Saint Seraphim of Sarov was born in 1759, in city of Kursk. His parents were pious Orthodox Christians, examples of true spirituality. At the age of ten, Seraphim was miraculously healed from a serious illness by means of the Kursk icon of the Theotokos. As a boy, he immersed himself in church services and church literature. He began monastic life at the hermitage of Sarov at the age of nineteen. He was tonsured as a monk when he was twenty-seven, and soon afterwards was ordained a deacon. The intensity and purity of Seraphim’s participation in the Divine services are evident as he was allowed to see angels, and during the liturgy on Holy Thursday, he saw the Lord Himself.
At thirty-four, Seraphim was ordained as a priest, and was assigned as the spiritual guide of the Diveyevo convent. At this time, he also received a blessing to begin life as a hermit in the forest surrounding Sarov. He lived in a small cabin, devoting himself entirely to prayer, fasting, and the reading of the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers. Seraphim would go to the monastery on Sundays to receive Holy Communion; and then return to the forest. Read more
In the second Mystery of the Church we move from Easter to Pentecost, from participating in the death and resurrection of Christ to the coming of the Holy Spirit. This Sacred Mystery, or Sacrament, is called chrismation or confirmation.
Receiving confirmation is receiving the “power from on high” the gift of the Spirit. This empowers the baptised person to live the life made new in baptism. We become temples of the Holy Spirit. As we hear in the compline service, “Glory to You, our God, glory to You! Heavenly King, Consoler, the Spirit of Truth, present in all places and filling all things, the Treasury of blessing, and the giver of life: come and dwell in us, cleanse us of all stain and save our souls, O Good One!” Consider that immediately after His baptism in the river Jordan, the Holy Spirit descended upon our Lord, with those amazing words “Behold my Son in whom I am well pleased.” Our obedience to God, which begins with baptism, allows us to receive the indwelling Holy Spirit. Read more
By St. John Maximovitch
Limitless and without consolation would have been our sorrow for close ones who are dying, if the Lord had not given us eternal life. Our life would be pointless if it ended with death. What benefit would there then be from virtue and good deed? Then they would be correct who say: “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!”
But man was created for immortality, and by His resurrection Christ opened the gates of the Heavenly Kingdom, of eternal blessedness for those who have believed in Him and have lived righteously. Our earthly life is a preparation for the future life, and this preparation ends with our death. “It is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). Then a man leaves all his earthly cares; the body disintegrates, in order to rise anew at the General Resurrection. Often this spiritual vision begins in the dying even before death, and while still seeing those around them and even speaking with them, they see what others do not see.
But when it leaves the body, the soul finds itself among other spirits, good and bad. Usually it inclines toward those which are more akin to it in spirit, and if while in the body it was under the influence of certain ones, it will remain in dependence upon them when it leaves the body, however unpleasant they may turn out to be upon encountering them.
For the course of two days the soul enjoys relative freedom and can visit places on earth which were dear to it, but on the third day it moves into other spheres. At this time (the third day), it passes through legions of evil spirits which obstruct its path and accuse it of various sins, to which they themselves had tempted it. Read more
By Archimandrite George
Abbott of the Holy Monastery of St. Gregorios on Mount Athos
DEIFICATION IS POSSIBLE THROUGH THE UNCREATED ENERGIES OF GOD
In the Orthodox Church of Christ man can achieve deification because, according to the teachings of the Holy Bible and the Fathers of the Church, the Grace of God is uncreated. God is not only essence, as the West thinks; He is also energy. If God was only essence, we could not unite with Him, could not commune with Him, because the essence of God is awesome and unapproachable for man, in accordance with: ‘Never will man see My face and live’ (Exod. 33:20).
Let us mention a somwhat relevant example from things human. If we grasp a bare electric wire, we will die. However, if we connect a lamp to that wire, we are illuminated. We see, enjoy, and are assisted by the energy of electric current, but we are not able to grasp its essence. Let us say that something similar happens with the uncreated energy of God.
If we were able to unite with the essence of God, we too would become gods in essence. In other words everything would become a god, and there would be confusion so that, nothing would be essentially a god. In a few words, this is what they believe in the Oriental religions, e.g. in Hinduism, where the god is not a personal existence but an indistinct power dispersed through all the world, in men, in animals, and in objects (Pantheism). Read more
“We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.” -Nicene Creed
Baptism is the first of the Holy Mysteries, or Sacraments, of the Church. A Mystery is a sacred and holy act through which God’s saving power, His grace, works upon the recipient.
In Protestant countries, and particularly in North America, the predominant view of Baptism is that of it being a symbolic act. Baptism, in most Protestant churches, represents an act of obedience to Christ, an outward expression of an inward conviction. It is generally believed that one must first hear the Gospel, believe in Christ, and then be baptised; that only people of accountable age who have made a profession of faith should be baptised remains the dominant evangelical position. There are of course some variances and differences in the precise theology and expression, as well as some additional concerns for those Protestant churches that practice infant baptism, such as the Lutheran and Reformed churches.
The historic, and authentic, Orthodox-Catholic understanding of baptism is quite different however. The Orthodox-Catholic Church maintains the Sacramental efficacy of baptism as a true Mystery of our Lord. It is essential to our salvation, to our place in the Church, to our walk with Christ. Baptism is the foundation upon which the Christian life is built, it is the first Sacrament all Christians must receive. In Baptism the person dies to sin and is born-again into the spiritual life. As St. John says “no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit.”
Imagine you are standing in the middle of a vast plain. It is pitch black out, a cloudy night leaves no starlight and the moon is absent from the sky. The darkness is such that even your hand is unseen when held before your eyes. You have but a single light, a small candle that barely illuminates the ground for a few feet around you. If you move too fast, or the wind blows too hard, the candle extinguishes itself and leaves you in the darkness again. You relight the candle each time, but still, the light is barely sufficient. Somewhere out in the distance is your destination, you don’t know how far, or the path, only that it is there. The plain you walk on is covered with paths, with rivers and groves of trees, so you must find a path, follow it in darkness and hope that somehow you reach your destination.
Eventually perhaps you are lucky enough to meet a pilgrim in the darkness. This person holds a lantern, a light brighter than your own that lights up a larger area. The pilgrim seems to know what your destination is, and seems to have a better idea of how to get there. You talk to the pilgrim and eventually decide to follow this person’s advice to reach your destination. The pilgrim hands you a lantern of your own and places you on the correct path, then leaves you to find your way. While the going is easier, eventually you find that you still have to navigate treacherous cliffs and rapid waters. It is not always easy to determine if the path you follow is the correct one as it splits off often, and many paths seem equally worn. Read more
By Bishop Alexander (Mileant)
Everyone, whether or not he is a Christian, must expect a certain amount of sickness and discomfort to enter his life. Physical pain is universal; no one escapes it. Therefore, how much we suffer from illness, or how intensely, does not matter so much as how we understand these infirmities. The understanding is all.
If a man supposes that life should be one long, luxurious “vacation,” then any amount of suffering that comes to him is unbearable. But if a man views life as a time of sorrows, correction, and purification, then suffering and pain become not only bearable, but even useful.
Saint Ambrose of Milan says of the Christian attitude toward sickness: “If the occasion demands it, a wise man will readily accept bodily infirmity and even offer his whole body up to death for the sake of Christ….This same man is not affected in spirit or broken with bodily pain if his health fails him. He is consoled by his struggle for perfection in the virtues” (Exegetical Works). Hearing this, the man of the world is quite likely to exclaim: “What an idea! How can a man ‘readily accept’ illness and disease?” Read more
The vicissitudes of time and the machinations of men give words strange connotations. Often they no longer fit the mental pictures they create. When Woostockians looked up to Overlook Mountain and saw high on its slopes the gray clad figures of a religious community rehabilitating the deserted little chapel below Mead’s Mountain House, they were puzzled to hear the several young men calling themselves “Old”, displaying an evangelistic enthusiasm for a faith they called “Catholic”. They were completely nonplused when one of the older men of the community in overalls addressed a similarly clad younger man “Father”.
With the passage of days, however, Woodstock had grown to know and like these men as they have grown to like Woodstock more and more. Through the first summer Sundays the bell that echoed down the mountainside from the Church of Christ-on-the-Mount called increasing numbers to worship with the young “Old” Catholics and with the advent of winter a place of worship had to be found in the village. Then in an old red barn, adjoining the Woodstock Country Club on the Saugerties-Woodstock road, whose hand hewn beams and weathered boards teem with memories and the romance of bygone days, they prayed for the common healing of the ills of humanity together with people who have been previously unchurched, dechurched or never-before churched. But with the exception of those with whom their activities have grown, and the friendly folk with whom they visit, the paradox of “Old” and “Catholic” and “young” and “evangelistic” still remains. Read more