After my death our beloved Church abroad will break three ways ... first the Greeks will leave us as they were never a part of us ... then those who live for this world and its glory will go to Moscow ... what will remain will be those souls faithful to Christ and His Church. ~St. Philaret of NY


Do not judge ?

Source: found on Fr. John Mahan's facebook

Vladyka George Pascha Epistle

Archbishop George: Pascha Message 2019
Author: Metropolitan Agafangel. Publication date: April 27, 2019 . Category: Author column .

Pascha message
Bishop George,
Archbishop of Chisinau and Moldavia,

Christ is Risen!

Dear brothers and sisters! 

God, every spring, is before the eyes of all mankind, the miracle of resurrection.  Dead, after winter, nature, by God's wave, rebel and rejoice our soul with beauty.  But, the current man of this miracle does not notice.  He lives in the world of his earthly daytime values and illusions, and is extremely afraid of the physical death.

Therefore, we have to admit that modern society does not believe in the immortality of the human soul and in life behind the coffin, does not know what the real joy, purpose and meaning of human existence.  That's why frantically searching for a "cure" for death through modern scientific discoveries and technologies trying to get rid of disease, suffering and aging.  Humanity wants to live in this world forever, but for its own pleasure.  And all this from the fact that people are fleeing from meeting with Christ.  It was not known to them that the feeling of hopeless insurmountable despair before death, dissipates, is overcome and is lost with the onset of the Paschal joy of the Resurrection of Christ.  After all, death and life in Christ, risen from the dead, acquires a completely different deep meaning.  True death and eternal is the falling away from Christ, the source of our life.  And true Life is communion with God.  

Brothers and sisters!  St. John Chrysostom explains to the whole human race the meaning of the Resurrection of Christ:  "Today the power of the devil is overthrown, today the bonds of death are broken, the victory of hell is destroyed ...".  And Saint Epiphanius joyfully preaches the gospel: "Now the cries of mortals have ceased ...".  In other words, from now on to a believer in Christ, death is not dead, but life-giving.  A dying Orthodox Christian knows that his being continues: “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for with Him all are alive” (Lk 20.38).  The Orthodox Christian believes that the separation of his soul from the body - physical death, will lead to a future rise in a renewed, new, transformed state - an immortal physicality and bliss in Christ Jesus.  St. John (Maksimovich) says: "our fathers and brothers who have departed to another world are having fun, for good reason the light of the Resurrection and anticipating their resurrection when they are even more saturated with divine glory ... from the dead and to be with him in his kingdom ... "

Dear brothers and sisters! With all my heart I congratulate you on the solemnity of the Resurrection of Christ!  I wish all of us Paschal joyful hope of the Resurrection of Christ and the fortress of faith. He, our Life! And we are very happy people, because we know that there is no death, but there is a transition to the blissful Eternal Life, to communion with the Triune God, who is Love! "Death! Where is your sting ?! Hell! Where is your victory ?!"

Christ is Risen!
+ Archbishop George
Pascha 2019

Vladyka Agafangel Pascha Epistle 2019

Metropolitan Agafangel: Pascha Message 2019
Author: Metropolitan Agafangel. Publication date: April 27, 2019 . Category: Author column .

Pascha message

First Hierarch of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia

Christ is Risen!
Reverend archpastors and shepherds, monastics and lay people, brothers and sisters!

We all know that the Resurrection of Christ destroyed the gates of hell, thanks to which it was possible to attain the kingdom of heaven.

After the fall of our first parents Adam and Eve, God-cursed land and short life on it, full of disease, sorrow, and ending in death, were for the entire human race the hell to which souls descended, and God set "a fiery sword that turns to guard the path to the tree of life "(Gen. 3.24), was for the people those closed gates that did not let them out of hell.

The destruction of the gates of hell by the Lord means that the "sword that turns" from the entrance to Paradise is taken away, and the Cherubim standing at the gates no longer blocks the way to the Heavenly Kingdom for righteous souls. Canceled that which was decreed in the Old Testament.  Christ, descending into hell and ascending into the kingdom of heaven, passed through the "fiery sword" blocking the way to Paradise, and abolished it.   By the resurrection of Christ, the path to the Kingdom of Heaven was revealed to everyone who wishes to taste with all his heart “from the tree of life and live forever” (Gen. 3.22).

To enter the Kingdom of Heaven you must die with Christ (which happens to us in the Sacrament of Baptism) and rise with Him - to plunge into death and burst out of it into eternal life.  Lent was a way for the path of each of us, as well as the path of all mankind - from exile from Paradise to returning to the Kingdom of Heaven.  By the risen Christ, we have been given the hope of a general resurrection in which we will rise from the dead alive in the hope of eternal life with God.  There is no other way to the kingdom of heaven. 

Today is the time to rejoice that the path to eternal life is open to our Savior.

Verily Christ is Risen!
+ Metropolitan Agafangel

Pascha of Christ, 2019.

Sermon On Christ's Crucifixion

Fr. Photios
Portland Cathedral GOC

My Brothers and Sisters,

Many times, every year, we are given moments where a choice should be made.

Maybe the Lord has sent us a great blessing, or shown us a miracle of some kind.  When that happens, we often struggle to make the decision of what we should do when God has made His presence known in our life.  Do we thank Him or just keep living like nothing happened?

This day we commemorate the Crucifixion of Christ our Savior, and we, my friends are faced with a choice.  Many people followed the Lord in His time; some were close by, taking in his every word and eating miraculously directly from His hand; others followed very far behind and weren’t moved much by what He did.  But they all made a choice: follow Him or walk away.

The late Fr. Seraphim Rose once said, in a summation of patristic thought:
“...the religion of compromise is self-deception and ...there exist today only two absolutely irreconcilable alternatives for man: faith in the world and the religion of self, whose fruit is death; and faith in Christ the Son of God in whom alone is eternal life.” 
“...two absolutely irreconcilable alternatives.” Notice he did not say “...three...alternatives”

Two.  We can have faith in the world or faith in Christ God.  That is it.  There is no middle way.

When someone loves something there is no doubt.  We all likely know someone who enjoys sports or a specific sports team.  I have a friend who loves the Seattle Seahawks, for example.  When you meet him, you cannot help but to notice his love for the Seahawks.  In conversation with him, if you don’t already know about his love for the team, you will soon find out.  If you visited his home, you would see nothing but Seahawks stuff literally everywhere.

Another example that should be obvious to all is the love that one person shows for another.  Again, it cannot be missed.  When one is in love with another, their lives are moved to an orbit around the other.  They eat, sleep and breathe the other person.  In a sense, they worship their beloved.

 Can one say they love another if they never talked to or spent time with them?  Can we, by looking at our lives and the time we have spent say that we love God?  Some like to say, “I’m spiritual but not religious.”  This is a ridiculous cop-out.  It’s like saying, “I love food but I never eat,” or “I love books, but I never read.”  We show our love and devotion to things by doing.  Otherwise it’s just empty words and lies.  So to bring this back to Fr. Seraphim’s words, it’s either real or it isn’t.  It’s either love or it’s not.  Period.

We have a choice to make, my friends.  Do we love God, or do we love anything and everything else?

Christ is today crucified.  He suffered.  He endured mockings and beatings for us.  He was killed in what many historians call the worst form of suffering death ever devised by man - for you and me.

He loves us, and His actions showed exactly how much: even unto a horrible, horrible death.

Let us then choose today to love Him in return, carrying our crosses unto our own sufferings, our own deaths and especially our resurrection to be with Him in glory unto the ages of ages.


Holy Friday Noble Joseph

Holy Friday Noble Joseph
 7 minutes
Noble Joseph, taking down Thy most pure Body from the Tree, and having wrapped It in clean linen and covered It with spices, laid It in a new tomb.

Greek Chant
Vassilis Hadjinicolaou

Consecration of Chrism Oil

Greek CPI: Consecration and Cooking Myro (25 PHOTOS)
The author: Olga. Publication date: April 26, 2019 . Category: CPI of Greece .

On Monday morning, 9 / 22.04-2019, in the Orthodox Church of Sts. Athanasius in Philadelphia was celebrated by the Divine Liturgy of the Most Reverend Metropolitan Gerontius of Piraeus and Salamis while co-serving the priesthood and deacons.

As early as the 10th century, the predecessor of His Beatitude Archbishop Kallinikos formed the Church Chin, in which the rule of alignment was made.

At the same time attended the bishops Most Reverend Metropolitan of Piraeus and Salamis Gerontius, Attica and Viotia Chrysostom, which is responsible for conducting Chin chrism and Thessalonica Gregory, Toronto Moses Methone Ambrose and Gardikiysky Clement, priests, deacons, choir, four mirovara, which He headed the Blessed Archbishop of Kallinikos, who performed the rite of small consecration of water and called on God's help in accomplishing the forthcoming work, then he sprinkled the Holy Water on all those present and all the objects that will be Used to make peace with the words: "The blessing of the Lord is upon you."

Then oil and wine were poured into the tank by the Most Blessed Archbishop Kallinikos, and he set about cooking myrrh in a special cauldron, blessing fire under it with tricyria.

After this, the reading of the holy Gospels began, which the hierarchs, dressed in omophor and stolethread, read in turn.

At that time, when the mixture warmed up sufficiently, His Beatitude Kallinikos blessed the aromatizers, which were measured in the proportions required for a given amount of welded myrh, and threw them into the cauldron and the bishops began to stir the world with a special wooden pestle, while continuing to read the Gospels.

#4 Keep from believing evil report against your leader

  Journey to Heaven
  by St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
Excerpt from Part IV  The Way of Duty

 On the Duty of Subordinates pp. 108-9

1. First every leader is appointed by God.  According to Scripture, There is no power, but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God (Rom. 13:1).  For this reason reverence every leader for god's sake and render him due honor in everything.

2. Second, because a leader provides and cares for society which includes you, then love him as your father and benefactor and be grateful to him.

3. Third, perform whatever he commands and decrees for the common good, and act according to his decree.

4. Fourth, keep from believing slanders and evil report against your leader, for false rumor is often spread around against any man, and more especially against a leader.  Most of all keep from slandering and condemning him, for you will sin gravely.  It is a great iniquity to slander or condemn a simple man, and much more so a leader.  Respect due a leader is removed from him by such slander and among subordinates disregard and disobedinece to him and every ill in society will follow.

5. Fifth, when a leader punishes you in word or deed, bear it without complaint.  When you are rightly punished, then you are deserving of it and you receive according to your deserts.  Why do you murmur, then?  When it is unjust, bear it even then, and ascribe it to your sins wherein you have sinned before God.

6. Sixth, because the leader looks after society, and consequently for you also, therefore he needs reason and support in trials.  Then you as well as all his subordintes should pray for him that God may enlighten, help, and support him.  Concerning this the Apostle says, I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority, that we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (I Tim. 2:1-2).  The happiness or unhappiness of society, as the health of the whole body, depends on the leader.  Therefore all must pray that the leader be responsible and good, and that society should thus prosper.  Furthermore, by all means refrain from defying the leader, lest the judgment of God come upon you at that very moment, as it did on Dathan and Abiron and the rest of their partisans.

One Lie About Trump Quashed

We can never let this happen to another President again. 

2 minutes

Outstanding Speech by Candace Owens


Video Report compiled by Sweet Li
Strolling down Twitter Lane (April 2019)
1 hour

Excerpt #1 47:00 - 53:36
6½ minutes

Excerpt #2 53:36 -  57:10
4 minutes

What's left of ROCOR in America

from Joanna's notepad
Editorial Comment

Something that surfaced, casually, in different conversations at the Women's Lenten Retreat is the fact that ROCOR now only has 3 priests left in America:

 Fr. Andrew Frick, Virginia
 Fr. Daniel Merschter, Pennsylvania
 Fr. John Mahan, Tennessee

This has been true for awhile now, but the reality sinks in slowly by steps.  Time to take stock; or, as Mr. Higginbotham used to say, "back up and punt."  And how appropriate is that analogy, since we, ROCOR, still have the ball.  The Sister Churches recognize us, and only us, as the sole valid continuation of the ROCOR.  We are what's left of the real ROCOR, and look how small we are...

How did this happen?  

First there was the massive schism of the OCA in 1970.  This was very injurious, mostly to the flock, not just American converts were deprived of true Orthodoxy, but many Russians also were enticed into the OCA parishes.  But we were in no way threatened with annihilation by this loss.

  By 2005 Fr. Gregory's SJKP Directory listed 150 ROCOR parishes in the USA.

Next there was the massive schism of the ROCOR-MP in 2007.  About 2/3 of our Church (those who live for this world ~ St. Philaret) went to Moscow.  And of those who did not go to Moscow, too many of them were sucked up by the SIR.  I recall a newsletter published by Etna after Abp. Chrysostomos had made his rounds visiting his new acquisitions, in which he boasted that he got the "cream of the cream" of ROCOR -- meaning the best of ROCOR's people.  I don't think the Archbishop's intention was to boast, instead I think he was praising them; he also praised them for being loyal to him, in the same newsletter and at other times also.

  A few members we lost to the super-correct fragments.  The actual number is maybe insignificant, but they were very very loud.  

At the time of the ROCOR-MP union, as far as I know, only one parish went to the GOC, which was Fr. Mark Gilstrap's parish in Oklahoma.  But after the SIR reunion with the GOC, ROCOR lost even more members to the GOC.  The GOC has more to offer than ROCOR: more English, more fellowship, closer parishes.  And anyone who had a problem with our Metropolitan was readily taken in by the GOC.  In his day, St. Philaret NY was not so eager to take in Greeks who sought refuge in the ROCOR -- instead he sent them back to settle things with their own hierarchs.  An example of this is recorded in the biography of Metropolitan Petros of Astoria (link in sidebar).  Nevertheless, ROCOR survived this loss also.

But then came the most devastating schism of all.  The Mountainview Schism (Andronik) in 2017.  This is the silver dagger.  This has done us in.  Very soon the GOC may not have a ROCOR Sister Church in America.  This will be a great loss for the GOC.  They are used to flying solo, so maybe it will not seem like such a loss to them.  But it will be a great loss whether it seems so or not.  The Sister Churches need each other:  we validate each other and we keep each other in check.  America already has no Romanian or Bulgarian Sister parishes in America; and soon there may be no ROCOR parishes left in America as well.

I would like to invite anyone who is inclined to help support the ROCOR in Tennessee to consider moving here.  Nashville has great employment opportunities and there are 'Help Wanted' signs all over in the suburbs, too. Nashville itself is expensive, but less than an hour outside the city are serious bargains in houses with very low taxes and few zoning restrictions.  Weather is moderate.  Rednecks don't rule here anymore -- too many 'foreigners' have moved in from California and New York; but there still remains the tenor of Bible Belt Christianity.  And Tennessee is a (very) red state.

In Memory Archimandrite CYPRIAN (Pyzhov)

From the Editors: Today, dear brothers and sisters, we prayerfully remember Archimandrite Kyprian (Pyzhov) on the anniversary of his death, prepared with the help of materials published by Holy Trinity Monastery and originally published as part of The History of Holy Trinity Monasteryin Jordanville, NY.

Kyrill Dimitrievich Pyzhov, tonsured Kyprian, was born in St Petersburg on January 7/20, 1904. Soon after, his father, Dimitri Mikhailovich Pyzhov, was appointed the zemsky (regional) Supervisor in Bezhetsk uezd of Tverskaya guberniya. There, in 1912, Kyrill's mother, Alexandra Konstantinovna, nee Strinskaya, died. She was an artist who graduated the Moscow School of Painting and Sculpture; she worked in the studios of Makovsky, Polenov, Perov and others. She inherited her talent from her father, who completed the Academy of Art in Florence.

After the February Revolution, Dimitri Mikhailovich and his three sons, Evgenii, Kyrill and Georgii (later Hieromonk Gregorii), moved to Petrograd, where they were to endure hunger and cold. By the end of 1918, they left for Shchigri in the Kursk guberniya.

Awaiting the arrival of the White Army, the Pyzhovs made their way to Simferopol. Here, 15-year-old Kyrill became a volunteer soldier and was sent to the front. From then on he endured the entire tribulation of the Volunteer Army—evacuation and Gallipoli. Here, Kyrill joined Alexandrov Military School, where he studied for three years until its dismantling in 1923. Kyrill left for France through Bulgaria to join his older brother.

In Paris, Kyrill worked in a studio that made toy horses, then joined an atelier of designers in the Russian film studio "Albatross," where he participated in creating the film Don Quixote, with Feodor Chaliapine playing the lead role. Soon after Kyrill moved to Parish, his father and brother George joined him. The three of them then began working as painters. During the evenings, the brothers attended Montparnasse School of painting and drawing, where professors from the Ecole des Beaux Arts taught.

Living in Parish, Kyrill began feeling ill. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was advised to move south. A French design firm sent Kyrill as an expert to its office on the Riviera. He soon regained his health and began decorating fashionable villas.
"I thought of marriage," wrote Fr Kyprian in his memoirs, "but whenever an opportunity presented itself, an unseen hand would take me away."

In Nice, Kyrill lived with his brother, Hieromonk Gregorii. Kyrill became an ardent parishioner of the local cathedral, where he befriended Priest Alexander Elchaninov. Under his influence, Kyrill immersed himself in the study of the Orthodox faith and he begins sensing a pull towards the Church and church services. He began to study the techniques of icon painting under Fr Alexander's matushka, a student of the artist Sofronov.

In the summer of 1932, Hieromonk Savva (Struve) arrived in Nice to collect donations for Ladomirovo Monastery. Fr Savva showed photographs of the monastery, which awakened in Kyrill the desire to help distribute its publications.

"The best way you could help the monastery would be to go there yourself and apply your abilities there," replied Fr Savva.

"I said that would be difficult, since I did not have an international passport, but Fr Savva immediately offered to write an appeal to Archimandrite Vitaly to accept me as a novice, and to send me an invitation. Fr Savva added that I could paint frescoes in the new church, which I would like, and I replied that I would like to try my hand at it… So my fate was decided," recounted Fr Kyprian.

In the winter of 1933, before the Nativity of Christ, approaching the town of Ladomirovo, Kyrill saw the church which would be the canvas of his talent: his first frescoed decoration of a church was completed in 1934.

That autumn, Bishop Vitaly tonsured Novice Kyrill to the rassophore, "for painting our church." His tonsure to the mantle was performed in 1937, and in 1938, Monk Kyprian was ordained to the rank of hierodeacon. In 1940, Metropolitan Anastassy, arriving from Yugoslavia, ordained Fr Kyprian to the rank of hieromonk.

War broke out. The monastery's brethren evacuated through Bratislava to Berlin, where they found shelter in a half-ruined house. Fr Kyprian, suffering from pneumonia, was sent to a convent dormitory across from a church, whose Rector was Archimandrite Ioann (Shahovskoy). When the recuperated Fr Kyprian entered the church a month later, and approached the candle desk, he noticed printed copies of icons he painted for a Dresden commission. Continuing the monks' exodus from Berlin to Geneva, he finally found the final destination of his wanderings—Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville.

"My very first days in Holy Trinity Monastery," remembered Fr Kyprian, "reminded me of my first days at Ladomirovo Monasetery in Carpathian Russia; but this feeling did not last. Soon an icon-painting studio was set up. Novice Nikolai, who was tonsured with the name of Alypy, in honor of the icon-painter of Pechersk, I obtained an irreplaceable helper, both in the studio and in obedience, who became an emulator of the ancient monk of Kievo-Pecherskaya Lavra, Hieromonk Alypy.

"In 1946, building commenced of the brick church dedicated to the Holy Trinity. In 1950, it was completed and consecrated by Metropolitan Anastassy. The painting of the interior of the church was also finished in time for the consecration. Following this, construction of the four-storey monastic residence began, which also contained the print shop, offices and refectory.

"A small church dedicated to the Dormition of the Mother of God was built in the monastic cemetery according to the design of V. Glinin, and also decorated by the icon-painters. A few other churches in the USA [Entrance into the Temple Church in Syracuse, NY, St John of Kronstadt Memorial Church in Utica, NY, the Cathedral of the Mother of God "Joy of All Who Sorrow" in San Francisco, and others— ed.]; and in Europe [Luxembourg], where in 1982, the newly-constructed Church of SS Peter and Paul was painted.

"In 1988, the frescoes in St Vladimir Memorial Church in Jackson, NJ, built with the blessing of Archbishop Vitaly, were finished. We began to feel at home in Holy Trinity Monastery, and 'grew together' with its founders."

Heading the icon-painting studio, Fr Kyprian managed to educate not only numerous iconographers, who painted icons in the canonical ecclesiastical style throughout the world, but, as the spiritual father of monks and seminarians, participated in the preparation of many future archpastors and pastors of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia. Fr Kyprian died in 2002, and is buried in the crypt under the altar of the Monastery Cathedral.

According to Orthodox Wiki the date of his repose is April 15, 2001
Our Synodal Synodic: 2. 04 - Archimandrite CYPRIAN (Pyzhov) († 2001)
April 2/15, 2001

Sermon for St. Mary of Egypt Sunday

Fr. Photios 2016
Portland Cathedral

“He who hates the passions gets rid of their causes.  But he who is attracted by their causes is attacked by the passions even though he does not wish it.” 
~St. Mark the Ascetic 

This my friends, is the patristic example of an addict. 

When we think of addiction, often the first thing that comes to mind -and rightly so- are things like alcohol or drugs.  Those are things people can be addicted to, for sure, but there are addictions that aren’t so obvious.  There are physical addictions, and there are spiritual or psychological addictions.  Spiritual addictions are often manifested in physical ones, just as a virus that is hidden on the inside manifest themselves outwardly by a reaction from the body.  Sin -the spiritual addiction- manifests itself physically in our daily lives. 

How does the heart turn to a vice?  How does the heart turn to sin?  St. Hesychios describes the Patristic consensus thusly: “The provocation comes first, then our coupling with it, or the mingling of our thoughts with those of the wicked demons.  Third comes our assent to the provocation, with both sets of intermingling thoughts contriving how to commit the sin in practice.  Fourth comes the concrete action - that is, the sin itself.  If, however, the intellect is attentive and watchful, and at once repulses the provocation by counter-attacking and gainsaying it and invoking the Lord Jesus, its consequences remain inoperative; for the devil, being a bodiless intellect, can deceive our souls only by means of fantasies and thoughts.  David was speaking about these provocations of the devil when he said: 'Early in the morning I destroyed all the wicked of the earth that I might cut off all evildoers from the city of the Lord' (Ps. 101:8. LXX); and Moses was referring to the act of assent to a provocation in his words: 'You shall make no covenant with them, nor with their gods’" (Exod. 23 : 32). 

Let us remember the words of Christ: "But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up." Mt. 24:43 

A heart that is not watchful easily falls to temptations and becomes enamored of it, because as we all know, sin is often a pleasurable thing; it can be “fun” and “exciting.” 

St. Mary of Egypt is a good example of an addict.  Rather, she was.  If we recall her life, before her conversion she lived a life of wantonness.  She was sexually depraved and sought out to “destroy” any man she laid her eyes on.  She fit very well the description I laid out by St. Mark: “But he who is attracted by their causes is attacked by the passions even though he does not wish it.”  If you ask any drug addict or alcoholic, one of the common factors is one of uncontrollability.  No matter what they do, they are absolutely powerless to keep themselves away from their addiction, because as I stated a moment ago, the source of the addiction is pleasurable.  Every priest -to a man- has dealt with people who suffer from the very same kind of addiction that St. Mary did, and I dare say that there are truly few who have been born since Adam and Eve who have not in some way suffered that addiction too. 

A sinful addiction also does not have to bring some form of pleasure to be an addiction.  Many people are addicted to things that are merely emotions or states of being.  Some are addicted to control, or being right, or arguing, or self esteem, or driving too fast, or sports, or video games, or food; you name it.  An addiction is -like sin- the taking of a thing and abusing it, using it over and beyond what it is intended for, so that it becomes second nature.  But in the case of an addiction it is destructive.  In the case of pleasurable addictions, that destruction goes on and on without struggle because the person is numbed by pleasure and doesn’t even realize they are trapped. 

The reason an addict is seeking recovery is not because their life is working just fine and as God intended.  They are seeking therapy (healing) because the exact opposite is true.  The addict has their moment of clarity, and turns away form their destruction.  St. Mary had her moment before the doors of the Church, and from that time on, she was in a state of repentance.  A life destroyed by addiction -and a soul ruined by great, persistent sin- can only be healed in an equally severe repentance.  All that was ruined must now be fixed.  Such was the case with human nature, ruined by the sin of the fall, and so Christ had to take all of our nature on, even unto suffering and death in order to heal it and make things right. 

A sinner or an addict cannot lightly say, “Oh, I’ve given up such and such,” or “I’ve asked for forgiveness,” and then do nothing to change their ways.  It seems obvious to us here and now, but again, every priest -to a man- can verify as to how many hundreds and thousands of people they have seen go into confession and come out having not changed in the slightest. 

We are called as Christians to repent of sin and all that has to do with it.  This is a life of piety, a life of struggle.  We must be watchful then, after our moment of repentance.  St. Hesychios of Jerusalem, the great preacher of watchfulness warns us concerning this, “The devil, with all his powers, 'walks a about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour'(1Ptr. 5:8).  So you must never relax your attentiveness of heart, your watchfulness, your power of rebuttal or your prayer to Jesus Christ our God."  If we, dear friends, were in a room with a hungry lion pacing back and forth, just waiting for the right moment to pounce on us and eat us, would not our attention be paid to its every move?  Would we ever be unsure of where this violent beast was located?  Would a single breath or sigh that left its lips not be examined by us for its ill intent? 

And certainly, would we not be uttering with every breath prayers to God our Savior to release us from such a situation?  Let us ponder on that. 

And so, when we make that break from sin and a sinful life, it must be exact and thorough.  We must feel it; it should hurt a bit.  It is the internal struggles that we are called to fight: struggles against temptations, against our passions, against idolatry and unfaithfulness.  But so long as we are caught up with the distractions of our outward concerns which focus on our own desires, then we cannot begin the true work of the soul.

The easy life of addiction to sin is in direct opposition to Christianity.  This is not to suggest that God wants us to be unhappy or in pain.  But the happiness, or rather joy of Christianity does not consist of anything the world can give us.  This joy that is received when one is freed from sin is a joy we see throughout the Scriptures, and the lives of the Saints.  St. Mary felt this.  In her joy she knew that all that was in the world was what kept her enslaved to sin, and so the world would never be able to give her that joy. 

So she fled to the desert to live off of only what God gave her.  Her fleeing to the dry deserted places of Egypt is for us a model and example.  When we repent of sin, it should be total.  For just as an alcoholic no longer associates with those who helped him in his addiction, or goes to those places which supplied him with alcohol, all for fear that any contact with it might bring him back down and ultimately destroy him, so too must we fear any contact or near occasion with sin.  For again as St. Hesychios said, “Those who lack experience should know that it is only through the unceasing watchfulness of our intellect and the constant invocation of Jesus Christ, our Creator and God, that we, coarse and cloddish in mind and body as we are, can overcome our bodiless and invisible enemies ; for not only are they subtle, swift, malevolent and skilled in malice, but they have an experience in warfare gained over all the years since Adam. 

“For,” he continues, “You will not find a greater help than Jesus in all your life, for He alone, as God, knows the deceitful ways of the demons, their subtlety and their guile.” 

St. Mary’s complete rejection of the world was relatively easy for her to do.  She had no children, no job, no debts, nothing to hold her back.  Whereas we have those things.  Can we run to the desert?  No, not literally.  But we are called to be in this world, but not of it.  Be at work, but in a spiritual desert, relying only on, and living only for God.  We are to reject the things of this world because we are addicts to sin, my friends.  We are addicts.  We have to admit that.  For whatever the sins are that we are attached to, addicted to, whether minor or major, they only darken our souls and hide the light of Christ from our eyes so that soon we will forget Him and very (possibly) painlessly destroy ourselves.  We must hate especially the causes for all sin, if not cut off from the soul destroys it. 

The desire for ease and comfort is one of the most obvious ways in which we have been infected by the world’s thinking.  If there is no God and this world and this life are all we have, then it makes logical sense to seek a way of life that maximizes pleasure.  This was an ancient Greek philosophy created by Epicurus who proclaimed that the true moral action is the one that maximizes pleasure.  His pagan attitude was in fact, far more refined than the modern versions of hedonism we see at play today.  Epicurus at least attempted to distinguish the higher forms of pleasure from the base ones.  But with the rationalism of the last two hundred years even this apparently civilizing aspect was removed when John Stuart Mills, the preacher of Utilitarianism, pronounced that “push pin is as good as poetry” (push-pin was a mindless drinking game).  This is the world’s voice telling us that whatever makes us feel good must be right.  Epicurus recognized the way animals instinctively seek pleasure and avoid pain and pronounced that this must be the natural order of things.  But in fact you and I were created in the image of God.  You and I were created for a purpose far greater than to lie stretched out in front of a fire sleeping the day away.  It is true that we have a physical existence every much a part of who we are as is our spiritual existence: we are being redeemed both in body and soul.  But we are more than animals and we are called to live as such. 

What is the point of all this comfort that we are surrounded buy and become addicted to?  Happiness.  Our hearts will only be truly happy, joyous and free of sin and passionate addictions when they rest in God, my friends. 

How does this joy of repentance come to us, how do we acquire it?  St. Barsanouphius of Optina tells us:

“When a valve of the heart closes to the receptivity of worldly enjoyments, another valve opens for the reception of spiritual joys. 

But how does one acquire this?  First of all, by peace and love towards one’s neighbors: Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  Charity never faileth... (1 Cor. 13:4-8).  Then, by patience.  Who will be saved?  He that endureth to the end shall be saved (Mt. 10:22).  Also, by withdrawing from such sinful pleasures as, for instance, card-playing, dances, and so on... 

Full joy does not occur in this life, where we see God only through a glass, darkly.  This joy will begin yonder, beyond the grave, when we will see the Lord face to face.  Not everyone will see God the same way, but each will see Him according to the measure of his own receptivity.  In fact, even the vision of the Seraphim is distinguished from the vision of simple angels. 

One can only say whoever has not seen Christ in this life will not see Him in the next.   The capability of seeing God is attained through work on oneself in this life.

The life of any Christian person can be depicted graphically in the form of an uninterruptedly ascending line.  But the Lord does not allow a man to see this ascent; He conceals it, knowing human weakness, knowing that by observing his own improvement it would not take a man long to become prideful, and where there is pride, there too is a fall into the abyss.  [Benjamin] Franklin thought up a horrible thing, proposing that people, on special little boards, make note of their successes of the day, of the week, and so on. In this way one can reach a state of terrible prelest (spiritual delusion) and tumble down into the abyss of destruction. 

No, ours is a different path.  We must all strive towards God, towards heaven, towards the East; but we must see our sins and weaknesses, confessing ourselves to be the first among sinners, seeing ourselves as beneath all, and all others as above us.  However, this is a difficult thing; we all try to take notice of others—‘he's weak in this, but I'm not; I'm a good boy, better than him.’  One must struggle against this trait.  This is a tough struggle, but without it it's impossible to see God.  True, only a few people have seen God face to face, like St. Seraphim of Sarov, but we must all, without exception, strive, if only to see His reflection.  If we believe in Christ and try, according to our strength, to fulfill His commandments, then even if only through a crack, we'll still see Him.  Our vision of Christ and the vision of the saints can be compared to the ability of a man and an eagle to look at the sun.  The eagle rises high above the earth, soars in the sky, and with unblinking eyes looks at the sun.  But man's site is not adapted to this; man cannot bear the fullness of the light.  Thus it is as well with Divine light— those who are adapted to this spiritual sight will see Him, and the rest will not.” 

As I stated before, this turning away from sin, its causes and the life connected to it, is difficult.  But that is part of our therapy.  One cannot heal from a great illness without pain and discomfort.  St. Barsanouphius adds that we should “Go to God’s temple more often, especially when you’re in afflictions. It’s good to stand in some dark corner and pray and weep from your heart.”  We priests can only cross ourselves in sadness when we see those who are tormented and suffering purposely remove themselves from the source of their healing, thinking it will help.  I myself once had a young woman tell me she didn’t come to church because she was mourning the loss of her beloved uncle. 

My friends, we have this church, this great Hospital that is the body of Christ, wherein we are surrounded by other addicts to sin.  Just as a recovering addict goes to meetings with other addicts where their fellowship and common suffering gives them strength, we have this place to come and express our sorrows and sufferings to God and those around us who can fully understand what we are going through. 

Remember, in the first few centuries of the Church, confession was laid out just the same way as at addict meetings: people stood up before their fellow sinner and told everybody what they had done to get them there.  St. James the brother of the Lord told his listeners “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”  There had to be humility to do such a thing, but the reward of such personal lowliness and poverty was and is one of great magnitude and strength. God humbles the proud and lifts up the lowly. 

In our humility God will hear us, and come to us, as Isaiah the Prophet announced “And it shall come to pass in the day that the Lord shall give thee rest from thy sorrow, and from thy fear, and from the hard bondage wherein thou wast made to serve” for as He said to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 

And when we are in the midst of our fellow addicts, sharing our heartaches and receiving strength from their familial love, we have the greatest antidote to sin every given us: the Body of Christ Himself; the Eucharist.  St. Cyril of Alexandria calls us to it in such a way, “If the poison of pride is swelling up in you, turn to the Eucharist; and that Bread, Which is your God humbling and disguising Himself, will teach you humility. If the fever of selfish greed rages in you, feed on this Bread; and you will learn generosity .  If the cold wind of coveting withers you, hasten to the Bread of Angels; and charity will come to blossom in your heart.  If you feel the itch of intemperance, nourish yourself with the Flesh and Blood of Christ, Who practiced heroic self-control during His earthly life; and you will become temperate.  If you are lazy and sluggish about spiritual things, strengthen yourself with this heavenly Food; and you will grow fervent.  Lastly, if you feel scorched by the fever of impurity, go to the banquet of the Angels; and the spotless Flesh of Christ will make you pure and chaste.” 

So let us confess, my friends, that we are addicted to sin.  Let us as well, take the proper measures and humble ourselves before God, asking His mercy and grace, and before one another, asking the same.  Let us flee from the world’s deceptive and destructive addictions, and be watchful over our souls. Then, like St. Mary of Egypt, who, every time she was afforded the opportunity to receive the medicine of life, the Holy Eucharist, let us do so with all haste. 

In the midst of our struggles He is there, for He loves us with a love unimaginable.  “The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” 

May God grant us all deep repentance, and the grace by His Body and Blood to struggle through to the Great and Holy Resurrection!