Words

Life

Category: St. Nicholai Velimirovich

Whom we receive

by Andrea Elizabeth

HOMILY (from today’s Prolog of Ohrid)
on how sinful men prefer to receive an evildoer
rather than a doer of good

I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive (John 5:43).
Who is this “other” who will come in his own name, and whom sinful men will prefer to receive rather than Christ the Lord? It is he who does not carry the cross and does not walk the narrow path; he who is not a lover of man but rather a hater of man; he who does not struggle against sin but rather struggles for sin; he who loves impurity and spreads impurity; he who is a soldier of eternal death and not of eternal life; he who flatters the godless and loves every passion and vice: he is Antichrist. He will come in his own name and not in the name of God, and all those who did not receive Christ will receive him. He will be more dear to them, for he will embrace all their crooked and sinful paths. He will be more dear to them than Christ, for alongside the difficult path of Christ he will build a path smooth as ice, over which men will easily slide, not thinking about the abyss to which it leads them. The Lord Jesus Christ came in the name of the eternal salvation of men, eternal life, eternal truth and eternal justice. Antichrist will come in his own name, that is, in the name of eternal destruction, death, falsehood and injustice. When the Antichrist comes among his own, his own will gladly receive him. In fact, all those for whom Christ is difficult will gladly receive Antichrist, for he and his path will appear easy to them. Only when it is too late will the foolish see that they were deceived, but there will be no salvation for them. When they begin to slide into eternal night, into the jaws of the fetid serpent, then it will be too late; repentance will not be accepted and there will be no salvation. The foolish banquet of earthly sinners and Antichrist will be over quickly, in the blink of an eye, and the house of impure joy will turn into a hopeless prison of remorse and misery. Then it will be too late.
O man-loving Lord, the only friend of man, Thee only do we know and recognize. Thee, only Thee, do we receive as our Savior and salvation.
To Thee be glory and praise forever. Amen.

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This world is not my home

by Andrea Elizabeth

“I’m just a passin’ through”, as the song goes.

I’ve been thinking (“a dangerous past time, ‘I know'”, as another song goes, [from Beauty and the Beast.]) about the relationship between matter and consciousness. Since I don’t really know the relationship, I’ll just list some observations in the order I remember or think of them.

Imagination and dreams are very compelling. Who can live without literature and now movies?

Stories draw from knowledge of material things.

Death separates us from material things. Resurrection will some day reunite us with an altered form of them.

Meanwhile, we are to strive for a healthy detachment from passions associated with material things. The attachment itself is at first immaterial, but it usually seeks a material consummation.

The Church consecrates material and immaterial things that we can properly attach to. Monastics commit to these being their only attachments. People in the world may attach to a broader number of things, which St. Paul says leads to inevitably being burdened by worldly cares.

Even monastics are encouraged to read stories, like those of Charles Dickens, which are mostly about people in the world. But since they are fiction, Dickens can achieve an immaterial relationship with them. Our relationships with immaterial concepts so depicted undoubtedly influence our relationships with material beings and things in our physical circle. If there is conflict between our conceptualized desires and our immediate circumstance, we seek escape from the latter. Perhaps this is not bad in itself. Perhaps our unfulfilled (meaning not yet materialized) desires are valid, and worthy of being dwelt upon in a desire for harmonic perfection of our inner and outer states. But we should stay open to the process required to bring about such harmony. Our circumstances, and our selves, are rough hewn rocks that require much chiseling. Actual escape is usually a premature burial of what could have been. But I will say that some stones are too unwieldy, and should be scrapped.

What happens if our culture, by becoming less human, makes it more difficult to achieve inner and outer harmony? Isolation occurs, but perhaps it always has. One is never alone who doesn’t seek to be, however.

Communal thoughts

by Andrea Elizabeth

I hear that dwelling on Communion helps the mind transcend earthly cares. Creation as symbols as well as thankfulness spontaneously appear unbidden.

The silent world enables hymns of angels to occupy the mind. Prayer consists of the names and faces of others last remembered. May God have mercy on their souls.

Talent in Amasea

by Andrea Elizabeth

Forgive me, but I think Amasea, like Wonderland, would be a good setting for a story. From today’s Prolog:

1. SAINT EUTYCHIUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

Euthychius was born in Phrygia of pious and devout parents. His father was an officer. Once, as a child, when Eutychius was playing with his playmates, their game was that each of them would write their names on a wall and, beside their name, they would guess what rank each of them would attain in life. When it was Eutychius’ turn he wrote: Eutychius–Patriarch! In his thirtieth year he became abbot of the monastery in Amasea. At age forty, he was sent by the Metropolitan of Amasea to represent him at the Fifth Ecumenical Council [Constantinople, 553 A.D.]. At the Council, he glowed like a shining star among the Fathers of the Church both in learning as well as in his zealousness. When the debate began whether heretics could be anathematized after their deaths, he supported the opinion that they could be by calling upon the Third Book of Kings (in some translations, called The First Book of Kings 13: 1-8 and the Fourth Book of Kings (in some translations, called The Second Book of Kings 23:16). Eutychius endeared himself greatly to Emperor Justinian and Patriarch Mennas. The emperor sought his advice on many occasions and Patriarch Mennas designated Eutychius as his successor and implored the emperor to carry this out in deed. And so it happened! St. Eutychius governed the Church in peace for twelve years. Then the devil raised up a tempest against him. This tempest reached Justinian himself. The emperor became deluded and succumbed to the Monophysite heresy (Aphtartodocetea) which falsely taught that the Lord Jesus, before His resurrection, had a divine and incorruptible body, without feeling, hunger, thirst or pain. Eutychius adamantly stood up against this heresy, for which the emperor banished him into exile to his original monastery. Eutychius remained there for twelve years and eight months and proved himself to be a great miracle-worker healing people of various illnesses through prayer and by anointing them with holy oil. Justinian repented and died. He was succeeded by Justin, who then restored Eutychius to the patriarchal throne where this saint remained, governing the Church of God in peace, until his death. In 582 A.D., in his seventieth year, he took up habitation in the kingdom of Christ the Lord, Whom he faithfully and courageously served throughout his entire life.

And I found the Reflection particularly encouraging:

It is said about an ancient orator that he labored day and night to perfect himself in the art of oratory. Someone said to him: “Demosthenes does not want you to be the chief orator.” To which he immediately retorted: “Neither will I allow him to be the only one.” If you cannot be a first-class saint like St. Anthony, do not lower your hands and do not say: ” Nothing can come of me!” Increase your effort and double your talent. “In my Father’s house, there are many dwelling places” said the Lord (St. John 14:2). If you merit to settle in the least of these dwelling places, you will be more glorious and more fortunate than all of the rulers who have ever existed on earth. Everyone, according to his own talent. Neither will you be a St. Anthony nor will St. Anthony, alone, occupy the Kingdom of God.

Seven years ago…

by Andrea Elizabeth

Seven years ago a nun shared this with me and the friend who invited me to go to the monastery with her. And here it comes up today in St Nicholai’s Prolog of Ohrid.

Water is finer than earth; fire is finer than water; air is finer than fire; electricity is finer than air. Nevertheless, air is a dense element in comparison to the spiritual world and electricity is a dense element in comparison to the spiritual world.

Electricity is very fine but the voice is finer than electricity; the thought finer than the voice; the spirit finer than thoughts.

The air is fine and it carries the voice over a great distance. Electricity is fine and it carries light over a great distance. Nevertheless, how much more is every deed, every word and every thought of yours carried to all ends of the spiritual world. O how awesome it is to commit sinful deeds and to speak sinful words and to think insane thoughts! To what immeasurable distances are amassed from that on the waves of the spiritual sea! But do not go into the details of the unknown world. The main thing is that you know and that you measure how all of your deeds, words and thoughts unavoidably create an impression on all four sides: On God and the spiritual world, on nature, on men and on your soul. If you train yourself in this knowledge, you will attain a higher level of saving vigilance.

St. Athanasius of Mt. Athos

by Andrea Elizabeth

Not to be outdone by an Inquirer at Church, I decided to read the Prologue from Ohrid offering today. I agree that it would be good to read it every day.

Seek ye first

by Andrea Elizabeth

In the quotes I’ve previously provided, as well as ones I haven’t, The Universe as Signs and Symbols by St. Nicholai Velimirovich instructs us on reading our natural environment in a spiritual way. This takes work when one is not constantly possessing a sense of God’s presence nor feeling thankful for everything as a gift. There is also the question of whether a thing should be appreciated in its own right. For me it is easier to remember God when outside in nature. In the city, surrounded by concrete, I feel oppressed, but can be reminded by looking up at the sky which people haven’t yet managed to obliterate entirely. There are certain artistic fabrications that I manage to enjoy in the city, but should one be as thankful for them as direct gifts from God as one is a tree? First let me say that there is a question about whether we have to look for symbolism in a tree. Trees can possess a majesty of form that makes one say, “What a tree!” Is it sinful to stop there? One can look at a tree and appreciate it’s creator as one appreciates an artist, which is also a second step in art appreciation. But to look at a tree in a spiritual context, such as seeing the method of Christ’s crucifixion and thus our redemption, is a third step. A cross attains a certain beauty when seen in that light. But what about an unhewn tree? Ah, the tree of life. Yes a means of God’s provision for food, and beyond that communion. Also it is a picture of strength and shelter. To appreciate it’s beauty for itself, and not what one gets from it, not even the enjoyment of beauty, seems nice, but again, should we stop there? Shouldn’t we see that God (should probably say the Trinity or at least Christ as the Trinity revealed) must be beautiful beyond compare?

Back to fabricated, man-made things, especially things not made by hand but machine: I don’t think anything can be totally depraved, but things can be corrupted. One could seek the beauty of the original ingredients, or the similitude to traditional things like a door, which has symbolism, and get back on the above track. There’s probably a chapter on these man-made things that I’ve either forgotten or not gotten to yet.

How I feel about politics and social programs

by Andrea Elizabeth

from the chapter on “Recognition of Truth” in The Universe as Symbols and Signs by St. Nikolai Velimirovich

9. New piece of cloth and an old garment. “No man putteth a piece of new cloth onto an old garment (Matt. 9:16),” That is to say, a wise man does not, but an ignorant man may. This action symbolizes the usual unchristian methods of correcting a bad man by making superficial corrections; or reforming an old sinner merely by reading him a new lecture on morals; or giving a morsel of bread to the prodigal son instead of turning him back to his father’s house. By these palliative remedies, yea, by this mending of a big old evil with a little piece of something new, one makes the evil worse. This is also a reproach to all superficial attempts to correct human society by mending it piecemeal, instead of by a fundamental and thorough renewal through Christ.

To be or not to be yourself

by Andrea Elizabeth

One of the aspects of the feedback I received from my story, “What Would the Phantom Do“, relates to if Kenneth should quit being himself to achieve whatever goal. I believe that he wasn’t being himself to begin with, but was too worried and fearful in his accommodations. He played it safe. To me he used the Phantom to become more boldly himself and more imaginative. It required increased energy, action, and at the end, commitment. He did not translate that into the deviant behavior of the Phantom, however.

It was intended to be more in line with what I read from Saint Nicolai Velimirovich just now in The Universe as Symbols & Signs in the chapter on “Animals as Symbols”:

2. The serpent is a symbol of the devil. It was used as a tool by Satan when he deceived Eve inducing her to commit the sin of disobedience toward the Creator. The serpent therefore is the only animal in the world that was cursed by God: “Because thou has done this, be thou cursed above all cattle and above every beast of the field.” (Gen. 3:14) From here comes the terrible enmity which still exists not only between man and the serpent, but between all animals and the serpent. When Jesus advised His disciples, “be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” (Matt. 3:16) He was thinking of the serpent’s constant watchfulness and awareness of danger. Yet that is only a part of His advise to His disciple. The other part is “harmless as doves.” St. Chrysostom comments, “Wisdom is of no avail unless connected with harmlessness.” Isidor Pelussiot explains with these words, “To keep the faith as a serpent keeps its head from danger, and disrobe the old man as a serpent disrobes its old scales.” (p. 31)

I wonder if it is a modern invention to “be onesself”. Most spiritual direction seems to be about changing ourselves. Orthodox can work this out by saying that to become like Christ is to become onesself in that we are created in His image.

wheat and tares

by Andrea Elizabeth

In St. Nicholai’s chapter, “The Plants as Symbols”, almost all the plants, like trees, lillies, olive trees, thorns, and thistles symbolize either righteous or unrighteous people. The vine is Christ and seeds are His word. While minerals symbolize virtues and Christ Himself, I find it curious that plants can point to people. These reviews are mixed so I can’t just blissfully observe with wonder and awe.