Mental Imagery in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion
This presentation is based on the research that I undertook for a book titled Imagine That… : Mental Imagery in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Private Devotion, published in paperback in February of 2009 with the blessing of His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco. The work is an analytical comparison of Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox attitudes toward mental imagery. In this presentation, I wish to focus specifically on the Orthodox tradition of prayer.
"Sweet is death to me, O unbelievers! Sweet it is to me. I desire to sunder the link between my mortal and immortal nature. With my own blood I will confirm the Holy Church, which is founded upon the Precious Blood of the Son and Word of God, whom I preach. May that which was foreordained for me by the Providence of God be fulfilled, for He has called me to His light from the depths of ungodliness!"
-Hieromartyr Neopite of Urbnisi (in Georgia), 7th century
The Jesus Prayer is Not a Form of Eastern Meditation or Yoga
A Gerondas from the Holy Mountain Athos enumerated the following points about the difference of the Jesus prayer from Yoga.
1. The Jesus prayer express faith in God through His Son Jesus as part of a trinitarian God. It emphasizes that salvation is attained through God which is why we ask for His mercy. Salvation cannot be attained by our own efforts. 2. We are not attempting to find some impersonal God or absolute truth through the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer focuses on a personal relationship with the God-Man Jesus. 3. We cannot fall into the sin of pride through the unceasing prayer of Jesus because in the prayer we continually seek mercy for our weaknesses. We consider ourselves unworthy of God’s grace and recognize our sinfulness in His eyes. 4. Salvation is about union with God. In this union we do not eliminate our personality. The human factor is not denied as it is in some Eastern yoga practices. We are not assimilated in this union, but retain our personhood. 5. As we progress in the prayer we gain the ability to discern error. We learn the movements of the devil and enhance our ability to distinguish between good and evil. 6. The struggle in the practice of the Jesus Prayer is connected with the cleansing of our body and soul from the negative effect of passions. We do not seek apathy or to destroy our passions, but to transform them into help to seek a relationship with God. Our salvation depends on this struggle of transformation, which requires the help of God’s grace. 7. We do not try and attain absolute nothingness, but seek to turn our heart so it brings the grace of God into our soul, so it can be spread throughout our body. We make no effort to negate or destroy the body, but see it as the temple of the Spirit. We practice the prayer because we want to live with God eternally. 8. We are not indifferent to the world. We continually pray for all beings. Salvation is a union with Christ, while we are in communion with other persons. It is not an individual goal. 9. We do not put great emphasis on psychosomatic methods or on body postures. They can only assist us in concentration.
Sisoes the Great and the Contemplation of Death as a Means to True Life in Christ
Sisoes, the great ascetic, before the tomb of Alexander, King of the Greeks, who was once covered in glory. Astonished, he mourns for the vicissitudes of time and the transience of glory, and tearfully declaims thus:
“The mere sight of you, tomb, dismays me and causes my heart to shed tears, as I contemplate the debt we, all men, owe. How can I possibly stand it? Oh, death! Who can evade you?”
To the Greek Evangelicals who tried to prosylitize me by pretending that they are Orthodox:
Keep in mind that I am Christian Orthodox and I will always be Christian Orthodox. I respect you. Please respect me. Please don’t try to prosylitize people by pretending that you are Orthodox. It’s not correct, not at all.
It is good to help enquirers with words; but it is better to co-operate with them through prayer and the practice of virtue. For he who through these offers himself to God, helps his neighbor through helping himself.
Every year, the people of the small village of Marmaketos in Crete (50 inhabitants), gather local wild flowers to decorate the Epitaphio of Christ on Holy Friday. On Holy Saturday, they gather the flowers and hang them throughout the church on string, where they dry out. On May 8th, the feast of St. John the Theologian, during the reading of the Gospel in the Divine Liturgy, these dead flowers miraculously show new flowers and green shoots. They are gathered by the people and placed near their icons for a time of need. When someone is sick, the weather is troublesome, etc., they place these flowers in the censer instead of incense and this works many miracles. This happens every year as a testament to Christ’s Resurrection and the grace of Christ’s Beloved Disciple. The following link shows two (Greek) video clips of the villagers explaining the miracle, recording of the service, and showing the miraculous flowers after the service.
…Just think how many even nominal Christians do not pray for the departed or just simply forget to do so. How terrible if a reposed soul was simply forgotten about & no one prayed for him! If prayer is an aspect of our love for others then the prayer of the Faithful must be a source of great consolation for those reposed who would otherwise be completely forgotten.
Before you say that prayers for the departed are unbiblical, please check the following sitesout: You can find the answer here, here, hereandhere
Years ago Papa-Foti related the following vision in his customary humble manner:
"One summer night I was sitting in the lower church to do my canon with my prayer rope. Suddenly in the darkness the church was filled with light which was coming from the Altar. I looked towards there but it was too bright. I thought perhaps it was a car of someone whose headlights were shining inside the church. I went outside to tell them, but… nothing. Everywhere there was darkness. But on the other side the light spread more throughout the church, at which I thought, see, Saint Luke is passing by here and he came to tell me to have a good evening. Who am I to say what he should do? He is a Saint, he can do whatever he wants. What could I do blessed one? To transmit to the world the wonders of the Saint to make him a shrine? God forbid this should come from me!"
Such was the humble and meek nature of the Holy Priest. Whatever he said about himself he would try and ruin your thoughts about him.
'Come by yourself, my dove, in the shelter of the rock, near the wall' (2:14).
What is the ascent to perfection which these words indicate? No longer must we look to things that attract and excite us. We must take as our guide our own longing for what is better. He says, ‘Come by yourself’ — not out of sadness or necessity, but by yourself, confirming your desire for the good by your own reason and not led by necessity. Virtue must be uncoerced, voluntary and free of all necessity. This was the case with David who realized that of all his deeds only what he did freely was pleasing to God, and he promised to offer sacrifice voluntarily. So it is with all the saints who offer themselves freely to God and who are not led by necessity.”
The Icon shows the “New Testament” Trinity, that is, Jesus Christ holding the Cross seated opposite the Father as an old man, and between Them the Holy Spirit depicted as a dove. An Austro-Hungarian military map of 1788 labels a the site as “Trinity Rock”, suggesting the icon was already painted onto the cliff-side by that date. In 1822, the icon was restored by a local painted, Moise Buru Scriitorul; the Caransebes-Orsova railway came through the region towards the end of the 19th century. The original plans specified the railway run straight through the icon, but this was met with such local opposition that the engineer deviated the line a few metres west of the image. Grigore Dragomir, then mayor of the local village Armenis, said: “the icon and site are sacred for us and for all Romanian believers, and we never pass by the icon without uncovering our heads and crossing ourselves”.
…Whatever the origins, it was certainly believed the icon was sacred and worked miracles, as shown by the locals’ response to the railway in the 19th century. There are reports even today of people being healed of disease by praying before the icon. The reverence held for the Piatra Scrisa Holy Trinity icon is strong in the region, and may explain why the girl’s name Icoana or Iconia is common, despite being rare elsewhere.
I loved every single moment of it, seriously I would have been happy for it to have lasted all day. Everyone was so lovely and people who I had never met before were really kind and guided me through what to do as the liturgy is nothing like anything I had ever been to before.
It has awoken in me this absolute fire that I need to go again and again. It was beautiful and it has not only filled this Sunday with absolute holiness but it has also reconfirmed my decision to go ahead and convert. I cannot really express fully how I feel because it was just so magnificent. The incense was being used so much and you could tell that our prayers were being carried to heaven. I loved the languages used, English, Greek and Church Slavonic, it just was truly beautiful and magnificent. I feel like I have just truly worshipped.
What I loved about it was that although it was formal, although it was ordered there was a real sense of community and a real sense of love which, now comparing it to other places I have been to, is slightly lacking else where (not that it isn’t there because it is, but it just felt different). I feel deeply saddened by the fact that I will be unable to attend next week because I will be at home, but even still, I pray that today is the beginning of the rest of my life.
May God be praised, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I thank God for guiding me here and I eagerly wish to follow Him in humility and faith.
Love for God can not be taught. No one taught us to enjoy the light nor to want life, nor anyone else taught us to love our parents or those who raised us.
Similarly or rather much more, knowledge of divine love does not come from outside. But in the same time when man was composed, a seminal reason was deposited in us, which has by itself the causes of appropriating love….
Only the good is properly beautiful and lovable. God is good. Everything loves good, therefore, everything loves God…. To be alienated and to depart from God is unbearable, even more than the fire of hell….
- St. Basil the Great, from The Long Rules, Rule 2
As every of Christ’s parables of the judgement today’s parable has got a very simple aspect and at the same time should be reflected on a deeper level.
The simple aspect is this: you have had on earth all that was good, Lazarus has had nothing; he therefore receives in eternity all the goods which he has lacked on earth and you are deprived of it. But this is not the real and deeper meaning of it.
Who is this rich man? It is a man who not only possessed all that the earth could give him: wealth, a good name, a status among his follow-citizens; it is a man who craved for nothing else. All he wanted, all he needed was material wealth, a good standing among men, reverence, admiration, a slavish obedience of those who were under him.
5th Sunday of Luke - Gospel Reading: Luke 16:19-31
The Lord said, “There was a rich man, who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table; moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”
Simple but Profound Miracles of our Living Orthodox Faith (Part 2)
1. Did you know that when monks die in the monastery of St. Savas in Jerusalem, their bodies do not freeze or dry-out or smell and they do not bury them in the soil but put them in a room? 2. Did you know that on the head (the bone) of the fish «Goulianos» which lives in Lake Gennisaret is depicted the Baptism of Christ in the Jordan River?
3. Did you know that when celebrating the Holy Martyr Markella in Chios, when the priest and the people visit the place of her martyrdom near the coast, and chant her Paraklesis [Supplication service], the sea water becomes heated and boils with bubbles, and as soon as the Paraklesis finishes, all these phenomena stop? [For more info see: here and here]
4. Did you know that on the Holy Mountain [Mount Athos] the Virgin Mary has spoken many times with the monks to protect them from dangerous pirates, such as happened in the Monastery Vatopedi with the Holy Icon of the Panagia “Paramythia” [of Consolation?]?
The Orthodox Church has preserved intact and correctly the Holy Scriptures
One very interesting question, never asked, is this: ‘If scholars are willing to assemble an eclectic text out of Scripture fragments from various sources — often of unknown doctrinal origin or authority — why haven’t they ever considered the living archeological evidence of Scripture segments that have been repeated faithfully for ages in the Orthodox Liturgy?’ Why haven’t serious modern scholars considered the incredible ‘coincidence’ that 72 Hebrew scholars could all translate the Old Testament in exactly the same manner into the Septuagint Greek? Why haven’t they examined the translation of the Scriptures done a thousand years ago from Greek into Slavonic, which has preserved exactly, accurately, and precisely the meaning of the Greek original? And, more to the point, if errors have crept in and accumulated as texts were copied over the years, why aren’t the existing copies of these Greek and Slavonic Scriptures divergent?
Non-Orthodox scholars cannot answer these questions because, to do so honestly and truthfully, they would have to admit that in fact the Orthodox Church, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has preserved intact and correctly the Holy Scriptures. And, moreover, this preservation is in part assured by the dogma and doctrine of the Church which both draw from the Scripture and provide evidence and support of its truth.
There are times, when the love of Christ touches us, that we feel eternity. This cannot be understood rationally. God acts in a manner proper to Himself, which is beyond reason. We must not be too logical in our Christian life.
And somehow like this, life continues… With our falls, our disappointment, our selfishness, our “human thinking”… And then you are wondering why life is difficult… Why not? For, you walk away day by day from your Father. Because you walk away from the One who promised endless life. From the one who came to earth and was crucified for you… Do you listen? Yes, I am addressing to you. He came, to allow you proudly say "here is my father, the One who made big and spectacular things, the saver of the world, who suffered as much as no one else ever did for his child".
And you? How do you respond to his promise? What is your gift for His sacrifice? Maybe your sin? Your bad thoughts? Your absurd logic? Your unbeatable selfishness? Which of the above? Or maybe all the above? Forgive me… I am exactly in the same position with you… That’s why I know you so well. Please realise that the best gift for our Father is our humiliation and the true changing of mind. This will allow you to go back to His arms, from where you were leaving humiliated from heaven. When you will enact the above advice, please don’t forget me. Because at that time I will possibly still trying to…. That’s why I beg you: Pray for me.
We mustn’t despair when we struggle and continuously see nothing but the slightest progress. We all do nearly nothing, some a little more, some a little less. When Christ sees our little effort He gives us an analogous token, and so our nearly nothing becomes valuable and we can see a little progress. For this reason we mustn’t despair, but hope in God.
The Orthodox Church is amazing and it is such a shame so many Christians do not know or understand her. The Orthodox Church states, not with pride but with humility, that she is the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, with doctrines unchanged since 33AD and therefore contains the fullness of the faith. She has kept her Apostolic succession in tact (all her priests and bishops can trace their priestly lineage back to one of the twelve Apostles). Miraculously the Orthodox Church has survived 2000 years of heavy persecution, from the Romans to the Crusader and from invading Islamic armies to the rise of secular atheism and communism. She has been bruised and wounded for all that time, whilst the Church in the West slowly dwindles when it has been so free, the Orthodox Church continues to grow despite oppression and persecution (as Christ said, the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church and given the amount of persecution it is truly miraculous how the Orthodox Church has survived) and is one of the largest churches in the world, only secondary in size to the Roman Catholic Church.
The Orthodox Church is not just another denomination. It is not non denominational either. It is pre-denominational. From what I have read from the Church Fathers and from scripture, from what I have seen and experienced, I truly believe the Orthodox Church to be the Bride of Christ. The Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. From all of this I hope you can understand; from my years of confusion in the wilderness (to coin a Biblical term as it were), I feel like I am being called home by the Holy Spirit. Within the next few years I wish to undergo the process of conversion and come into full communion with God through His bride. I pray that even though I am not worthy of it, to be fully accepted. I finally have found my home. It is worth more than any precious jewel or any wonder of this world.
When you are at prayer, recite your prayer or psalm from memory, and embrace each word, not just with thought, but with feeling. If during this your own prayerful cries arise from some word of the psalm or prayer, do not cut them off, but let them come.
These are the people who registered, until today, 28th of October 2011, for the Orthodox Missionary Blog, with their respective status.
Me (Andrei-Liviu Sârb) - Yahoo mail address provided simplyorthodox - Yahoo mail address provided sergekakorin - Yahoo mail address PENDING Anastasia - Yahoo mail address PENDING Vintilă (a colleague of mine at the Faculty) - Yahoo mail address provided
Serge and Anastasia, you are kindly asked to provide an Yahoo mail address, in order to be invited in the upcoming Yahoo group. Thank you!
Registrations are still open (actually, they are always open), so who wants to join us, contact me, ok?
(and I’m thinking at jamesfromta and orthodoxbrit, if they agree - contact me, ok?)
…In fact, the [Orthodox] Christian religion transforms people and heals them. The most important precondition, however, for someone to recognize and discern the truth is humility. Egotism darkens a person’s mind, it confuses him, it leads him astray, to heresy. It is important for a person to understand the truth.
Let me tell you about a girl who came to me. She was suffering from dreadful depression. Drugs had no effect. She had given up everything — her work, her home, her interests. I told her about the love of Christ which takes the soul captive because the grace of God fills the soul and changes it. I explained to her that the force which takes over the soul and transforms the power of the soul into depression is demonic. It throws the soul to the ground, torments it and renders it useless. I advised her to devote herself to things like music which she had formerly enjoyed. I emphasized, however, most of all her need to turn to Christ with love. I told her, moreover, that in our Church a cure is to be found through love for God and prayer, provided this is done with all the heart.
Video: A Miracle of the Virgin Mary From the 1940 Greek-Italian War
This video is in Greek, but please watch it. Look this old man, that he cries when he talks about Virgin Mary… So touching…
In this video, Nikolaos Gatsiaros speaks of a vision he and his fellow soldiers had of the Panagia in the 1940 Greek-Italian War, which still moves him after all these years. He describes how they were walking right into the hands of the enemy, whom they could not see, when the Panagia appeared to them and saved them from certain death. He was frightened when he first saw her, then she said: "Do not be afraid my child. With my help the Greek army will conquer. Do not move forward, but go to the left." This is only one of the many miracles of the Panagia during this war.
God’s Providence controls the universe. It is present everywhere. Providence is the sovereign Logos of God, imprinting form on the unformed materiality of the world, making and fashioning all things. Matter could not have acquired an articulated structure were it not for the directing power of the Logos Who is the Image, Intellect, Wisdom, and Providence of God.
The Holy Protection of the Theotokos: Miracles during World War II
The Church of Greece has moved the celebration of Agia Skepi to the 28th of October (“Oxi Day”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ohi_Day) in commemoration of the great help and protection of the Theotokos to the Greek nation throughout its history, and especially during World War II:
"The role of faith in Virgin Mary in Epirus is also outstanding during the Second World War. Her role was catalytic not only because she constituted the basis of people’s faith, but also because, with her miraculous interventions, she proved to have been the greatest ally of the Greek army on the snowy and rough mountains of Epirus.
Of course, miracles and apparitions were reported in many regions of Greece during the war, but at the front, at the Greek – Albanian borders and on Pindus, Virgin Mary was the protector and the leader of those who fought for their country under difficult circumstances. Their faith was so strong that they could see her encouraging them and “covering” them protectively, while they were fighting on the snowy mountains of Pindus and Albania.
“Everything in this life passes away — only God remains, only He is worth struggling towards. We have a choice: to follow the way of this world, of the society that surrounds us, and thereby find ourselves outside of God; or to choose the way of life, to choose God Who calls us and for Whom our heart is searching.”
"You are a portrait, O man, a portrait painted by your Lord God. Yours is a good artist and painter. Do not deface the good picture, which reflects not deceit, but truth; which expresses not guile, but grace."
Tomorrow is an important day for Greece and Orthodoxy!
Tomorrow is a big day for Greece!
-On 28 October 1940, after Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas rejected an Italian ultimatum demanding the occupation of Greek territory, Italian forces invaded Greece. It’s called the "Ochi Day" or "No Day".
-The Protection of the Mother of God. In recent years, the Feast of the Protection has become associated with thanksgiving for the deliverance of the Greek nation from the Italian invasion of 1940. These events are commemorated in Greece in a national holiday known as “Ochi Day” or “No Day,” referring to the response of the Greek leader Metaxas to Mussolini’s ultimatum.
Virgin Mary ALWAYS protected our small but strong country! Greeks always believed in God so even though our soldiers were few, we believed in God and He helped us! Our enemies couldn’t believe it!
GREECE WAS ALWAYS CHRISTIAN ORTHODOX AND WILL ALWAYS BE CHRISTIAN ORTHODOX!
So tomorrow I’ll post many things concerning Greece and Virgin Mary.
Simple but Profound Miracles of our Living Orthodox Faith (part 1)
1. Did you know that the flowers and basil from the Holy Cross that we get from the priest on the feast of the Exultation of the Holy Cross can catch yeast, and because it makes the dough rise wonderfully, we can make bread [prosforo] for the Divine Liturgy?
2. Did you know that holy water that is blessed in church by the Orthodox priest for the Holy Feast of Theophany or any other feast, as long as you keep it, will not spoil?
3. Did you know that in Jerusalem at the All-Holy Tomb of Christ, every year on Holy Saturday a Holy Fire miraculously comes only to the Orthodox Patriarch? A pilgrimage will convince you.
4. Did you know that every year on Mount Tabor in Jerusalem on Aug. 6, the Day of the Transfiguration of our Savior, a light-bearing Cloud appears, which covers the site of the monastery and illuminates the perimeter all night?
Monasticism is Christ’s army and Satan’s enemy. The monasteries are the outposts of the Church. Without outposts, the enemy will capture us. Prayer in monasteries reaches God like a bullet. As a foreign army fears the aircraft and hides, so also Satan fear the prayer of the monastics and goes away.
I found the following story incredibly moving. It also discusses the great miracle of the Myrrh from St. Demetrios:
“There lived once an ascetic on the Mount of Solomon who, hearing of the reports of the holy myrrh [of St. Demetrios], had doubts, saying in his mind that there were many other great martyrs who suffered more than St. Demetrios, yet they were not honored by God in such a manner. And one night after he saw, as if in a dream, that he was in the Church of St. Demetrios and he met the man who had the keys to the tomb of the Saint, and he asked him to open it that he might venerate it. When he was kissing the shrine, he observed that it was wet with fragrant myrrh, and he said to the keeper, “Come, help me did that we might see from whence comes this holy myrrh.” They dug, therefore, and came to a large marble slab which they removed with great difficulty, and immediately there appeared the body of the Saint, shining and fragrant, from which welled up abundant myrrh coming from the openings of his holy body made by the piercings of the lances. There flowed so much myrrh that both the keeper and the ascetic were drenched, and fearing to be drowned, the monk cried out, “Saint Demetrios, help!” Whereupon, he awoke from this vision and found himself to be drenched with the holy myrrh.”(taken from: http://fr-d-serfes.org/lives/stdemetrios.htm)
Christ often comes and knocks at your door and you invite him to sit in the living room of your soul. Then, absorbed in your own business you forget the Great Visitor. He waits for you to appear and when you are too long in returning, he gets up and leaves. At other times, you are so busy that you answer him from the window. You don’t even have time to open the door.
To love is easy and sweet. Oh! if we could only see the heart of a man who bears the evangelic yoke of Christ, you would see in it a paradise of joy and gladness, you would see there the Kingdom of God, even though on the surface he was worried and surrounded by grief and tribulations, as a rose is surrounded by thorns. There can be nought but comfort and true joy in a heart in which reigns the Kingdom of God.