have mercy’, ‘Most Holy Theotokos save us”, ‘Holy Angel, my guardian, protect me’, or other such words. Say such prayers as often as possible, always making the effort for them come from your heart, as if squeezed out of it. When we do this, we will frequently ascend to God in our hearts, making frequent petitions and prayers. Such increased frequency will bring about the habit of mental conversation with God.

+ St. Theophan the Recluse, On Prayer, Homily 2

Delivered 22 November, 1864

St. Justin Popovich on Orthodox Life

“Life according to the Gospel, holy life, Divine life, that is the natural and normal life for Christians. For Christians, according to their vocation, are holy: That good tidings and commandment resounds throughout the whole Gospel of the New Testament[1]. To become completely holy, both in soul and in body, that is our vocation[2]. This is not a miracle, but rather the norm, the rule of faith. The commandment of the Holy Gospel is clear and most clear: as the Holy One who has called you is Holy, so be ye holy in all manner of life (1 Peter 1:15).”

[1] cf. 1 Thes. 4:3,7; Rm. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1-18, 2:19, 5:3, 6:18;
Phillip. 1:1, 4:21-22; Col. 1:2-4, 12, 22, 26; 1 Thes. 3:13, 5:27; 2
Tim. 1:9; Phlm. 5:7; Heb 3:1, 6:10, 13:24; Jude 3.

[2] cf. 1 Thes 6:22-23.

St. John of Kronstadt on Sickness

“When you see your body wasted away through sickness, do not murmur against God, but say, The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the Name of the Lord, Job 1:21. You are accustomed to look upon your body as upon your own inalienable property, but that is quite wrong, because your body is God’s edifice.”

+ St. John of Kronstadt

Christmas Christology: An Interview with Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos

posts-icon-nativityThis interview with his Eminence Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Agiou Vlasiou was published in the journal “Καθ’ οδόν” by the Community Youth of the Sacred Metropolis of Limassol, and as the reader will see, the questions cover a large part of the Christology of Christmas.

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Question: The word Χριστούγεννα (Greek word for “Christmas”) means the birth of Christ. We would like you to tell us what was the purpose of the birth of Christ and generally why did the Word of God have to incarnate. Couldn’t there have been another way for the salvation of the human race?

Answer: As it is written throughout our biblical-patristic tradition, the purpose of the Incarnation of the Word of God is (more…)

A Reflection for the Nativity Fast

Here are some thoughts of St. John of Kronstadt to reflect on during the last days of the Nativity fast, as well as a short life of the Saint. St. John is commemorated on Jan. 2nd/Dec. 20th (O.S.), so he will be commemorated at tonight’s (Wednesday, January 1, 2014) vespers service.

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“It is remarkable that, however much we trouble about our health, however much care we take of ourselves, whatever wholesome and pleasant food and drink we take, however much we walk in the fresh air, still, notwithstanding all this, in the end we sicken and corrupt; whilst the saints, who despise the flesh, and mortify it by continual abstinence and fasting, (more…)