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April 29, 2015 + On Prayer, Joy, and Anger

from Evagrius the Solitary

14. Prayer is the flower of gentleness and of freedom from anger.

15. Prayer is the fruit of joy and thankfulness.

16. Prayer is the remedy for gloom and despondency.

17. 'Go and sell all you have and give to the poor' (Matt. 19:21); and 'deny yourself, taking up your cross' (Matt. 16: 24). You will then be free from distraction when you pray.

18. If you wish to pray as you should, deny yourself all the time, and when any kind of affliction troubles you, meditate on prayer.

19. If you endure something painful out of love for wisdom, you will find the fruit of this during prayer.

20. If you desire to pray as you ought, do not grieve anyone; otherwise you 'run in vain' (Phil. 2:16).

April 22, 2015 + About Seeking the Living among the Dead

by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Why do you seek the living One among the dead? (St. Luke 24:5)

The angel of God asks the Myrrh-bearing women as though in astonishment: "Why do you seek the living One among the dead?" As though the perceiver of the mystery of God and God's power wanted to say: "How could you have thought for a moment that He is the hostage of death? Do you not know that He is the principal source of life? Do you not know that all life is through Him and that not one living thing can borrow not even a drop of life from any other source? Did He not fully reveal to you His authority over life and death on earth? Who gave life to the lifeless Lazarus? Who took away the life of the barren fig tree?

O my brethren, let us also cease to look for the living among the dead. If there are some of us who are still seeking Christ among the dead, let them desist from this soul-destroying effort. This is the vain effort of the Jews, pagans and non-Christians. We know that the Lord and Giver of life is not in the tomb but on the Throne of Glory in the heavens. The spirit, not darkened by sin, looks up into heaven and does not see the tomb; and the spirit, darkened by sin, looks into the tomb and does not see heaven. Sin and virtue govern the spiritual vision of man and reveals to each man its own world at cross-purposes with one another. Sin overthrows the vision of the spirit to the earth and reveals to it the corruption of the world. Virtue uplifts the spirit to heaven and reveals to it the eternal world and the resurrected Christ as the King in that world.

Mother of God of the "Life-Giving Spring"

Mother of God of the Life-Giving Spring by Vasiliki Oldziey of St. Elias Church, Austin, TXMother of God of the Life-Giving Spring by Vasiliki Oldziey of St. Elias Church, Austin, TXThe Feast of the Life-giving Spring which is kept on the Friday of Bright Week has its origins in the 5th century.  It is the feast that commemorates the consecration of the Church of the Life-giving Spring outside of Constantinople.

The very large and beautiful church named in honor of the Theotokos of the Life-giving Spring was built about the middle of the fifth century by the Emperor Leo the Great (457-474 AD), outside of Constantinople.  Emperor Leo was a pious man (he is commemorated on January 20th) and before he became Emperor, he had encountered a blind man, who being tormented with thirst asked him to help him find water.  Leo felt compassion for him and went in search of a source of water, but found none.  As he was about to cease his search, he heard a voice telling him there was water nearby.  He looked again, and found none.  Then he heard the voice again, this time calling him "Emperor" and telling him that he would find muddy water in the densely wooded place nearby; he was to take some water and anoint the blind man's eyes with it.  When he had done this, the blind man received his sight.

After Leo became Emperor, as the Most Holy Theotokos had prophesied, he raised up a church temple over the spring, whose waters worked many healings, as well as resurrections from the dead, through the intercessions of the Theotokos. From this, it came to be called the "Life-giving Spring."

April 15, 2015 + A Paschal Homily

by St. Epiphanius of Cyprus

Something strange is happening—there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began.

God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory.

At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, 'My Lord be with you all.' Christ answered him: 'And with your spirit.' He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying:

'Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.

April 8, 2015 + A Paschal Homily

by Melito of Sardis

[Christ] rose up from the dead, and cried aloud with this voice: "Who is he who contends with me? Let him stand in opposition to me. I set the condemned man free; I gave the dead man life; I raised up the one who had been entombed. Who is my opponent?"

"I," He says, "am the Christ. I am the one who destroyed death, and triumphed over the enemy, and trampled Hades under foot, and bound the strong one, and carried off man to the heights of heaven."

"I," he says, "am the Christ."

"Therefore, come, all families of men, you who have been befouled with sins, and receive forgiveness for your sins. I am your forgiveness. I am the passover of your salvation. I am the lamb which was sacrificed for you. I am your ransom. I am your light. I am your saviour. I am your resurrection. I am your king. I am leading you up to the heights of heaven. I will show you the eternal Father. I will raise you up by my right hand."

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 6

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain)1

Factors Affecting Human Behavior

Icon of Ladder of Divine Ascent based on the spiritual treatise written by St. John of the LadderIcon of Ladder of Divine Ascent based on the spiritual treatise written by St. John of the LadderSuch Church Fathers as St. John of the Ladder and St. Gregory Palamas indicate that continual sin becomes habitual. [Thereby making behavioral patterns less voluntary.] Habits can make the spirit dark. They work by blackening our minds, which guides and inclines people to do things they would not normally think of. (Palmer, 1984-93) The Church Fathers suggest reducing the strength of habits by removing sensory factors and stopping memories [thoughts] as they begin. With repetition, these new techniques become stronger. This is not unlike the 'thought stopping' techniques proposed by Cognitive-behavioral therapists. For the Christian, putting these techniques in a spiritual perspective, as suggested by the Church Fathers, provides added motivation and rationale for the treatment.

April 1, 2015 + The Love a Husband and Wife Owe Each Other

by St. Paisios the Athonite

Each loves the other for what he offers [to that person]. The wife gives her husband confidence, dedication and obedience. The husband gives his wife assurance that he can protect her. The wife is the ruler of the house, but also the chief maid. The husband is the governor of the house, but also the servant. The husband and wife must share a purifying love, in order to have mutual consolation and to be able to perform their spiritual responsibilities. In order to live in harmony, they need to establish love as the foundation of their lives together – precious love – which is found in spiritual nobility, in sacrifice and not in falsity, worldiness and carnality. If there is love and sacrifice, everything that effects one also effects the other, and can be understood and suffered. And when we sees that his beloved suffers some heartache, he takes them to Christ, who fills them with inexpressible joy ...

Chaplain's Corner + True Happiness

by Fr. George Morelli

There is a tendency in our society to point to outside events in and of themselves as the cause of our happiness or unhappiness. This is followed by the idea that individuals have limited power to control their emotional responses to such happenings. While it is true that physical assaults, depending on their gravity, could certainly harm us, psychological assaults are a different matter. Emotional responses, such as demanding expectations and overevaluations are often triggered by irrational beliefs specific to each individual. These irrational beliefs have been noted by the observations of clinical cognitive psychologists, such as Albert Ellis (1962, p.72)1 and others.  Especially in this day of instantaneous social media, I want to make clear that in no way am I condoning or excusing the proliferation of socially deviant egregious behaviors, such as bullying, harassment or sexting. However, understanding that we can develop control over our emotional reactions to such untoward events can aid us in walking a path leading to true happiness. Failure to do so leads to a cascading scenario of untoward events. A particularly nasty situation may in reality be quite unpleasant. However, a strong emotional reaction to it, which is also unpleasant, just adds to the problem. Furthermore, the more strongly emotionally reactive we are to such events, the less effectively competent we are at coping with them or in solving unpleasant events that can be changed.2 Thus, though we are now undergoing another bitter event, it is one which we can do something about.

March 25, 2015 + The Christian's Road

St. Macarius the Great, Homily 15 from Spiritual Homilies

12. The men of God, then, ought to prepare themselves for conflict and combat. As a brave young man bears the blows that fall on him, and the wrestling match, and hits back, so Christians ought to put up with afflictions without and wars within, in order that, though belabored, they may conquer by endurance. That is the Christian's road. Where the Holy Spirit is, there follow, like a shadow, persecution and wrestling. You see the prophets, how they were persecuted by their countrymen from first to last, while the Holy Spirit worked upon them. You see how the Lord, who is the Way and the Truth, was persecuted, not by another nation, but by His own. By His own race of Israel He was persecuted and crucified. So was it with the apostles. The Paraclete Spirit removed from the quarter whence the cross came, and passed to the Christians. No Jew was persecuted; Christians were the only martyrs. For this reason they ought not to be surprised. The truth must needs be persecuted.

March 18, 2015 + Cleaving to the Lord Firstly

St. Macarius the Great, Homily 9 from Spiritual Homilies

12. Lovely it is, when the soul, devoting herself wholly to the Lord, and cleaving to Him only, and dwelling mindfully in His commandments, and worthily honoring the Spirit of Christ which has come upon her and overshadowed her, is permitted to be one Spirit and one composition with Him, as the apostle says, He that is joined unto the Lord is one Spirit.13 But if a man gives himself away to cares, or glory, or power, or human honors, and seeks after these things, and his soul is mixed up and enters into composition with earthly considerations, or is bound and held by anything belonging to this age, and if such a soul longs to transfer itself and escape and get away from the darkness of passions, in which it is held by the evil powers, it cannot do so, because it loves and does the will of darkness, and does not perfectly hate the practices of wickedness.

The Great Lent: Message From Patriarch John X

By God's mercy
John X, Patriarch of Antioch and all East
Brethren, Pastors of the Holy Church of Antioch;
Beloved children in all dioceses in this apostolic see

Brethren and dearest spiritual children,
whose strength and anticipation in God, strengthen ours;

Entering this redemptive period which leads us to the Cross (of Christ) and the dawn of His and thus our resurrection, these days bring to us the anticipation to Jesus and His divine consolation for His beloved humans; for whom He descended from His highest, incarnated in the Virgin, submitting Himself to the human law, willingly walking the path of the Cross, in order to rise from the dead, becoming the first fruit for our resurrection from our earthly misery and tribulation.

On the New Martyrs of the Middle East: An Orthodox Christian View

by His Grace Bishop Thomas (Joseph), Ed.D.

Beloved in Christ,

Last weekend I visited parishes and college students in the Baltimore, MD area. While I was there, Orthodox clergy and faithful asked that I offer a response to what's going on in the Middle East. Attached is my response. Special thanks to Fr Andrew Damick for his contribution to what you'll read here.

To introduce this, I'll simply ask you to pray "for the peace of the whole world, the good estate of the Holy Churches of God, and the union of all men."

In recent months, images and stories of Christians being killed for their faith in the Middle East have flooded our news sources and dominated our social media. We see beheadings and shootings, sometimes available as gruesome videos on the Internet that are intended by their makers to inspire some to join their cause and others to cower in fear. We have seen bishops kidnapped, priests shot in the street as they ministered to the suffering, and innocents lined up and had their heads sawn off with knives.

Christians are not the only ones suffering in the Middle East—Muslims, Druze, Yazidis and others are also being targeted by the armies of takfirism. They are also dying for their faith, and even though we Christians do not share their religion with them, we still suffer with them in solidarity, because Christ still died and rose from the dead for them, even if they do not believe it.

On the First Anniversary of the Falling Asleep of Metropolitan Philip

by Fr. Joseph Antypas

March 19 marks the first anniversary of the falling asleep of the thrice-blessed and our Father in Christ of the late Metropolitan Philip. There is not a single day that passes without remembering the life and the contributions of this giant of a man, who has endeared himself to the cause of spreading Antiochian Orthodoxy in North America, and who has left a tremendous impact on the institutions that belong to the Antiochian Archdiocese of North America. People continue to remember and sometimes are visited in dreams, recalling Metropolitan Philip and his dynamic ministry in the life of American Orthodoxy in general and Antiochian Orthodoxy in particular.

On the occasion of his anniversary I want to focus on three areas that characterized this 'world historical individual', to use the expression of the German philosopher George Hegel.

First, Metropolitan Philip believed in the value of the human person. He provided to the ministries of the Antiochian Archdiocese an army of men and women. Some went to seminaries so they became priests and deacons, and some were promoted into the office of the bishop. Others took leading positions in the various institutions and church organizations. He established a great rapport with all those who worked with him, promoting the goals and aspirations of the Holy Church.

March 11, 2015 + Grace and Works

"No good works are accomplished by our efforts alone but by the power and will of God. Nevertheless, God demands effort on our part in conforming to His will." These are the words of Saints Barsanuphius and John. Few words but much said. We are obliged to labor, to cultivate and to prepare every good thing, and if some good will take root, grow and bring forth fruit, that is up to the power and will of God. We plow the furrows and God sows, if He wills it. We cleanse the vessels of the Spirit and God pours the Spirit into these vessels, if He wills it. He can do anything if He wills it. And He will do everything that responds to the highest wisdom and suitability, that is, to His plan of man's salvation. In interpreting the words of our Lord, "So be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves" (St. Matthew 10:16), St. John Chrysostom writes that our Lord gave this commandment to His disciples that "they themselves should cooperate in some way, so that it will not to appear that all effort is of Grace alone and for them not to think that they received the wreaths of glory for nothing." And so, both of them are indispensable for our salvation: our effort and the power of God's Grace.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich, The Prologue of Ohrid: Lives of the Saints, March 11th

Panegyric for St. Raphael

by Fr. John W. Fenton, The Word, April 2015

March 4, 2015 + Become as Lightning

FIRST WEEK OF LENT, THURSDAY MATINS, CANTICLE FOUR: FIRST CANON, TONE 2 (By Joseph the Hymnographer)

Become as lightning, my soul,
receiving the flashing rays of abstinence,
and flee from the obscurity of sin:
that through the divine Spirit
the light of forgiveness may enlighten you as the rising sun.

The deceiver enticed and captured me with the hook of pleasure.
But, apostles, as by your preaching
you have caught the whole world in your net
deliver me from his malice.

Healing Society: Understanding True Personhood

by Fr. George Morelli

The featured author article this month is an updating and reworking of the Society of St. John Chrysostom-Western Region’s President’s Message Light of the East Newsletter (Spring 2015) originally entitled PERSONHOOD: DISUNION AND UNION.[i] This article focuses on the need of the healing of society from making Christ and His Body the Church criminals and non-persons worthy of marginalization, murder and torturous execution, and recognizing that all of mankind, in fact are made up of ‘persons,’ and are of worth. Furthermore all Christians should join in prayer, witness and action to cure the increasing societal illness of depersonalization.

And God created man to his own image: to the image of God he created him: male and female he created them. (Gn 1: 27)

And the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul. (Gn 2:7)

One would hope that the basis of union among those who acknowledge the transcendent personal God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob would be that of the worth and sanctity of personhood. It would appear, however, that rather than a reestablishment of cordial relations among those who acknowledge the sacredness of Scripture, and the Book of Genesis in particular, there is an ever growing divide.  Understanding how the differing religious traditions view the genesis and development of the concept of personhood gives an insight of what fuels this ‘great divide.’ Spiritual and moral values differ among those who all consider themselves followers of Christ, and the difference in the understanding of personhood is not only a good reflection of the chasm, but may be in part what is fueling the widening of it. The Apostolic Churches view is that persons are known by God outside of created space and time. The Prophet Jeremiah (1: 5) tells us: “Before I formed thee in the bowels of thy mother, I knew thee: and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and made thee a prophet unto the nations.” The traditional Christian Churches understand that God created body and soul, fused together at the moment of conception. This is based on the Virgin Mary’s response to the invitation from God delivered by the Archangel Gabriel: “The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee.” (Lk 1: 35) The ‘to be’ Mother of God (Theotokos) responded her fiat (“let it be done”): “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.” (Lk 1:38).

Living the Christian Life in a Secular Age

by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph

The following remarks were given by His Eminence Metropolitan Joseph at the Ss. Athanasius and Cyril Symposium held at St. Andrew Orthodox Church, Riverside, CA on February 7, 2015. The Theme of the Symposium was "The City, a Desert – Living the Life of the Desert in the Midst of the World". Other speakers included Archimandrite Irenei, founder and director of the Institute, Archimandrite Gerasim, rector of St. Seraphim Orthodox Cathedral in Dallas, TX and former abbot of St. Herman Monastery in Platina, CA, Fr. Andrew Cuneo, rector of St. Katherine Mission (OCA) in Carlsbad, CA and V. Rev. Josiah Trenham, pastor of the host parish.

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Reverend fathers and deacons, beloved faithful, and you who seek for the refreshing waters in the oasis of the Church, I extend the blessing to you in the name of the Lord. We take up a powerful theme in this conference, a theme which brings us to reflect upon the relationship of our Christian faith and life in this tempestuous and dynamic world around us with the simple quiet and solitude of the desert wilderness.

Chaplain's Corner + What We Do Is Not Who We Are

by Fr. George Morelli

One of the more unfortunate irrational beliefs held by many is that some individuals are intrinsically evil or good. The assumption prompting this deleterious attitude is that the actions that people do define their 'personhood. In practical terms this means that if a person does good, prosocial, kindly and moral things they are a good person. On the other hand, if a person does evil, villainous, immoral and/or wicked things they not only are bad persons but are considered by many to be non-human. Biologically, humans are of the animal kingdom, but people who engage in especially nefarious acts are pejoratively referred to as "animals," - implying they are subhuman and, frequently, not even worthy of life. The implication of this, as cognitive-behavioral clinical psychologist Albert Ellis[1] (1964) puts it, is that, "They did this 'wrong' act, therefore they are perfectly worthless beings who deserve to be severely punished or killed." (p. 66).

Philosophers and philosophical psychologists have considered the basis of humanness to be "a personhood nested within physical, biological, and sociocultural reality, both historically and ontogenetically[ii]." The distinctiveness and worth of the human person, in contrast to others in the animal kingdom, even extends to those spiritual traditions who do not affirm a personal God. For example, The Council for Secular Humanism affirms: "We believe in the fullest realization of the best and noblest that we are capable of as human beings."[iii]

February 11, 2015 + Never Pray for Revenge on Your Enemies

by St. John Chrysostom

If you pray for revenge on your enemies your prayers are sins...if you pray against your enemies you insult God who told you to pray for them...in the court of the emperor one is not allowed to strike any enemy or in presence of emperor himself or else one is immediately executed...you are worse than the man who was forgiven and choked his friend for 10 pence because you do it in the presence of the king!... remember hell and punishment and vengeance in your prayers and you will not pray against your enemies...we pray against enemies because we scrutinize others sins but not our own when we ought to do the opposite.

The Meaning of Fasting in the Orthodox Church

by Fr. Milan Savich

Fasting is as old as the human race. Fasting was practiced by pagan religions, Judaism and Christianity, and it was generally considered an important element of religious life, although with different practices and understanding. In the ancient religions of the East fasting meant a complete abstention from food for a certain period of time — one day or more. The origin of fasting as a moral discipline, especially among the old pagan religions is very obscure, just as their understanding of God was inadequate and vague.

The monotheistic, God revealed religion of the "Chosen People" knew about fasting. From the Old Testament we learn that God instituted fasting in Paradise when He said: "But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die." (Gen. 2:17) From this is clear that fasting existed before the "original sin" of Adam and Eve, and it was not ordered as a cure for their sin. The fasting in Paradise consisted of abstaining of certain food — namely of "the fruit of the tree." The tree of knowledge of good and evil was created by God as well as all other trees in Paradise and, as such, preceded the Satan and his sinful machinations. God's commandment to Adam and Even not to eat of the particular fruit was issued as a method of man's discipline of self-control and spiritual growth. This means that the first man in Paradise was not perfect, but was good and capable to improve and develop his spiritual and moral personality.

Understanding Orthodoxy for Mental Health Practitioners + Part 5

[This is a follow up course to Orthodox Christian Spirituality and Cognitive Psychotherapy: An Online Course, that appeared in four parts over the years 2012-2013. This second course is specifically oriented to explain Orthodoxy to mental health practitioners,and serve as a useful resource for Orthodox Clergy and laity as well. Ethically, mental health practitioners should incorporate the spiritual values of their patients in the therapeutic process. The course would serve as an introduction of the Eastern Orthodox ethos and cultural traditions to these professionals.

One of the most frequently questions I am asked as Chairman of the Chaplain and Pastoral Counseling Department of the Antiochian Archdiocese is for a referral to an Orthodox mental health practitioner. Sadly Orthodoxy is not a majority spiritual tradition in North America and Orthodox practitioners are few. So careful questioning by potential patients, family and clergy of a potential practitioner regarding the practitioner's understanding and respect for the spiritual values of their patients is very important. This course is meant to aid in this inquiry.

It also should be noted that this course is an updating and reworking of a recently published chapter: Psychotherapy with members of Eastern Orthodox Churches, (Morelli, 2014).]

by Fr. George Morelli

You doctors, must take good care of your patients in order to avoid unpleasant situations. You should have a practical mind. Generally speaking, every one of us must take advantage of his mind which is a gift from God.
(Saint Paisios of the Holy Mountain) [1]

Considerations in the Psychotherapy for Orthodox Christians

Cognition, emotion and behavior interact with each other in complex ways.Cognition, emotion and behavior interact with each other in complex ways.Emotion and Neural Processes

There are currently various psychological models to explain this interaction. One model, based on Darwinian evolutionary theory, is that emotion develops as an adaptive value to a stimulus. From the different laboratories of Izard (1993, 2001, 2002), Plutchik (1984) and Tomkins (1991) come remarkably similar findings on the presence of primary emotions shortly after birth. 

Chaplain's Corner + Perfectionism vs. Diligence

by Fr. George Morelli

One of the major irrational beliefs that cause and sustain disturbing emotions and unproductive behavior is a perfectionistic personal rule that “one should be thoroughly competent, adequate, and achieving in all possible respects if one is to be considered worthwhile.” (Ellis, 1962, p. 63) [1].  The inherent irrationality of perfectionism can be seen by considering that no one can be masterful in all things, and that it is often accompanied by undue anxiety, stress and physical disorders. Focusing on trying to excel over others, or considering perfection as the measure of our personal worth by demanding perfection of oneself, distracts us from task-attention and from making the appropriate choices to achieve success.

Such perfectionistic standards are opposed to diligence. A sense of diligence guides us to be conscientious in appropriately paying attention to a specific task and giving it the actions necessary to carry it out to a successful conclusion.

February 4, 2015 + The Effect of Divine Love

from Ode 9 at Matins for the feast of The Translation of the Relics of St. Ignatius the God-Bearer

Divine love, taking hold on thy soul, burned up all the material cares of the world with immaterial fire, O blessed Ignatius and it set thee crowned at the pinnacle of all that can be desired.

from The Menaion vol 5 for January

January 28, 2015 + New Year’s Resolutions by the Desert Fathers

Collected by Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church Casper, WY

1. Never stop starting over: "Abba Poeman said regarding Abba Prin that every day he made a new beginning." "My God, do not abandon me. I have done nothing good before Thee, but grant me, in Thy compassion, the power to make a start" (Arsenios, 5th century).

2. Live intentionally, not aimlessly: "Think nothing and do nothing without a purpose directed to God. For to journey without direction is wasted effort" (St. Mark the Ascetic, 5th century). "Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." (1 Corinthians 10:31)

3. Never, ever despair, no matter what: "Let us eagerly draw near to Christ, and let us not despair of our salvation. For it is a trick of the devil to lead us to despair by reminding us of our past sins" (St. Makarios of Egypt, 5th century). "When someone is defeated after offering stiff resistance, he should not give up in despair. Let him take heart, encouraged by the words. . . . God raises up all who are bowed down (Psalm 145:14). Do all in your power not to fall, for the strong athlete should not fall. But if you do fall, get up again at once and continue the contest. Even if you fall a thousand times. . . . rise up again each time" (St. John of Karpathos, date unknown).

4. Pray simply, not stupidly: "Often when I have prayed I have asked for what I thought was good, and persisted in my petition, stupidly importuning the will of God, and not leaving it to Him to arrange things as He knows is best for me. But when I have obtained what I asked for, I have been very sorry that I did not ask for the will of God to be done; because the thing turned out not to be as I had thought" (Evagrios the Solitary, 4th century). Abba Macarius said, "It is enough to say, 'Lord, as you will, and as you know, have mercy.' And if the conflict grows fiercer, say: 'Lord, help!'"

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