Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Purification and the Secret Doxology

One day St. Ephraim of Katounakia had a guest...

One day Saint Ephraim of Katounakia had a guest. At some point he shakes standing up, reverently bows his head and silently waits for something. "What's going on, elder?" The guest asks. "Forgive me, my child for this sudden move, but the Virgin Mary has just passed to bless us. Every day she passes by the cells of the monks here on Mount Athos to bless us all one by one.

How are unbaptized dead people

If a person was not baptized during his life, did not want to unite himself with the Church of Christ, he is not remembered in the Church. But this does not mean that there is nothing we can do for the dead unbaptized. They can be remembered by praying in private (that is, at home or in church, but silently) and doing deeds of mercy for them. The Holy Fathers spoke about the permissibility of the private commemoration of the dead, who cannot be remembered in the Church.

The Monk Theodore the Studite, who lived many centuries ago, urged people to pray in secret: "unless everyone in his soul prays for such and does alms for them." The Reverend Elder Lev Optinsky, our compatriot of the 19th century, did not allow us to commemorate those who died outside the Church (suicides, unbaptized, heretics), but blessed them to pray for such unfortunate ones in private: “Seek, O Lord, the lost soul of my father: if it is possible, have mercy. Your destinies are invisible. Do not make this my prayer a sin, but Thy holy will be done. "

Relatives are upset because of the inability to order a kolyva or a memorial service for their relatives who died unbaptized. But do not forget that the most important thing that we can do for our deceased loved one, wishing to help him in some way, is to change ourselves. It is for this that Christians come to the temple of God, so that, by participating in the sacraments (primarily by confessing and receiving communion), they work on the most important thing for which we have been given life - the salvation of our souls. And with this effort we can help not only ourselves and living relatives, but also the deceased. This idea resounds in the Church. The Monk Seraphim of Sarov said: acquire a peaceful spirit and thousands will be saved around you. This means that by making efforts to save our own souls, we help those who are dear, whom we love. If we can change ourselves, be reborn spiritually, then we will most fully be able to help another person, both living and dead. God has no dead - everyone is alive with him.

Priest Alexander Savin, cleric of the Church of the Holy Blessed Tsarevich Demetrius, Moscow

Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov)

A woman, his spiritual daughter, more than once came to the Optina elder Ambrose. And once she told him that the longer she lives, the worse it gets: she began to see in herself so many sins which she had not noticed before. And he told her to stand by the window and look at the sunbeam: “Do you see how much dust is rushing there? The sun lit it up. And if there were no ray, it would seem that the air in the room is completely clean. So it is in your soul: all this was before, but only you did not see, but now the grace of God illuminated it, and you saw yourself. Do not be embarrassed, but thank God for this. The beginning of salvation is to see your spiritual poverty." - Metropolitan Benjamin (Fedchenkov)

Saturday, February 27, 2021

By the Waters of Babylon

By the Waters of Babylon
The Great Fast, Our Exile
by Fr.Seraphim (Rose) March 1965
This weekend, at the Sunday Vigil of the Prodigal Son, we will sing Psalm 135.
"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, 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 of it because of our great sinfulness. Only through the chastisement of exile, which we remember in the fasting, prayer and repentance of this season,
Do we remain mindful of our Zion?
"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem..."
Weak and forgetful, even in the midst of the Great Fast we live as though Jerusalem did not exist for us. We fall in love with the world, our Babylon; we are seduced by the frivolous pastimes of this "strange land" and neglect the services and discipline of the Church which remind us of our true home. Worse yet, we love our very captors - for our sins hold us captive more surely than any human master - and in their service we pass in idleness the precious days of Lent when we should be preparing to meet the Rising Sun of the New Jerusalem, the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ.
There is still time; we must remember our true home and weep over the sins which have exiled us from it. Let us take to heart the words of St. John of the Ladder: "Exile is separation from everything in order to keep the mind inseparable from God. An exile loves and produces continual weeping." Exiled from Paradise, we must become exiled from the world if we hope to return.
This we may do by spending these days in fasting, prayer, separation from the world, attendance at the services of the Church, in tears of repentance, in preparation for the joyful Feast that is to end this time of exile; and by bearing witness to all in this "strange land" of our remembrance of that even greater Feast that shall be when our Lord returns to take His people to the New Jerusalem, from which there shall be no more exile, for it is eternal.
Image: By the rivers of Babylon, painting by Gebhard Fugel, circa 1920

Sunday of the Prodigal Son

Open Thy fatherly embrace now and accept me also as the Prodigal son, o most merciful Lord, that I may glorify Thee with thanksgiving.

(Sunday of the Prodigal Son)