Like Shavings of Wood

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Most men are like shavings of wood curled around their central emptiness. ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

The Splendour of Icons

Beaded droplets of Holy Water grace a newly blessed icon of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Note the ancient lettering style inscriptions. Icons are venerated and not worshipped. They are beautiful, spiritual, windows into heaven.

– I venerate the Creator… who came down to his creation without being lowered or weakened, that He might glorify my nature and bring about communion with the divine nature. …Therefore I am emboldened to depict the invisible God, not as invisible, but as He became visible for our sake, by participation in flesh and blood. I do not depict the invisible divinity, but I depict God made visible in the Flesh. ~ St. John Damascene

The Church, through the temple and Divine service, acts upon the entire man, educates him wholly; acts upon his sight, hearing, smelling, feeling, taste, imagination, mind, and will, by the splendour of icons and of the whole temple, by the ringing of bells, by the singing of the choir, by the fragrance of the incense, the kissing of the Gospel, of the cross and the holy icons, by the prosphoras, the singing, and sweet sound of the readings of Scripture. ~ St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ)

Icons in churches and houses are necessary because they remind us of the immortality of the saints; that they live unto Him, that in God they see, hear, and help us. ~ St. John of Kronstadt

Church services, that is, all the daily services, together with the entire arrangement of the church’s icons, candles, censing, singing, chanting, movements of the clergy, as well as the services for various needs (e.g., Molebens, Pannikhidas, etc.); then services in the home, also using ecclesiastical objects such as sanctified icons, holy oil, candles, holy water, the Cross, and incense – all of these holy things together acting upon all the senses – sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste – are the cloths that wipe clean the senses of a deadened soul. They are the strongest and only reliable way to do it… The entire structure of our Church services, with their tone, meaning, power of faith, and especially the grace concealed within them, have an invincible power to drive away the spirit of the world. ~ St. Theophan the Recluse (The Path to Salvation)

Intrusive Imagination

Do not engage intrusive thoughts and feelings. Cut them off at the start. Endure the trial of yourself and your own faults and sins peacefully, serenely, because you know that God’s mercy is greater than your wretchedness. Be merciful with yourself and with others. Think and talk about things no more than necessary. Flee imagination, analysis, figuring things out. ~ Protopresbyter Thomas Hopko

You’ve got to get out of your head and go into your heart. Right now your thoughts are in your head, and God seems to be outside you. Your prayer and all your spiritual exercises also remain exterior. As long as you are in your head, you will never master your thoughts, which continue to whirl around your head like snow in a winter’s storm or like mosquitoes in the summer’s heat. If you descend into your heart, you will have no more difficulty. Your mind will empty out and your thoughts will dissipate. Thoughts are always in your mind chasing one another about, and you will never manage to get them under control. But if you enter into your heart and can remain there, then every time your thoughts invade, you will only have to descend into your heart and your thoughts will vanish into thin air. This will be your safe haven. Don’t be lazy. Descend. You will find life in your heart. There you must live. ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Thoughts are like airplanes flying in the air. If you ignore them, there is no problem. If you pay attention to them, you create an airport inside your head and permit them to land! ~ Elder Paisios of Mount Athos

When the mind (nous) is not scattered in worldly things and is united to God, then the “Good day” that we say becomes a blessing. ~ Gerontissa Gavrielia

Wings of Prayer

Faith in God is the wings of prayer. ~ St. Isaac the Syrian

As it is not possible to walk without feet or fly without wings, so it is impossible to attain the Kingdom of Heaven without the fulfillment of the commandments. ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

A Christian needs two wings for flying and walking into heaven: humility and love. ~ St. Paisios

…For the bees do not visit every flower in the same manner, neither does the honeybee attempt to fly off bearing the burden of the entire flower. Rather, once it derives that which is needful from the flower, it leaves the rest behind and takes flight. ~ St. Basil the Great

Gracious words are like an honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body. ~ Proverbs 16:24

We all receive God’s blessings equally. But some of us, receiving God’s fire, that is, His word, become soft like beeswax, while the others like clay become hard as stone. And if we do not want Him, He does not force any of us, but like the sun He sends His rays and illuminates the whole world, and he who wants to see Him, sees Him, whereas the one who does not want to see, is not forced by Him. And no one is responsible for this privation of light except the one who does not want to have it. God created the sun and the eye. Man is free to receive the sun’s light or not. The same is true here. God sends the light of knowledge like rays to all, but He also gave us faith like an eye. The one who wants to receive knowledge through faith, keeps it by his works, and so God gives him more willingness, knowledge, and power. ~ St. Peter the Damascene, 8th century

Wings of Divine Love

I said, O that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest. ~ Psalm 55:6

He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. ~Psalm 91:4

Birds fear the sight of a hawk, and those who practice humility fear the sound of argument. ~ St. John Climacus

As it is not possible to walk without feet or fly without wings, so it is impossible to attain the Kingdom of Heaven without the fulfillment of the commandments… Faith is the healer of the soul, flying on the wings of hope and warmed by love. ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Prayers of the Heart

A long-distance parishioners’ home’s beautiful Little Church during special prayers

Internal Prayer and the Jesus Prayer – Excerpts from our 2019 Parish Family Camp

In the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groaning which cannot be uttered. ~ Romans 8:26

St. Paul said it is necessary to attain a state of permanent prayer, to always pray. – …The Jesus Prayer is a short prayer containing many ideas in it, and by practicing repetition of the Jesus Prayer it is possible to attain a state of permanent prayer. The Lord’s Prayer is very long and contains many ideas. When repeating the Lord’s Prayer the mind focuses on the ideas so that prayer isn’t experienced by the heart. For prayer to be real it must not only be in the mind but also the heart and will (mind, heart, and will, are the three aspects of the soul). Real, permanent prayer does not come easily. It is necessary to make many very long and persistent efforts in order to attain permanent prayer. We must pray to learn to pray. If we attain permanent prayer we will be able to walk, talk, eat, drive, even sleep and still be constantly repeating the prayer. ~ Metropolitan Vitaly

The Jesus Prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”– Or “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” – Or “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on (Name).”

This simple, ancient prayer is rooted deeply in Church tradition and can be used anytime or anywhere. We recite it to permeate our hearts, to focus our minds, and help us follow God’s Will, instead of our own, usual, self-will. Prayer is the breath of the soul.

Begin by saying the Jesus Prayer sometimes, during the day or night. If the mind wanders, peacefully begin anew, attentively returning the heart again to the prayer. Ask God to calm the mind’s restlessness. Practicing this prayer with humility and patience, draws God’s grace to actively work within us.

Many Orthodox Christians use a prayer rope to help them concentrate as they repeat the Jesus Prayer. Prayer Ropes come in a great variety of forms and sizes. Some are knotted of wool or silk, others are made of wood. When you pray the prayer, hold the prayer rope with your left hand between the thumb and the index finger and move from knot to knot each time you say the prayer. In this way, your right hand is free to Cross yourself as needed while praying. St. Seraphim of Sarov once said the tassels at the end of some prayer ropes are for wiping away our tears. Of course, if we don’t have a prayer rope, we can still pray this prayer.

It’s not the quantity of times the prayer is said, but the quality of our prayer.

The Jesus Prayer is not a mantra to simply quiet the mind. One Jesus Prayer prayed slowly with all our heart and soul, is worth more than a million parroted prayers, repeated without any thought or without focus on what we are actually saying. When praying, we also remember God’s endless Love and Mercy, and thank Him for all our Blessings.

St. Hesychios, an Abbot of Saint Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai who lived in the 7th century said, “Just as it is impossible to fight battles without weapons, or to swim a great sea with clothes on, or to live without breathing, so without humility and the constant prayer to Christ, it is impossible to master the art of inward spiritual warfare or to set about it and pursue it skillfully.”

Abbot Tryphon of the Christ the Saviour Monastery on Vashon Island in Washington says: “There is a common misconception concerning the word “mercy”, used throughout the liturgical services of the Church, as well as our private prayers, and the Jesus Prayer. It is a given that we are all sinners, but the asking for God’s mercy is not limited to asking His forgiveness, or begging God to overlook our sinfulness. When we pray forty Lord have mercies, we are recognizing that EVERYTHING proceeds out of God’s mercy. The air we breathe, the health we enjoy, the food on our table, the water in our tap, the friendships we treasure, our family, and everything good, flows out upon us through God’s mercy. Lord Jesus Christ have mercy.”

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner – contains our entire Orthodox confession of faith; all dogma is built on it. If you say it attentively, then the Lord will gradually purify your inner world.” ~ Fr. Nikolai Vedernikov

Every prayer must come from the heart, and any other prayer is no prayer at all. Prayer-book prayers, your own prayers, and very short prayers, all must issue forth from the heart to God, seen before you. And still more must this be so with the Jesus Prayer ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Jesus Prayer sung in Slavonic (Women’s Voice)
Jesus Prayer sung in English (Women’s Voice)
Jesus Prayer sung in English (4 Part Choir)

Into His Hands

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. ~St. Matthew 5:5

Complete trust in God – that’s what holy humility is. Complete obedience to God, without protest, without reaction, even when some things seem difficult and unreasonable. Abandonment to the hands of God. ~ Elder Porphyrios

…your job is to work upon yourself: for this you are chosen; the rest is in the hands of God. He who humbles himself shall be exalted. ~St. Theophan the Recluse

The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, who fills the whole universe, passes through all believing, meek, humble, good, and simple human souls, dwelling in them, vivifying and strengthening them. He becomes one spirit with them and everything to them – light, strength, peace, joy, success in their undertakings, especially in a pious life, and everything good … “We have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (I Corinthians 12:13). All pious people are filled with the Spirit of God similarly as a sponge is filled with water. ~ St. John of Kronstadt

In the mercy of God, the little thing done with humility will enable us to be found in the same place as the saints who have laboured much and been true servants of God. ~St. Dorotheos of Gaza

When pride retreats from a man, humility begins to dwell in him, and the more pride is diminished, so much more does humility grow. The one gives way to the other as to its opposite. Darkness departs and light appears. Pride is darkness, but humility is light. ~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Endure a Bit

The pandemic continues… disrupting worldly life. We grow tired of constraints. Yet, no matter how dire circumstances may seem, there is joy, gratitude, and peace through His Grace. Patience! “This is just for now!”

Whosoever will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. ~ St. Mark 8:34

Rejoice as you feel the cross upon yourself, for it is a sign that you are following the Lord on the path of salvation which leads to heaven. Endure a bit. The end and the crowns are just around the corner! ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Love is only found on the Cross. ~ Mother Gabrielia Papayannis

Remember that each of us has his own cross. The Golgotha of this cross is our heart: it is being lifted up or implanted through zealous determination to live according to the Spirit of God. Just as the salvation of the world is by the Cross of God, so our salvation is by our own cross. ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Some want to go to the Resurrection without passing by way of Golgotha. ~Mother Gabrielia Papayannis

Patience is the Christian’s coat of arms. What is it to follow Christ? It is to endure all things, looking upon Christ Who suffered. Many wish to be glorified with Christ, but few seek to remain with the suffering Christ. Yet not merely by tribulation, but even in much tribulation does one enter the Kingdom of God.
~ St. Tikhon of Zadonsk

Do not ever succumb to the insane thought that God has abandoned you. God knows exactly how much one can endure and according to that, measures the sufferings and pains of everyone. ~ St. Nikolai Velimirovic

The righteous have no sorrows that are not turned into joy, as sinners have no joy that is not turned into sorrow. ~ St. Dimitri of Rostov

If we always see God in our minds, and always remember Him, everything will appear tolerable to us. ~ St. John Chrysostom

And Most of All

Keep thine heart with the utmost care; for out of these are the issues of life. ~ Proverbs 4:23

… A Christian renews within himself the grace-filled springs which were opened to him through Holy Baptism, and which were later so many times obstructed by carelessness and falls, and so many times cleansed by repentance… Let us continue fasting and not give liberty to our feelings, not cease fervent prayers and tears, and not forget works of love; let us seek to hear the word of God and most of all, seek to converse with the Lord, Who is within us. Through this conversation we shall uphold the fear of God and zeal to please Him within ourselves, for in this lies the source of our spiritual life. ~ St. Theophan the Recluse

Start Walking!

The Old Bridge was constructed on top of long tree trunk. Point No Point, BC Canada

The only way to attain an important goal – is by doing.

When recovering from an injury, the physiotherapist suggested taking a local gym membership, and continue daily strengthening exercises on my own. I did, and initially all gung-ho, it was shocking to soon discover the grueling exercises in themselves weren’t the arduous part … The hardest part for me, was actually getting to the gym. Going to the gym became a battle. Every. Single. Time. Bizarrely, once at the gym, all was fine. But, to do it- I just had to go.

I’ve heard from parents, that the hardest part of going to church with babies, youth, or teens, is just getting there. Once they’re there, all is fine. But, to do it- they just had to come.

Time is shorter than we think, and we can’t afford to put off essential intentions by waiting for perfect conditions to start. Tomorrow never comes. There is only today.

To reach a goal, the name of the bridge we cross over is- Start Doing.

True, one may know man’s final goal: communion with God. And one may describe the path to it: faith, and walking in the commandments, with the aid of divine grace. One need only say in addition: here is the path- start walking! ~St. Theophan the Recluse

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