Mittwoch, 30. April 2014

“God will save the World Through Beauty”

By Fr. Stephen Freeman

“God will save the World Through Beauty”

This saying, often attributed to Fyodor Dostoevsky, never occurs in precisely this form in his novels – though the idea is present in such a strong sense that the phrase is correctly attributed to him. It is a phrase that is easily misunderstood. For Dostoevsky, in good Orthodox fashion, beauty is far more than a matter of aesthetics – it is the very goodness of creation itself.
However (and this is the great writer’s genius), Dostoevsky sees beauty in strangely contradictory forms. The beauty that Dostoevsky sees as potientially salvific is itself a great mystery. In a very powerful paragraph in the Brothers Karamazov, the Brother, Dmitri, states the problem very clearly. Drawing on a line of poetry that says that God gave to the insects “sensual lust,” Dmitri begins by calling himself an insect and says that all the Karamazovs are insects.

I am that insect, brother, and it is said of me specially. All we Karamazovs are such insects, and, angel as you are, that insect lives in you, too, and will stir up a tempest in your blood. Tempests, because sensual lust is a tempest worse than a tempest! Beauty is a terrible and awful thing! It is terrible because it has not been fathomed and never can be fathomed, for God sets us nothing but an enigma. Here the boundaries meet and all contradictions exist side by side. I am not a cultivated man, brother, but I’ve thought a lot about this. It’s terrible what mysteries there are! Too many mysteries weigh men down on earth. We must solve them as we can, and try to keep a dry skin in the water. Beauty! I can’t endure the thought that a man of lofty mind and heart begins with the ideal of the Theotokos (Madonna)  and ends with the ideal of Sodom. What’s still more awful is that a man with the ideal of Sodom in his soul does not renounce the ideal of the Madonna, and his heart may be on fire with that ideal, genuinely on fire, just as in his days of youth and innocence. Yes, man is broad, too broad, indeed. I’d have him narrower. The devil only knows what to make of it! What to the mind is shameful is beauty and nothing else to the heart. Is there beauty in Sodom? Believe me, that for the immense mass of mankind beauty is found in Sodom. Did you know that secret? The awful thing is that beauty is mysterious as well as terrible. God and the devil are fighting there and the battlefield is the heart of man.”

There is no simple definition of beauty for Dostoevsky. He recognizes the contradictions within it. “I can’t endure the thought that a man of lofty mind and heart begins with the ideal of the Mother of God and ends with the ideal ofSodom.” He even recognizes that the man who has fallen into the clutches and bondage of the ideal ofSodomstill has in his heart the ideal of the Mother of God. Such contradiction.
Dmitri Karamazov speaks of beauty as a hunger, a passion: sometimes for the Mother of God, the Madonna, sometimes for Sodom. But we are people whose heart envisions and propels us forward. This sense of passion is expressed in the Fathers as eros, or desire. Eros can be desire for God when rightly directed, or misdirected becomes the engine of our destruction.
In gospel terms, we would say that everyone has a hunger for the Kingdomof God. It is a deep hunger for the most profound relationship, for a beauty that is beyond the reckoning of this world. It is a beauty that is made manifest in forgiveness and responsibility for all and to all. It is the beauty ofsuffering love.
But Dmitri says more about this seed – this passion. He indicates that from his perspective, the madness of humanity is that it can direct its passion in either direction: the Madonna orSodom– and even when it is inSodom, still maintain a passion for the Madonna. There have been many examples of this in our modern world: the ugliness of the totalitarian state and yet the beauty of Shostakovitch.

In Dmitri’s notions, I hear later echoes in Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. Zhivago (whose name is itself a play on the Russian word for life) is both doctor and poet. Surrounded by the collapse of his world, both as a child, and later as an adult, he nevertheless has this heart and passion for life. In David Lean’s movie version of the novel (which is different enough to make it almost mandatory that one read the novel), this passion for life is represented by the music of “Lara’s Theme.” From the moment of his mother’s funeral, to the end of his life, this drive for life compels him. And like the ambiguity of Dmitri’s beauty, Zhivago is able to find beauty in his marriage to Anna or in his adulterous relationship with Lara. His relationship with both is a reaching for life – despite the immorality of his life with Lara. Both he and Lara are aware of the wrongness of their situation (Sodom) but are sustained by the sheer beauty of the life they have between them (Madonna).
There is this strange contradiction and mystery to beauty within the hunger of the human heart. Dmitri expresses this with great insight: “What’s awful is that beauty is not only a terrible, but also a mysterious thing. Here the devil struggles with God, and the field of battle is the human heart.”
The field of battle is the human heart.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the great survivor of the Soviet Gulag and prophetic giant among the Dissidents of theSoviet Union, said much the same thing:
It was only when I lay there on rotting prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart, and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. Even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained; and even in the best of all hearts, there remains a small corner of evil. (From Gulag Archipelago)

Beauty, whether a hunger for the Mother of God or a thirst for Sodom, are both found within the human heart. One is a true hunger, man’s true end – the other a distortion, a missing of the mark.
In Orthodox teaching this is the very nature of sin. Sin is not the breaking of a law and thus the acquiring of guilt. Sin is missing the mark. Man was created, the early Fathers taught, not as an absolutely perfect being who fell from paradise – an infinite sin – worthy of an infinite guilt (and punishment). Rather man was created with a proper end. He is created without sin, with no imperfection, but he was not made at the beginning as he was to become.
St. Irenaeus of Lyons, writing in the late 2nd century, described Adam and Eve as adolescents. Their turning aside from God was a turning aside from the fullness of life in union with God that was intended for them. Thus St. Paulcalls Christ, “the Second Adam.” He is the true Adam, the true man, the One who is what man was always meant to be. As Christ will say of himself, “I am the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.” Or asSt. Paul will say of Jesus, “He is the author and finisher of our faith.”
In the world of Orthodox Tradition, no story captures the transformation from the distortions of passion to the pure desire of God more deeply than that of St. Mary ofEgypt. Far more than an obscure story about an obscure desert saint, hers is perhaps the best known story of a woman saint in the Church (not including the Mother of God). The fifth Sunday of Great Lent is always dedicated to her. Earlier in the week, in preparation for her service on Sunday, a lengthy service of repentance is done in the Church, during which her Life, first told to the Ven. St. Zossima (another 6th century saint), is read aloud in its entirety.
She begins life (at least in her teen years) as a prostitute in Alexandria. She makes it clear that she did not do this out of necessity, but because she liked it. She added to this all of the debauchery and drunkenness that one might have. She admits that she often engaged in evil not for profit, but simply for the pleasure she found.
One day, hearing a party going on (or what she supposed to be a party) she followed the sound down to the wharves. There a group was gathering and preparing for a pilgrimage to Holy Jerusalem. As a lark, she decides to join them (working the price of her passage off by corrupting various young male pilgrims). Arriving inJerusalemshe goes with them to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Christ’s true Cross was exposed for veneration, as well as his empty tomb. Coming to the doors of the Church, something like an invisible wall, prevented her from entering. She tried repeatedly but could not enter.
In a single moment she is struck with the reality of her life and the work of repentance begins. It matures over the course of a lifetime as she becomes an anchorite in the desert. By the end of her life she has lost all outward beauty. Withered by sun and heat she is almost ghost-like in her appearance. But within there is a beauty that is the glory of sainthood.
Her story is read aloud in the Orthodox Church every year. It is a model of repentance and of the forgiveness of God. The most vile prostitute becomes a most holy woman. She has abandoned false beauty and been redeemed by a beauty that is not of this world but of God. This transformation is at the heart of the Orthodox way of life. It does much to explain the more or less canonical requirement that our churches be made beautiful. (Sometimes it’s a challenge if you’re doing church in a warehouse, a storefront, or buildings not designed to be used for Orthodox worship. Nonetheless buildings, like the people in them, should strive for beauty, the beauty of heaven.) It certainly is a large component in the making and veneration of icons.
In the creation story in Genesis, God looks at what He has made and says, “It is good.” In the Greek translation of the passage, God looks at the world and says that it is kalos a word that means “good” – but also means beautiful. The Hebrew carries some sense of this as well. The goodness God sees can be described as Beauty. We can thus say with great confidence that whether God will save the world through Beauty, Beauty certainly will be the result of salvation.
May God make us truly beautiful with the beauty that is ours in Christ Jesus.

This article appeared in Glory to God for All Things on October 22, 2006 and is posted here with permission.

Die Ehe- Überbleibsel vom Paradies

von Priester Andrey Dudchenko

Der Himmel auf Erden, das Sakrament der Liebe - das ist die Ehe im Verständnis der Kirche. In einer kurzen, allgemein verständlichen Abhandlung über das Sakrament der Ehe und die Institution der Familie als „Kirche im Kleinen" legt Priester Andrej Dudchenko die orthodoxe Lehre zu diesem Thema dar, nachdem er zu Beginn mit Vorurteilen aufräumt, die das Denken nicht nur kirchenferner Menschen immer noch prägen.

In unseren Tagen ist die Orthodoxie, so seltsam das scheint, immer noch die "unbekannte Religion". Und das nicht nur für "Außenstehende", sondern auch für Menschen, die sich zur Kirche gehörig zählen. Die Orthodoxie wird von ihnen als ein System von Verboten aufgefasst.
Eines der Stereotypen im Bewusstsein der Menschen behauptet, dass die Kirche intimen Beziehungen zwischen Mann und Frau negativ entgegensteht. Viele nehmen sogar vollkommen grundlos an, dass die erste Sünde der Menschheit darin bestand, dass sich Adam und Eva geschlechtlich vereinigten. Doch ist die Meinung der Kirche zu geschlechtlichen Beziehungen eine vollkommen andere.
Zweifellos ruft die Kirche dazu auf, dass sich die Menschen von gelegentlichen Geschlechtsbeziehungen fernhalten, von ehelicher Untreue, von unnatürlichen Vereinigungen -aber absolut nicht deshalb, weil die Sünde in der Sexualität des Menschen gesehen wird. Die Fähigkeit, Kinder zu empfangen und zu gebären, und also auch die Sexualität, sind vom Anbeginn in die Natur des Menschen hineingelegt, bereits bei seiner Erschaffung. Und das ist nichts Böses, ist keine Sünde. Sündhaft wird der falsche Gebrauch dieser Fähigkeit genannt werden, oder die Einnahme einer wichtigeren Rolle als notwendig. Die Kirche tritt immer gegen eine Vulgarisierung des menschlichen Lebens auf und bietet als Gegenpol an, nicht auf sexuelle Beziehungen zu verzichten, sondern sie in einer christlichen Ehe zu weihen.

Der Himmel auf Erden, das Sakrament der Liebe -das ist die Ehe im Verständnis der Kirche. Ein Mann und eine Frau, die sich begegnen, einander liebgewinnen und sich bis zum Ende annehmen, werden zu etwas Größerem, als bloß zwei Menschen -sie werden zu einer Einheit.
"In einer Welt, in der alles und jeder auseinander geht, ist die Ehe ein Ort, in dem zwei Menschen eins werden, dank dem, daß sie einander lieb gewannen; ein Ort, an dem die Zwietracht aufhört, wo die Umsetzung eines einigen Lebens beginnt", sagt Mitropolit Antonij von Surozh. Die Ehe als eine Einheit von zweien in dieser Welt der Zerstreuung ist tatsächlich ein Sakrament, das den Normalzustand des Menschen übersteigt.
Eine echte christliche Familie stellt eine Kirche im Kleinen dar. Diese Bezeichnung ist nicht zufällig. "In jeder Ehe wird Christus im Mann und die Kirche in der Frau geehrt", schreibt der Hl. Gregorios der Theologe. Die Heilige Schrift vergleicht die Beziehung zwischen Gott und der Kirche oft mit den Beziehungen des Ehemannes zur Frau: "Männer, liebt eure Frauen, wie auch Christus die Kirche liebgewann und Sich für sie hingab...". Der tiefgründigste Triumph der Freude und der Liebe wird im Buch der Offenbarung als die Ehe des Lamms vorgestellt, was die Vereinigung der Gläubigen mit Christus bedeutet, wenn Gott und Mensch durch ein  gemeinsames Leben vereint sind. Das "Allerheiligste" der Bibel -das Lied der Lieder -stellt eine begeisterte Liebeshymne dar. Dieses heilige Lied auf die Ehe -ein echtes Chef d'oeuvre der alttestamentlichen Poesie kann keinen Leser unberührt lassen. "Leg mich wie ein Siegel auf dein Herz, wie ein Siegel an deinen Arm: Stark wie der Tod ist die Liebe, die Leidenschaft ist hart wie die Unterwelt. Ihre Pfeile sind Feuerpfeile -gewaltige Flammen. Auch mächtige Wasser können die Liebe nicht löschen, und Ströme schwemmen sie nicht hinweg. Böte einer für die Liebe den ganzen Reichtum seines Hauses, mit Verachtung würde er abgewiesen". Es ist kaum möglich, die menschliche Liebe tiefer und treffender zu beschreiben.

Die erste Familie gab es im Paradies. Adam in einen "festen Schlaf" ("ekstasis", griech.) führend, schuf Gott aus dessen "Rippe", d.h. aus einem Teil seiner Natur, die "Erfüllende" Frau, Helferin. Im Unterschied zu Adam wurde die Frau direkt im paradiesischen Garten erschaffen, und sie -das paradiesische Geschöpf -wurde dem Mann zur Erweckung der Liebe gegeben. Die Schrift der Bibel spricht davon, daß die Frau mit dem Mann eines Wesens sind, dass sie beide zwei Teile eines Wesens sind, die einander ergänzen. Als er Eva sah, rief Adam: "Das ist Fleisch von meinem Fleisch und Bein von meinem Bein!", und weiter: "Darum verlässt der Mensch Vater und Mutter und bindet sich an seine Frau, und sie werden ein Fleisch". Die ersten Menschen begreifen die gegenseitige Notwendigkeit und ihre gemeinsame Herkunft. Adam kann schon nicht mehr allein leben, er fühlt, daß es ihm zur Fülle des Lebens an etwas mangelt. Und, Einheit mit der Frau erreichend, taucht er in das Leben selbst ein.
Der Sündenfall des ersten Ehepaares schädigte die menschliche Natur, hat aber die Ehe nicht im mindesten überflüssig gemacht. Bis heute sind echte Familien Inseln des Paradieses auf Erden. Für einander liebende Ehepartner sind alle übrigen Güter zweitrangig. Es geht ihnen gut zusammen, sie fühlen, daß ihre Liebe in die Unendlichkeit reicht. Ihre Liebe ist so tief, daß es falsch wäre, sie als Gefühl zu bezeichnen sie ist vielmehr der Zustand des ganzen Wesens.

Diese Liebe ist nicht die jugendliche begeisterte Verliebtheit, die keinen Makel am Erwählten erkennt; nach den Worten des Mitropoliten Antonij von Surozh ist der wahren Liebe auch das Leid nicht fremd: "Die Liebe ist eben das größte, äußerste Leid, der Schmerz darüber, dass der Mensch unvollkommen ist, und gleichzeitig die Freude darüber, dass er so erstaunlich, so einzigartig wunderbar ist". Sich liebende Gatten erfahren sich bis zu einer solchen Tiefe, sie "verbinden sich in einer derartigen Unergründlichkeit gemeinsamen Erlebens, wo es keiner Worte mehr bedarf: sie sind beieinander, und wenn die Liebe fest genug ist, sind sie zu einem Ganzen geworden". Solch eine Einheit ist für jeden von uns zugänglich. Wir kennen das wahrscheinlich aus eigener Erfahrung. Folgendermaßen beschreibt das Mitropolit Antonij: "Wer von euch saß nie mit einem ihm teuren Menschen des Abends beisammen, wenn die Dämmerung herabfällt, wenn rundherum alles still wird. Erst läuft das Gespräch, es erstirbt dann, doch es bleibt eine besondere Stille; wir lauschen den Geräuschen: dem Knacken des Holzes im Kamin, dem Ticken der Uhr, den entfernteren Geräuschen von Außen; dann verschwinden auch diese Klänge, und es tritt ein tiefes Schweigen ein, eine Stille der Seele. Und in dieser Stille der Seele spürst du plötzlich, wie nahe du deinem Freund geworden bist, jenem Menschen, der sich bei dir befindet".
Die Erlangung einer gottähnlichen Einigkeit ist das Hauptziel der Ehe. "Die Liebe ist  dergestalt", schreibt der Hl. Johannes Chrysostomos, "daß die Liebenden schon nicht mehr zwei, sondern nur noch einen Menschen darstellen, was durch nichts bewirkt werden kann als durch die Liebe... wenn sich Mann und eine Frau zur Ehe zusammenschließen, sind sie nicht das Abbild irgend etwas unbeseelten, sondern ein Abbild Gottes Selbst". "Um die Sakramente der göttlichen Einheit zu zeigen", schreibt der Hl. Theophilos, "schuf Gott die Frau und Adam zusammen, damit zwischen ihnen große Liebe herrschte". Das Geheimnis der Ehe gleicht dem Geheimnis der Dreieinigkeit -Gott, der Einer dem Wesen und Dreifach den Personen nach ist.
Nur in Gemeinschaft mit Gott kann der Mensch ein vollwertiges Dasein haben, und deshalb gibt es in der richtigen Ehe immer drei Personen: den Mann, die Frau, und Gott, Der sie verbindet. Solch eine Ehe ist der Beginn von Gottes Reich. In einer alten Handschrift, die nicht ins überlieferte Evangelium eingeflossen ist, gibt es eine Passage, in der Christus gefragt wird,
"Wann kommt Gottes Reich?". Und Er antwortet: "Gottes Reich ist dort schon erschienen, wo zwei nicht mehr zwei, sondern eins sind..."
Die Ehe ist ein Bild des ewigen Lebens, sie hat endlose Dimension und hört nicht mit dem Tod  eines Partners auf. "Die Liebe hört nie auf", sagt Apostel Paulus von den Seiten der Schrift. Wunderbar konnte Gabriel Marcel das ausdrücken: "Einem Menschen zu sagen: "Ich liebe Dich" ist genauso, als würde man ihm sagen: "Du wirst ewig leben, Du wirst niemals sterben". Die Freude der ehelichen Beziehung, die Freude der Liebe wird dem Menschen für immer gegeben, und die Partner müssen diese Gabe behutsam bewahren und mehren. "Die eheliche Liebe ist die stärkste...", sagt der Hl. Johannes Chrysostomos. "Auch die anderen Triebe sind stark, doch dieser Trieb hat eine derartige Kraft, die niemals erschwacht. Und im kommenden  Zeitalter werden die Partner sich ohne Furcht treffen, und werden in Ewigkeit mit Christus und einander in großer Seligkeit verweilen".

Die Kirche versteht sehr gut, dass die Ehe nicht nur Freude ist. Die Ehe ist ein Leidensweg, und deswegen werden auf die Braut und den Bräutigam beim Sakrament der Eheschließung Märtyrerkränze aufgelegt. Ohne vollkommene Selbsthingabe, ohne die Abkehr vom eigenen Egoismus ist es unmöglich, eine echte Familie zu gründen. Die Liebe, die Mann und Frau verbindet, darf vor keinen Prüfungen aufhören, nicht einmal im Angesicht des Todes (...). "Ich schätze dich kostbarer als meine Seele", sagt der Mann zur Frau beim Hl. Johannes Chrysostomos. Man kann nicht zum Eigentümer dessen werden, den man liebt, denn jede Gewaltausübung auf den Willen des geliebten Menschen tötet die Liebe. "Der Mann ist das Haupt der Familie nicht weil er ein Mann ist", sagt Mitropolit Antonij, "sondern deshalb, weil er das Bild Christi ist, und seine Frau und seine Kinder können in ihm dieses Bild sehen, das heißt, das Bild grenzenloser, ergebener, aufopfernder Liebe, die zu allem bereit ist, um die Familie zu retten, zu beschützen, zu ernähren, zu trösten, zu erfreuen und zu erziehen". Weder die Hl. Schrift, noch die Kirche lehren eine tyrannische Herrschaft des Mannes und eine sklavische Ergebenheit der Frau, sondern vielmehr aufopfernde Liebe. Natürlich muss der Mann die Verantwortung auf sich nehmen, das Haupt der Familie zu werden, und die Frau in Demut den zweiten Platz einnehmen (bei dieser zweitrangigen Stellung gibt es nichts erniedrigendes, im Gegenteil, als Herrin des Hauses, das Haus mit Liebe und Wärme erfüllend, wird die Frau eine solche Achtung und Anerkennung von Seiten des Mannes bekommen, die sie nie in anderen Bereichen bekommen könnte). Jedoch dürfen die Beziehungen zwischen Ehepartnern niemals auf dem Schema Herr -Diener fußen. "Rufe sie nicht einfach so", sagt der Hl. Johannes Chrysostomos zum Mann, "sondern mit Zärtlichkeit, Würde, mit großer Liebe. Ehre sie, und sie wird keiner Ehre von anderen bedürfen, wenn sie Deine Achtung und Anerkennung hat. Ziehe sie allem vor, in allen Beziehungen, und in Bezug auf Schönheit und Klugheit lobe sie... Was ist das für eine Ehe, in der die Frau vor dem Mann zittert? Welche Freude soll ein Mann mit einer Frau haben, mit der er wie mit einer Sklavin zusammen lebt, und nicht wie mit einer Freien? Wenn es auch passiert, daß Du etwas für sie erdulden mußt, so murre nicht: Christus hat das auch nicht getan".
Die von uns beschriebene Tiefe ehelicher Beziehungen erreicht ihre Vollendung in der  körperlichen Vereinigung. Es wichtig, nie zu vergessen, dass die körperliche Vereinigung nicht der Anfang, sondern die Fülle und der Gipfel der Beziehung einander liebender Menschen ist. Dann wird es nicht zur gierigen Inbesitznahme des Gegenübers, sondern zu einem Sakrament, also zu einer Handlung, die ihren Ursprung und ihre Vollendung in Gott hat. Die Grundlage der Ehe muß die Keuschheit sein. Der heutige Mensch schreckt vor diesem Wort wegen seinem falschen Verständnis oft zurück; aber vollkommen umsonst. Nach den Worten des Mitropoliten Antonij besteht die Keuschheit "darin, dass, wenn man einen anderen Menschen sieht, in ihm jene Schönheit erkennt, die Gott in ihn gelegt hat, das Ebenbild Gottes erkennt; eine solche Schönheit erkennt, die man nicht besudeln kann, den Menschen in dieser Schönheit erkennt und Sorge trägt, dass diese Schönheit in ihm zunimmt und durch nichts befleckt wird; die Keuschheit besteht darin, die Ganzheit seiner Seele und der Seele eines anderen Menschen mit Weisheit zu bewahren". Wenn es in der Ehe Keuschheit gibt, dann wird die körperliche Vereinigung der Partner zu einer ehrfurchtsvollen Vereinigung, die jede Grobheit ausschließt.

Unsere Welt steckt in einer tiefen Krise des Mangels an Liebe. Es mangelt an Güte und Wärme in den zwischenmenschlichen Beziehungen. In einer solchen Welt sind richtige Familien Inseln des Lichts und der Freude. Die Liebe, die Mann und Frau verbindet, inspiriert sie nicht nur zu Hause, sondern überall und zu jeder Zeit. Ein Mensch, der Glück in seiner Familie erlebt, strahlt seine gütige Beziehung auf seine Umwelt aus. Und das ist eine Gesetzmäßigkeit: denn die Ehe ist eine Berührung des Paradieses, der Beginn von Gottes Reich. Die Schönheit ihrer  Beziehung müssen Mann und Frau wie ein großes Heiligtum bewahren, das ihnen von Gott geschenkt wurde, und nicht nur bewahren, sondern zur Vollkommenheit führen.

Quelle:  Портал Богослов.Ru

Saints Isaac le Syrien: Perles

Notre père parmi les saints Isaac le Syrien est né au Qatar. Assoiffé de Dieu, il entra très jeune au monastère avec son frère. Il fut très vite renommé pour son ascèse et fut remarqué par Georges, le Catholicos qui l'ordonna évêque de Ninive. Après cinq mois il résigna sa charge et partit dans le désert du Mont Matout, refuge d'anachorètes. 
Il vécut là une vie solitaire ascétique, ne mangeant que quelques légumes crus et trois pains par semaine. L'étude constante de la Divine Ecriture abîma ses yeux et finalement la cécité et le grand âge le forcèrent à se retirer au monastère de Chabar où il mourut et fut enterré. 

° Ce qu'est le sel pour la nourriture, l'humilité l'est pour toute vertu: Pour l'acquérir, l'homme doit toujours penser à lui-même avec contrition, s'abaisser et se juger. Mais si nous l'acquerrons, elle fera de nous des fils de Dieu.

°Aimons le silence jusqu'à ce que le monde en vienne à mourir en nos cœurs. Souvenons-nous toujours de la mort, et dans cette pensée, rapprochons-nous de Dieu dans notre cœur, et les plaisirs de ce monde n'auront que notre mépris.

° Marchez devant Dieu avec simplicité et non dans les subtilités de votre intellect. La simplicité apporte la foi, mais les spéculations subtiles et compliquées n'apportent que la suffisance et celle-ci amène la séparation d'avec Dieu.

° Un homme dont la tête est sous l'eau ne peut inhaler de l'air pur, ainsi un homme dont les pensées sont plongées dans les soucis du monde ne peut pas absorber les sensation du Monde à venir.

° C'est un don spirituel de Dieu pour l'homme que de percevoir ses péchés.

° L'aise et l'oisiveté sont la destruction de l'âme, et elles la blessent plus que ne le font les démons.

° Une vie d'efforts spirituels est mère de sainteté; d'elle naît la première perception des mystères du Christ, ce que l'on appelle le stade premier de la connaissance spirituelle.

° Avoir de la rancune et prier, revient à semer des graines sur la mer et à s'attendre qu'il y ait une moisson.

° Une discipline modeste mais continue, est une grande force: une goutte d'eau molle tombant avec persistance, perce finalement un grand rocher.

° L'apathie (absence de passion) ne signifie pas que l'homme ne ressente pas de passions, mais qu'il n'accepte aucune d'entre elles.

Version française Claude Lopez-Ginisty
d'après Orthodox America 

Prayers for Husbands and Wives - Mother Kassiana

Lord, Jesus Christ our God, who taught us to pray continually for one another, thus fulfilling your commandment and manifesting our desire for your mercy, in your compassion watch over and protect my husband (wife) for all seen and unseen enemies. Grant him (her)health and complete wisdom so that he (she)may fulfill all his (her)obligations according to your will and
commandments. Protect him (her)from all temptations which he (she)does not have the strength to resist. Strengthen him (her)in the right faith and in perfect love, that we may live together in virtue, and direct our lives according to your precepts. For yours is the power and glory forever. Amen.

We implore you, merciful Lord: Help us to remember that marriage is indeed holy, and strengthen the sanctity of our union. Shower your grace upon us so that we may live our lives in true faithfulness and love. Help us to understand and trust each other fully, keeping quarrels and arguments far from us.  Bestow your blessings upon us, and in your mercy, count us worthy of your kingdom: for you are our sanctification, and we offer glory to you: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Taken from Orthodox Prayerbook by Mother Kassiana

Gebete in seelischer Not oder Trübsal

Eile,  Gott   zu meiner  Hilfe,  Herr  eile,  um mich  zu  retten!  
Es sollen  zuschanden werden und  sich schämen,  die nach meinem Leben trachten!  Es sollen zurückweichen und zunichte werden, die mir Böses wollen! Es sollen sehr beschämt umkehren, die da sagen: „Gut so! Gut so!“ Jauchzen und deiner sich freuen sollen alle, die dich, Gott, suchen! Stets sollen sagen: „Erhoben sei der Herr!“, die deine Errettung lieben. Ich aber bin arm und bedürftig; Gott, hilf mir! Mein Helfer und Erretter bist du. Herr, verliere keine Zeit!!(Ps 69)

Herr, du bist unsere Zuflucht geworden von Geschlecht zu Geschlecht. Ehe die Berge geboren waren und  du die  Erde  und  die  Welt   erschaffen hattest,   von Ewigkeit   zu Ewigkeit   bist   du.  Wende   den Menschen nicht zur Demütigung, der du gesagt hast: „Kehrt zurück, ihr Söhne der Menschen!“ Denn tausend Jahre sind in deinen Augen wie der gestrige Tag, wenn er vergangen ist, und wie eine Wache in  der Nacht. Ihre Jahre haben sich in nichts aufgelöst. Du schwemmst sie hinweg, sie sind wie ein Schlaf, sie sind am Morgen wie Gras, das aufsprosst. Am Morgen blüht es und sprosst auf. Am Abend welkt es und verdorrt. Denn wir vergehen durch deinen Zorn, und durch deinen Grimm werden wir verstört. Du hast unser Gesetzlosigkeiten vor dich gestellt, unsere Ewigkeit vor das Licht deines Angesichts. Denn alle unsere Tage vergehen und durch deinen  Zorn vergehen wir.  Unsere Jahre werden  wie ein Spinngewebe angesehen. Wir bringen unsere Jahre zu wie einen Seufzer. Die Tage unserer Jahre sind siebzig Jahre, und, wenn wir in Kraft sind, achtzig Jahre, und das meiste daran ist ist Mühsal und Schmerz.  Denn Schwachheit  kommt   über  uns  und wir  werden gezüchtigt.  Wer  erkennt  die Stärke  deines Zorns und deines Grimms und deine Furcht, wer kann sie messen? Lass mich so deine Rechte kennen lernen und jene, deren Herz in der Weisheit geprüft ist. Komme wieder zurück, Herr, bis wann, und tröste deine Diener?! Erfülle uns am Morgen mit deinem Erbarmen, so werden wir froh sein und  uns freuen in allen unseren Tagen. Erfreue uns so viele Tage, wie du uns gedemütigt hast, so viele Jahre, wie wir Böses sahen und blicke auf deine Knechte und auf deine Werke und lenke ihre Söhne.  
Und das Licht des Herrn, unseres Gottes sei über uns, und die Werke unserer Hände lenke über uns, und das Werk unserer Hände lenke!(Ps 89)

+ Gott steht auf und seine Feinde werden zerstreut und die ihn hassen fliehen vor seinem Angesicht. 
Wie Rauch verweht, so verwehen sie; wie Wachs zerschmilzt vor dem Angesicht des Feuer, so werden die Sünder vor dem Angesicht Gottes vernichtet und die Gerechten freuen sich. (4 x) (Ps 67, 1­4a)

Herr Jesus Christus erbarme dich meiner, meine Seele ist schlimm besessen! (mind. 33 x)
(Gebet des Hl. Johannes Chrysostomus)

Sie spähen mir nach, jetzt haben sie mich umringt, sie richten ihre Augen darauf mich zu Boden zu strecken. Du bist mein Zufluchtsort vor der Trübsal die mich umgibt; erlöse mich, du meine Freude, vor denen, die mich eingekreist haben. (Ps 16, 11. 31, 7) 

Herr Jesus Christus, Sohn Gottes, erbarme dich meiner.


Dienstag, 29. April 2014

Die Beichte- Eine kurze Einführung von Vater Johannes Nothhaas

Das Mysterium der Beichte

1. Wer kann Sünden vergeben?
„Nur Gott kann Sünden vergeben", dieser Satz ist für Christen eine sdbstverstandliche Wahrheit. Es ist jedoch ein Irrtum, wenn dazu gesagt wird: „Aber nicht der Priester..." Diese Ergänzung erhebt Gott in eine so hohe Geistigkeit, dass er von den Menschen und der Welt isoliert wird. Wer so denkt und glaubt widerspricht dem, was Christus zu seinen Jüngern und Aposteln gesagt hat: „Nehmet hin den heiligen Geist! Welchen ihr die Sünden erlasst, denen sind sie erlassen; welchen ihr sie behaltet, denen sind sie behalten!” (Joh 20,22-23 und Mt 16,19; 18,18).
Christus hat so viel Vertrauen zu seinen berufenen Dienern, dass er sie an der göttlichen Macht, Sünden zu vergeben, teilhaben lässt, wie er sie auch teilhaben ließ an der Vollmacht, Kranke zu heilen (Mt 10,1,8; Mk 6,7,12;Lk 9,1,6). Wozu hat er die Jünger gesandt und mit dieser Vollmacht versehen, wenn wir meinen, wir können uns selbst bekehren und durch Gebet Vergebung der Sünden beschaffen?

2. Woher kommt das Bekennen von Sünden?
Das Bekennen von Sünden begegnet uns im Neuen Testament bei den Menschen, die den Propheten und Vorläufer Johannes den Täufer aufsuchen. Es sind Menschen in einer Zeit großer innerer Not und nationaler Zerrissenheit, die zu Johannes kommen, um ihr Leben auf Gott hin auszurichten. Dass sie diesen Entschluss sehr ernst nehmen, lässt sich daran erkennen, dass sie hinausgehen in die Wüste, wo Johannes lebt. Sie kamen zu ihm, um ihre Sünden zu bekennen (Mk 13,5).
Johannes predigt eine Reinigungstaufe zur Vergebung der Sunden. In Israel waren es rituelle Waschungen, die man bei besonderen Verfehlungen zu vollziehen hatte. Das Neue an der Johannestaufe war, dass er zwischen den Sünden keinen Unterschied mehr machte. Alle Menschen sind vor Gott unrein, auch die Frömmsten. In seiner Predigt weist  er jedoch die Pilger auf den bin, der nach ihm kommt, der wird sie „mit dem heiligen Geist taufen” (Mk 1,8).
BeimEvangelisten Johannes ist diese Buße angedeutet in den Worten Jesu im Gespräch mit dem Schiriftgelehrten Nikodemus, der ihn bei Nacht besuchte (Joh 3,3): „Es sei denn, dass jemand von neuem geboren wird, so kann er das Reich Gottes nicht sehen.” Das “Von-neuem-geboren-werden”meint eme neue Haltung, eine neue Gesinnung: Abkehr von der alten Lebensweise und geistlicher Neuanfang. Ansenschließend-wird die Tauf« erwähnt (Joh 3,5): „Es sei denn, dass jemand geboren werde aus Wasser und Geist, so kann er nicht in das Reich Gottes kommen.”
Hier geschieht etwas. Während im Vers 3 gesagt wird, dass der Mensch „das Reich Gottes sehen kann", spricht der Vers 5 davon, dass der Mensch „in das Reich Gottes kommen kann." Der ganze Mensch mit Seele, Geist und Leib „kommt ins Reich Gottes". In diesem Nachtgespräch des Herrn mit Nikodemus ist die Situation des Ungläubigen angesprochen, der sich Christus anschließen will. Das Bekennen der Sünden mit der anschließenden Sündenvergebung durch den berufenen Diener Gottes führt hin zum Mysterium der Taufe. Aber auch der Christ ist auf Sündenvergebung angewiesen, da er im Leben nach der Taufe nicht frei ist von Sünden ist. Der Lossprechung von den Sünden durch den geistlichen Vater geht voraus das Bekennen der Sunden und der Vorsatz, Gottes Gebote zu halten. Beides geschieht in der Beichte.

3. Was ist die Beichte?
Die Beichte besteht aus drei Teilen:
a)   Dem Sündenbekenntnis
      Da sind die Sünden beim Namen zu nennen, ohne andere zu beschuldigen.
b)   Der Reue
      und dem Vorsatz, sich von den begangenen Sünden abzuwenden.
c)   Der Lossprechung von den Sünden
Zur Losspreehung durch den Geistlichen gehören von Seiten des Gläubigen der Glaube, dass die Sünden vor Gott wirklich vergeben sind, so, als hätte Gott selbstgesprochen.
4. Wie bekenne ich meine Sünden?
Als Orientierung für das Beichten der eigenen Sünden kann eine Einteilung in drei Arten dienen. In ihnen spiegeln sich die 10 Gebote, die Gott Moses in zwei Tafeln auf dem Sinai mitteilte:

1. Tafel: Sünden gegen Gott
1. Gebot:
Ich bin der Herr, dein Gott, der dich aus Ägypten geführt hat, du sollst keineanderen Götter neben mir haben.
Gibt es etwas» was mir wichtiger ist als Gott (Menschen, Dinge, Ideen )?
Du sollst den Namen Gottes nichtmissbrauchen.
Habe ich den Namen Gottes missbraucht, geflucht, geschworen, ihn ausgesprochen, ohne zu Gott zu beten?
Seinen Namen sollen wir nur in den Mund nehmen um ihm zu danken, ihn um seine Hilfe anzurufen, um Fürbitte für andere Menschen zu tun, oder ihn zu bekennen, von ihm zu erzählen.
3. Gebot:
Du sollst den Feiertag heiligen.
Habe ich vergessen, den Feiertag zu heiligen durch Teilnahme an der Liturgie? Halte ich regelmäßig meine Gebete (morgens, abends vor dem Schlafen, vor und nach dem Essen)?

2. Tafel: Sünden gegen den Nächsten
Ehren von Eltern, Lehrern, Vorgesetzten unterlassen (4. Gebot);
Töten von Menschen, Tieren Pflanzen (5.Gebot);
Ehebruch, Unkeuschheit begangen (6. Gebot);
Jemanden belogen, falsche Urkunden verwendet (7. Gebot);
Jemandem etwas entwendet, was ihm gehört (8. Gebot);
Alle Unwahrhaftigkeit, alle Gier nach fremdem Besitz, Hass, Neid und Intrigen (9. und 10. Gebot).

3. Sünden gegen sich Selbst
 Alle Schäden, die man seinem eigenen Körper zufügt:
Anhängen an schlechte Gedanken, zu wenig Ruhe, Überlastung durch Arbeit oder Sport, Drogen, wie Alkohol, Rauchen, zu viel Essen, Nichteinhalten der Fasten.
Diese Aufreihung soll als Hilfsmtttel dienen, nicht als Vorschrift. Man kann auch nur die Dinge beichten, die einen von Gott trennen nach diesen drei Arten.

The Spiritual Father-The Physician of the Heart and of the Soul

Open, O doors and bolts of my heart,
that Christ the King of Glory may enter!
Enter, O my Light, and enlighten my darkness;
enter, O my Life, and resurrect my deadness;
enter, O my Physician, and heal my wounds;
enter, O Divine Fire, and burn up the thorns of my sins;
ignite my inward parts and my heart with the flame of Thy love;
enter, O my King, and destroy in me the kingdom of sin;
sit on the throne of my heart and alone reign in me,
O Thou, my King and Lord. 
-St. Dimitri of Rostov

This is the story of how St. Symeon the New Theologian met his spiritual father, St Symeon Eulabes (The Pious). "This story illustrates the close bond uniting the master and the disciple, and how such love overcomes all fear. It also shows that before choosing and following a spiritual father one must first believe in him;
It was he (St Symeon the Pious), who invited Symeon to follow him. 'Come, my child I will lead you to God'. When Symeon hesitated, his spiritual father told him: 'Light a great fire, that I may pass into the center: do not follow me if I do not remain untouched! 'These words confused me', Simeon wrote, 'and I did what he had commanded. And the flame burned and he stood in its center, intact, unconsumed, and he called me to him. I said I'm afraid master, I am a sinner! He advanced, came to me and embraced me saying , Why were you afraid? Why this fear and trembling? This is a great and frightening wonder: you will see even greater things!'
Finally to subdue Symeon's fear, his spiritual master made him approach: 'He enfolded me with his arms, and he kissed me again with a holy kiss, and he yielded a fragrance of immortality. I believed, I chose to follow him, and I desired to become his slave, his alone." Archbishop Basil Krivocheine, In The Light of Christ, p.98-99, SVS Press 1986.

Fr Sophrony Sakharov quoting from St. John Climacus establishes the connection between spiritual fatherhood and Christ Himself in his book 'On Prayer', p.89 as quoted by Fr Zacharias;
"..spiritual fatherhood is linked with the mystery of the word of God, which is begotten in the heart of man through prayer" Fr. Zacharias Zacharou, 'The Enlargement of the Heart' p.164, Mount Thabor Publishing, 2006. Spiritual fathers are those who, in the fear of God, remain unwavering in the pre-eternal current of the will of God, and who are vouchsafed to hear the still small voice of Christ(I Kings 19:12), and to obey it with humility and discernment, overcoming their own psychological inclination,.". ibid p.164 
"A spiritual father bears in himself the blessedness flowing from the knowledge of Christ way, and he thus becomes the means of leading the life of men out of the hell they have created, by the negative effect of their passions, and into pure Christian life and spiritual freedom.He is constrained by only one thought; how the person can be healed. ( Father Sophrony used to say that when the spiritual father prays for his children, as soon as he pronounces their names, he feels in his heart their state, weather they are in a good state or in a bad state, in comfort or in despair). The father confessor offers this sacred service on behalf of the little ones, the unfortunate ones who are themselves completely indifferent. He does not plot against their freedom, but instead considers exclusively his future reward. (That is to say, he must remain selfless, only consider God's reward, and not expect to be rewarded by anyone or anything in this world).The spiritual father is the image of the 'Good Shepherd' who has greater love, and lays down his life for his sheep. John 10:11" ibid p.174-175. "He offers repentance for himself and for all the sins of those whom God has entrusted to him". ibid p.177.

"But if Christ is to send such a father, he is to be sought in fervent prayer and in a spirit of repentance. Symeon (The New Theologian) told a Christian; 'humble yourself and say, O Lord, You do not desire the death of the sinner but that he be converted and live. You descended to earth precisely to resurrect the ones who have fallen and are dead in consequence of their sin. You enable them to see You, the true light, as far as this is possible to man. Send me a man who knows You, that by entirely submitting myself to his service as to Yours and by fulfilling Your will by doing his, I may please You, the only God, and be awarded Your kingdom, even, I a sinner'. A certain identification is made here between Christ and the spiritual father, but it is always Christ, the one true God, who remains the real father". Archbishop Basil Krivocheine, 'In The Light of Christ' p. 92-93, SVS Press,1986

Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos points out that "Only those who have been cured and have attained communion with God are theologians, and they alone can show Christians, the true way to reach the 'place' of cure." Metropolitan Hierotheos Vlachos in 'Orthodox Psychotherapy'
p. 30-31. "Therefore the theologian and the spiritual father are the same thing" ibid p.35 
St. Nicetas Stethatos ( disciple of St. Symeon) states that, "anyone who is uninitiated in the spiritual life is falsely named even if by ordination he is set over all the others in rank and mocks them and behaves arrogantly" ibid p.91

Fr. Simeon P. Koutsas explains the role of the spiritual father in Orthodox tradition, in an article published by the Orthodox Outlet for Dogmatic Inquiries. It is published in this blog with written permission from O.O.D.E.

The Spiritual Father: Spiritual paternity in the light of Orthodox Tradition
by the Reverend Simeon P. Koutsas, Metropolis of Nea Smyrni, Athens. A Publication by the Sacred Metropolis of Kalavryta and Aegialia, Aegion 1995. Re-published, from Myriobiblos

Each and every person has a biological father - the one to whom he owes his entry into this life. Apart from his biological father however,a Christian also has a spiritual father. He is the one to whom he owes his spiritual rebirth - the one who introduces him into the life in Christ and guides him towards the path of Salvation. Our biological birth brings us into this life; it introduces us into the community of human beings. Our rebirth in Christ - a different kind of birth - introduces us into the community of the Church and provides us with the potential to actually live that life in Christ.
In the ancient Church, where the faithful (almost the majority) received Baptism at a mature age, the spiritual father for a Christian was the ecclesiastic pastor that would catechize him, provide him with the baptismal sacrament and then proceed to lead him into the in-Christ way of life. Nowadays, when almost everyone is baptized as an infant, the spiritual father of a Christian is oftentimes not the same priest that baptized him, but the one who at some point in time led him into believing consciously and then directed him towards a consistent Christian way of life. The example of the Apostle Paul allows us to perceive the mystery of spiritual paternity in all its spiritual splendour. Paul is the spiritual father of the Christians of Corinth, as well as many other cities of his time. When addressing the Christians of Corinth, he writes (in 1 Cor.4:14) : "I do not write these things to reprimand you, but advise you as beloved children of mine. For even if you have ten thousand teachers in Christ, you do not have many fathers; for I have begotten you in Jesus Christ, through the Gospel."

Paul, therefore, to the Christians of Corinth was not simply their instructor and teacher in Christ; he was their father. He was the one who had given spiritual rebirth to them. He was the one who introduced them into the family of the Redeemed. His apostolic heart was ablaze with his love for his spiritual children. That in-Christ paternal love was the motive power behind his apostolic concern. He longed to transfuse not only the Gospel to them, but also his soul (1 Thess. 2:8). He struggled painstakingly to form Christ within them (Gal. 4:19). He never ceased to advise "each one individually" and "with tears", in his desire for their spiritual edification and their stabilization in the in-Christ way of life. (Acts 20:31, Ephes.4:12-16).
This Pauline perception of the content and the significance of spiritual paternity permeates the whole of Orthodox spiritual tradition. Saint Simeon the New Theologian, one of its most genuine bearers (whom we will be frequently referring to), wrote the following to one of his spiritual children: "We conceived you through teaching, we underwent labor pains through repentance, we delivered you with much patience and birth pangs and severe pain and daily tears" [Epistle 3, 1-3). As we can see, spiritual birth is compared to natural childbirth and, just like the latter, the former likewise entails three stages: conception, gestation and labour.
For a better understanding of the role of our spiritual father, we are also enlightened by two other images that we frequently encounter in the texts of our holy Fathers. The first one is the climb up a steep and rough mountainside. He who attempts such a climb for the first time, must necessarily follow a specified path; he must have a climbing companion and guide who has been up that mountainside before and knows the way up. That is precisely the role of a spiritual father: an experienced climbing companion and guide on our spiritual path, our in-Christ way of life. The second image is from the realm of physical training, the realm of athletics. All those who train in any athletic sport whatsoever are in need of an experienced guide, their trainer, who will introduce them to the secrets of that sport and will guide them meticulously during their period of training. Analogous is the mission of the spiritual father: having acquired experience himself on in-Christ living, he then undertakes to initiate his spiritual children.

2. How it Evolved Within the Historical Course of the Church 
As time passed and the institutions of the Church developed, likewise the institution of spiritual paternity took root and developed. The place where it was especially cultivated was, naturally, the desert. The place of monasticism. And as in the case of other elements, so did this institution spread and permeate the spiritual life of the entire Church. We are all familiar with the terms that we encounter in ascetic literature: "Abba" and "Elder" or "Geron" in the Greek equivalent and "Starets" in the language of our co-believing Russian brethren.

«What is that which prompts someone to become an Elder? How is he instated and by whom?» This question was posed by one of the most noteworthy theologians of the Orthodox Diaspora - Bishop Kallistos Ware - in order to highlight the character of spiritual paternity in the answer that he gives ("The Kingdom Within", Akritas publications, Athens 1004, p.117). From this answer of his, I shall convey his more basic positions:

« The spiritual father or Elder is essentially a "charismatic" and prophetic personality, who has undertaken that ministry with the direct intervention of the Holy Spirit. No human hand ordinates him, only the hand of God. It is the Church's expression of an "event" and not the Church's expression of an institution. Nevertheless, there exists no dividing line between the prophetic and the institutional elements in the life of the Church; each develops within the other and is entwined with it. Thus, the ministry that the Elders provide - which is charismatic per se - is linked to a clearly defined function within the institutional framework of the Church, which is that of a Priest-Confessor... Although the mystery of Confession is definitely a suitable opportunity for spiritual guidance, the function of an Elder does not relate to that of a confessor. An Elder provides guidance, not only during a person's confession, but also in many other cases. It is a fact, that while a confessor must always be a Priest, an Elder can be an ordinary Monk... 
But, if an Elder is not ordained, nor instated by an act of the official hierarchy, how does he reach the stage of undertaking such a ministry?... Within the continuing life of the Christian community, it becomes apparent to the faithful people of God - the true guardians of Sacred Tradition - that this or that person has the gift of spiritual paternity or maternity. Then, with a free and unofficial manner, people begin to approach those persons for counsel or guidance.» ("The Kingdom Within", Akritas publications, Athens 1004, p.117-119)

3. The Spiritual Father's Mission 
What, exactly, is the work of a spiritual father? «To attend to the souls that are redeemed by the blood of Christ» we are told by Basil the Great (Epitome of Terms ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 305). The spiritual father is a guide to in-Christ living. He is the physician of the soul,who, «with much compassion, according to the science of the Lord's teaching» (Basil the Great, "Ethika" ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 129), heals the passions and helps his spiritual child to acquire an in-Christ health; that is, a live faith and a stable spiritual life. If the condition and the purpose of Christianity - we are taught by Basil the Great - is the emulation of Christ, then «those who are entrusted with the guidance of the many ought to project the emulation of Christ to the weaker ones, with their (personal) intermediation». ("Oroi Kata Platos" ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 204). On the path that leads to communion with Christ and theosis (deification), our spiritual fathers are the experienced guides and untiring supporters. But for a pastor to serve such a lofty and responsible opus, he must necessarily be truly spiritual himself - an instrument «attuned and played by the Spirit», as Saint Gregory the Theologian writes. Only one who has learnt something out of personal experience is capable of imparting it; thus, for a spiritual father to guide others into the Christian way of life, he must first be living it himself. He must be a «norm for the faithful» (1 Tim. 4:12) and a «living Gospel». According to Basil the Great, he must provide «his own life as a distinct exemplar of every commandment of the Lord» (as above, ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 204). His example should speak more than his words; He should inspire, with his virtuous living, edify, with his love and paternal affection, since - according to Saint John of the Ladder - «a true shepherd is proven by his love. It was for the sake of love that the Great Shepherd was crucified.» (To Poemen 24, PG 88, 1177Β).

4. Two Fundamental Characteristics: Perspicacity and Love
We would need many hours if we were to describe the person of the spiritual father, the way that it surfaced from within our age-old ecclesiastic tradition, and to enumerate the individual charismas that characterize a genuine Elder. We shall therefore very briefly touch on two of his most essential charismas.

The first is perspicacity and discernment, «in other words, the ability to intuitively penetrate the secrets of another's heart; to comprehend the secret depths that the other is not aware of. The spiritual father sees beyond the conventional gestures and habits with which we hide our true personality from the others - and even from our very self. And beyond all these trite details, he conceives the unique persona - the one that was created in the image and the likeness of God. This power is a spiritual one and not a physical one; it is not a hyper-sensitive perception, nor is it a sanctified divination, but a fruit of Grace, which has the prerequisite of continuous prayer and uninterrupted ascetic labour.» (Ware, as above, pp. 126-127).
The spiritual father's charisma of insight reveals itself par excellence as a discernment of thoughts. Discernment according to saint Simeon is the spiritual «lamp» and «eye», with which the spiritual father can see, both within his own heart as well as the hearts of his spiritual children. That way, he is able to make the correct diagnosis every time and impose the most suitable therapy (Catechesis 18, SC 104, 292). The discernment that has a cleanliness of the heart as a prerequisite is a charisma - a gift of the Holy Spirit. A spiritual father therefore, «who does not have the light of the Holy Spirit inside himself, can neither see his own actions clearly, nor will he be fully informed if they are pleasing to God. But neither will he be able to guide others or teach the will of God, or be worthy of perceiving foreign thoughts...» (Catechesis 33, SC 113, 250).
The second charisma of a spiritual father is love, the ability to love others and to undertake the sufferings and the trials of others.Without love, there can be no spiritual paternity. Love, according to our spiritual teachers, is not just the most basic of qualifications of a spiritual father, but the foundation and the essence of spiritual paternity. A love for the others presupposes a «co-suffering», a sharing of their passions with them - which is the literal meaning of the (Greek) word "sympathize": «lift each others' burdens, and thus fulfil the law of Christ» (Galatians 6:2). The spiritual father is the one who par excellence carries the burdens of others. of his spiritual children. He takes upon himself their sorrows, their guilt, their trials, their sins. And he agonizes and tirelessly attends to their improvement in Christ. «Brother Andreas, beloved of my soul», writes Abba Barsanuphius to one of his spiritual children, «... not even a blink of the eye, is the time that I do not have you in mind and in my prayer; and if I love you thus, then God, Who has fashioned you, loves you even more, and Him I beseech to guide you and govern you according to His will» (Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain, "Book of Barsanuph and John", Sot. Schinas Publications, Volos 1962, Response108, p.132).
In the same book of responses by Barsanuph and John we encounter a soul-stirring prayer that makes the immense love of a spiritual father for his spiritual children apparent: «Behold, here am I and the children that You gave to me; protect them in Your Name, shelter them with Your right hand. Lead us to the harbor of Your Will and inscribe their names in Your book... Lord, either include my children along with me in Your Kingdom, or erase me also from Your Book... » (as above, Response 99, p. 82-83).

5. The Necessity of Seeking an Experienced Spiritual Father
The significance that a spiritual father has on the path to our in-Christ perfecting simultaneously proves the necessity for all of us to have - to discover - an experienced and foolproof spiritual guide. This is both a duty and a right. The responsibility of choice belongs to us also; it is a choice that we must make with the utmost care, since, as saint Simeon observes: «Truly rare, and in fact even until this day, are those who as caretakers of logical souls shepherd and heal well.» (Catechesis 20, SC 104, 346). Caution, therefore, is required. We must neither remain on our own (because we risk either becoming prey to the soul-devouring wolf - the devil - or, on falling, we will not have someone who will help us get up again - according to the words of the Ecclesiast: «Woe to the one, when he falls and there is no second one to raise him» (Ecclesiastes 4:10), but neither should we follow thoughtlessly behind a wolf or an «inexperienced physician» in which case it is certain that we shall undergo spiritual damage or remain incurable [cmp. Catechesis 20, SC 104, 348 and Epistle 1, (Words on confession) , Published by Κ. Ηοll (Enthusiasmus und Bussgewalt bein griechischen Moenchtum, Leipzig 1898) p. 117].
Albeit the choice of spiritual father is - as already mentioned - our right and rests on our judgment, nevertheless, the discovery of an experienced spiritual guide is, finally, a grand gift of God. 
That is why Saint Simeon counsels us as follows:
«Brother, beseech the Lord extensively that He might show you a man, who is able to shepherd you well, to whom you will owe obedience as if to God Himself, and the things that he says to you, you should unhesitatingly heed, even if those instructions appear to be against you and harmful.» (Catechesis 20, SC 104, 334).

That same teacher in his 7th moral homily provides us with an example of a prayer with which we can beseech God to send us an experienced spiritual father: «Lord, You who do not want the death of the sinner as much as You do his return so that he may live; Who descended for this reason to earth, so that those who are under sin and are dead because of it may be resurrected and look upon You, the true Light, as much as a person is able to see, make me worthy, send me a man who knows You, so that by serving him as though serving You and submitting myself with all my might and doing Your will within his will, be enabled to please You, the only God, and myself the sinner become worthy of the Kingdom» (Ethika 7, SC 129, pp.186-188).

6. The Reciprocation of the Spiritual Child to His Spiritual Father
The in-Christ edification of the faithful through their bond with a spiritual father is not self-evident. It presupposes their reciprocation to the love that they will be receiving and the concern that their spiritual father will be showing them.

A first and fundamental prerequisite is love. The bond that is forged between the spiritual father and his spiritual child is one of mutual love. The faithful responds to the spiritual father's love with his own reciprocal love. «There is nothing that can lead to learning thus wise; only by loving and by being loved» observes saint John the Chrysostom (Homily 6, 1 on A' Timothy, PG 62, 529). Spiritual bonds are far stronger than the natural ones, and the love that springs from Christ is far stronger than the one that is inspired by blood kinship. «For what can be more desirable than a true father?» Saint Theodore the Studite asks himself (To Plato 2, PG 99, 909Β), thus expressing his personal experience on his own spiritual father.
The love towards our spiritual father is genuine, when expressed as "faith" - that is, as trust - in his person. We assign our entire self to our spiritual father. We acknowledge him as our guide on the path to salvation, therefore we must have faith in him, and follow without any hesitations and inner doubts whatever he advises. Our Holy Fathers persist on this point very emphatically: «One must believe without a care in those who have undertaken to tend to us» advises Saint John of the Ladder (Ladder 4, PG 88, 717Β). Without a wholehearted trust in our spiritual father we cannot progress in Christian living.

In his "Chapters", Saint Simeon writes the following:
"He who has attained clear-cut faith - that is to say, trust - towards his father in God, when seeing him, he considers that he is seeing Christ, and, by staying with him or following him, he believes with certainty that he is with Christ and is following Him. One who is thus, will not desire to speak to anyone else, nor will he prefer anything of the things of this world above the remembrance of him, along with love." (Chapters, 1, 28, SC 51, 47).
If the duty of a spiritual father is to remain alert for the soul of his spiritual child, it is likewise the child's duty to obey and faithfully observe his guidance (Hebr.13:17). God Himself speaks to us, through our spiritual father. With the obedience therefore that we show him, we are essentially obeying the will of God. We are safeguarded from the errors that we would most certainly fall into, if we were to follow our own will. Finally, we attain inner freedom and thus attract the grace of God. Confession is one more important duty of the faithful. We trustingly confess everything to our spiritual father; not only the things we have done, but also our innermost thoughts. Saint Basil the Great urges us to "not keep any movement of the soul secret, but to bare whatever is hidden in the heart" ("Oroi Kata Platos" - Conditions breadthwise, 26, ΒΕΠΕΣ 53, 184). Nothing is concealed from our spiritual father. With humility and filial trust, we should place everything at his feet. That is the only way our sins are forgiven by God. We are freed of the burden of guilt. We uproot our passions. And the spiritual father thereafter guides us safely through our spiritual life.

Everything that we outlined very briefly so far has to do with the faith and the experience of the Church on the institution of spiritual paternity, the way it evolved and developed in the past, and in fact more so in the sphere of monastic spirituality. The question therefore that very naturally arises here is: Does spiritual paternity - can it - function in the same way today, in our era? This question is opportunely significant, and can quite easily be the subject of another, separate homily. That is why tonight you must allow me to present only certain issues that are related to our theme, which seriously preoccupy many Christians and can be categorized in what could be referred to as the pathology of spiritual paternity.

1. "Elderism" in Many Contemporary Clergymen
Unfortunately, this is not a rare phenomenon. Many of our clergymen - several of whom may even be endowed with charismas and abilities - become zealous for the "glory" of an Elder far too soon. Extremely young in years, still immature as personalities, inexperienced as pastors, without ever having studied near - or submitted themselves under - another, more experienced spiritual father, they advertise themselves, or they artfully strive to project themselves through their environment as new Barsanuphius or as charismatic child-Elders... They roam - according to the words of our Lord - "both sea and land, in order to make one proselyte" (Matth.23:15); in other words, they go hunting for followers. They exercise a crushing oppression on the conscience of people, supposedly in the name of an obligatory "blind" obedience to one's Elder. They cultivate an unhealthy dedication to their person.

Unfortunately - and may His Eminence permit us to point this out - our bishops are equally responsible for this phenomenon; those bishops who perform ordinations too quickly and who assign spiritual paternity thoughtlessly to those still immature clergymen.

Truly wise are the observations that the recently reposed and veritably spirit-guided Elder Paisios had made, in one of his letters that recently saw the light of publicity, after his repose. It referred to the person of the elder that a candidate monk was called upon to select. Nevertheless, his words are also helpful to us in the world, with regard to choosing a spiritual father: "Strive as much as you can, (a) for your Elder to be a spiritual man, with virtues, and more practical rather that just a teacher. It is good, if he has become a captain after being a deck-hand, so that he won't enforce on others all the monastic information that he learnt by merely studying it, or, to have by nature immense love and discernment, so that he will ache for his children and not want to send them off to Paradise immediately, in the manner of Diocletian... It is also immensely helpful for the subordinate, if his Elder is at least eighteen or twenty years older than himself, because that will also generate a natural respect in the subordinate. (b) to find an Elder who lives a simple life, without cares and secular, redundant concerns, and who does not aspire to personal benefits, but aspires to the benefit of his subordinate's soul, and in general to the benefit of our Mother the Church." (Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain, Epistles, Publications of the Sacred Retreat «Evangelist John the Theologian», Souroti, Thessaloniki 1994, p. 43).

2. The Danger of Person-Worship
The duty of a genuine and experienced spiritual father is to orientate the gaze and the heart of his spiritual children towards the Person of the Lord, and not to his own person. Person-worship - whether pursued by the priest, or displayed by his spiritual child (and not rejected by the former) - is a sickness and constitutes a serious spiritual risk to both of them. Proper spiritual fathers do not project their own person, but the hyper-substantial Person of our Lord. They should not project themselves to such a degree that their "stature" looms between Christ and their spiritual child - thus obstructing it from gazing towards the Person of Christ; instead, they should stand aside, discreetly, and direct the spiritual child towards the Person of the One Who is our Redeemer. According to Bishop Kallistos Ware: «In reality, the relationship is not bilateral, but triangular, because beyond the Elder and his spiritual child there is a third party: God. Our Lord tells us that we should not call anyone "father", because we have only one father - the one in heaven (Matth.23:9). The Elder is not some kind of infallible judge or appellate, but a co-servant of the living God; he is not a dictator, but a guide and companion on the journey. The only true "spiritual guide" - in every sense of the word - is the Holy Spirit» (The Kingdom Within, p. 139).
3. The Degree of Obligatory Obedience to Our Spiritual Father
The purpose of spiritual paternity is not to secure a continuous dependence of the spiritual children on their father, but a source of assistance for them to gradually reach the state of spiritual freedom. A genuine spiritual father does not condemn his children to a lifelong spiritual infancy, but struggles constantly for them to mature spiritually and to become - according to the teaching of Saint Paul - "unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the full stature of Christ" (Eph. 4,13). (Ven.Christoforidou, Spiritual paternity according to Simeon the New Theologian, Thessaloniki 1977, p.31). Constraint and spiritual violence have no place in the relationship between a spiritual father and his spiritual children. Due obedience to our spiritual father is not a "blind" one, but a conscious one. It does not abolish our personal responsibility either, as that springs from our freedom 'in-Christ'. «The duty of a spiritual father is not to destroy a person's freedom, but to help him see the truth for himself. He does not strive to oppress a person's personality; only to give him the potential to discover himself, to develop, to mature, and to become what he is in reality... A spiritual father does not impose his own personal ideas and virtues, but helps his student to find his own exclusive calling... In short, he is only an usher of God, and he is duty-bound to lead souls onto God's path, and not his own.» (The Kingdom Within, p. 141).

Saint Barsanuphius says the following:
«You know that we have never placed shackles on anyone, not even on ourselves».
«Do not exercise pressure on (another's) intentions, instead, sow with hope; for even our Lord did not force anyone - He preached, and whoever wanted to, would listen» (Response 51 and 35, as above, p. 56 and 49).Furthermore, we must not confuse the degree of monastic obedience with the Christians' obedience to their spiritual fathers. Monastic obedience, with regard to its magnitude and duration, differs from that of Christians living in the world. For this reason, a spiritual father is not "legally" justified in demanding - and the spiritual child is equally not obliged to provide - the kind of obedience that an Elder is entitled to demand from a monk, who is indeed obliged to obey him "to his dying day" : an obligation that springs from the monastic vows that were given during his tonsure as a monk.
The bond that exists between a spiritual father and his spiritual children resembles the relationship that exists within a normal family. Thus, just as the father and children in a normal family must be united in a mutual love, the same must also apply in a "charismatic family": that of a spiritual father, of an Elder. Nevertheless, it must not escape our attention that this bond is a par excellence Holy-Spiritual relationship, which needs to be purified of all sentimental relations and safeguarded from anything that might possibly hide an impassioned or a dangerous, sickly-sweet sentimentality.
Most certainly, love is often expressed with external signs. This of course also applies to spiritual bonds. Nevertheless, it requires a great deal of caution and discernment. In-Christ bonds must be distinguished by their modesty and their Doric austerity. And in order for these bonds to preserve these characteristics, a spiritual distancing is necessary.

5. Boasting About Our Spiritual Father
This is another frequent phenomenon. Many boast about their Elder. And they mention him thoughtlessly, with every opportunity, but in such a way that exposes their own spiritual nudity and their dangerous, sickly-sweet sentimentality. This phenomenon is not a healthy one. Saint Simeon the New Theologian brings the following to our attention: «Do not boast about your teacher for his being honoured by many, nor about having many obeying you because of his name; rather, rejoice if your name is to be written in the heaven of humility» (Catech.20, SC 104, 338). And Saint John of the Ladder speaks more austerely:
«I saw an unproven student boasting to certain people about his teacher's achievements, and although believing he would attain glory for himself by tending someone else's wheat, he instead caused himself ignominy, when everyone asked him "How is it, that such a good tree brought forth such a fruitless branch?"» (Ladder, 4, PG 88, 713Α).
Attention should also be paid to another similar phenomenon. It concerns the outspokenness of our spiritual father in the presence of God. Our Fathers therefore recommend that we should not be content with it. Nor should we confine ourselves to asking them to pray for us. We have a duty to struggle with zeal ourselves, for the sake of our salvation.
Once, as mentioned in the Gerontikon (Book of Elders), a brother visited Saint Anthony the Great and beseeched him: «Pray for me».
To which the elder replied: «Neither shall I be charitable, nor will God, if you yourself do not strive and beseech God» (Gerontikon, i.e. The Sayings of holy elders, P.B.Paschos publications, Athens 1961, p. 2b).

6. And One Final Point: Changing to Another Spiritual Father
As already mentioned, the choice of spiritual father rests on our own free judgment and preference. Nevertheless, the God-bearing Fathers point out that a change in an existing spiritual father could entail risks to our spiritual progress, and even to our very salvation. 
Saint Simeon writes as follows:
«Do not wander here and there looking for renowned monks, and do not scrutinize their life. If, by the grace of God, you have found a spiritual father, tell your issues to him and him alone»(Ethika 7, SC 129, 184).It is therefore unacceptable and spiritually risky to wander here and there, changing spiritual fathers every now and then, without reason.
«Let us not look for those with foreknowledge, nor foreseers, but above all, those who are in every way humble and are suitable for our ailments» (Ladder 4, PG 88, 725D).

This advice by Saint John of the Ladder reflects exactly the mentality of many Christians of our time and their futile quests, which inevitably lead them to frequent changes in spiritual father. (Cmp. Saint Simeon the New Theologian, Catech. 20, SC 104, 334).

I again invoke the testimony of Bishop Kallistos: «There are many who think that they cannot find any spiritual father, because they imagine him as a particular type of person: they want a Saint Seraphim of Sarov, so they close their eyes to those that God sends them in reality. Quite often, their supposed problems are not that complicated, and they already know in their hearts what the answer is. However, they do not like the answer, because it demands a constant and persistent effort on their part; so, they search for a "Deus ex machina" who with one only miraculous word will suddenly make everything easy. People like these should be helped to understand the true character of spiritual paternity» (The Kingdom Within, p.145).

Reverend father, dear brethren,
The Orthodox ecclesiastic tradition is not something that leads back to the Past only; it is simultaneously Present and Future. It is the perennial faith and the incessant experience of the Church, in Grace. This also applies to spiritual paternity, an ecclesiastic institution that we endeavoured to shed light on tonight - even if only a very faint one - with the light of our Orthodox tradition. And the conclusion that is reached from this brief walk through the field of ecclesiastic tradition is: It is our duty to have a permanent and steady spiritual father. At the same time, it is our right to choose the one whom we will judge as being the most suitable. Not the most "accommodating" one, but the most experienced one - a man who is truly of God - and one who we can feel spiritually "comfortable" with and with whom we feel safe.
Saint Simeon observes something that still applies in our day: Those who know how to "shepherd well and to heal logical souls" are rare, in every era (Catechesis 20, SC 104, 346).

That is why we need to exercise care when choosing. And we should pray fervently, so that God will make us worthy of such a superb gift. «With prayers and tears», writes the same teacher, «beseech the Lord to send you a guide who is un-impassioned and holy»(Chapt.1, 49, SC 51, 53) - a guide on our course for the heavenly Kingdom.

Translation: K.N.