“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXVIII)

The Sermon On The Mount by Gustav Dore

The Sermon On The Mount by Gustav Dore

Continued from (Part XXVII)

The Foundations of Christian Morals.

The Sermon delivered by our Savior on the Mount was preceded by two significant meet-ings, one with His secret disciple, Nicodemus (John 3:1-21), and the other with the Samaritan Woman (John 4:4-42). In His conversation with Nicodemus, Christ spoke of being born again, born of the Spirit of God, and in Samaria He taught of God as Spirit and of the worship of the Father in spirit and truth.

Nicodemus had not known of spiritual birth before his meeting with the Lord. What in-terested him was the same question that troubled many other men: was this Teacher and Miracle-Worker an ordinary prophet, or was He the Christ, the promised Messiah? His desire to find the answer to this question is evident in the words with which he addressed Christ: Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do, unless God is with him (John 3:2).

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The Elder Joseph the Hesychast (+1959) Strugles, Experiences, Teachings (9)

10EldIosif

Continued from (8)

8. The Trials grow more Intense

Any extra aid from grace, when it comes legitimately to those who labour systematically, is like a prize, a good mark or a promotion, upon which the faith of contemplation increases perceptibly, according to the Fathers. And for beginners this is a sign of the bitterest struggle, while for those who are advanced it is an extension of illumination.

I used the word ‘systematically’, and with fear I shall explain in brief the difference this makes. The grace of God give help, comfort and consolation to all believers who live according to conscience. It gives to each according to what he requires to strengthen or console him. These gifts are exceptional, without repetition or continuation, and belong to the overall, general providence of God by which He sustains His creatures.

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The Elder Joseph the Hesychast (+1959) Strugles, Experiences, Teachings (8)

08_EldIosif

Continued from (7)

7. The Discovery of the Hesychast Elder Daniel as Spiritual Father

From the very beginning of his venture, the Elder longed to find a spiritual father: a spiritual man, in the full sense of the word, who could teach him and guide him in this subtle and mysterious life. And despite all his disappointments, as he told us, he never ceased to search and hope. There was a rumour about ascetics whom most people never saw, who lived in obscurity and would present themselves from time to time to certain priests, themselves spiritual men, and receive Communion. For a long time this was a problem and a trial for the Elders, because they kept trying and searching constantly in the hope of meeting such people. In their persistent efforts they went round all the caves and huts, and any other trace of earlier habitation or place where there was evidence that some ascetic had once lived.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXVII)

Moses

Continued from (Part XXVI)

The Ten Commandments.

After the Exodus from Egyptian slavery (Ex. 14), the Children of Israel encamped at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Moses went up onto the mountain and there received from God two tablets of stone, upon which were written by God’s hand the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20,31). The text of these commandments (The Decalogue) is as follows:

1. “I am the LORD your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me (Ex. 20:2-3).

2. “You shall not make for yourselves a graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them (20:4-5).

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The Elder Joseph the Hesychast (+1959) Strugles, Experiences, Teachings (7)

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Continued from (6)

6. The Nature and Forms of Trials

Trials or temptations (peirasmoi) have been so named because they produce experience (peira) in those who are tried. As to their nature, they comprise all the distressing events in life, from the smallest pain to the greatest of all, which is death. They are also called collectively a Cross, because just as a cross tortures a man and puts him to death, so distressing things in general lay us low and destroy us. Sorrows do not have their beginning in the creation that was from the beginning, but are parasitic, symptoms accompanying our fallen state. They are born of transgression and sin, and that is why they are disgusting and repellent to life and nature, as causes and constituent elements of corruption and death, and always provoke aversion and repugnance. So in a certain way our life has been changed into boundless bitterness and sorrow, into an endless pain and labour, unending agony and unhappiness with lamentation as its one inseparable companion!

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXVI)

chrsokentito Exapterygo Ieras Monis Osiou Grigoriou

Continued from (Part XXV)

Concerning one Baptism for the Remission of Sins.

Man becomes a child of the Church through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. Baptism is the door to Christianity, the beginning of life in God. Baptism restores the image of God in man and bestows the saving power of Christ’s redemptive feat on him. Through Baptism the Christian receives access to all the Holy Sacraments and acts of grace of the Church, which lead him to deification.

Baptism is called the second birth because in it a man dies to his sinful life and is reborn into a new, spiritual, holy life, in which he puts on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Eph. 4:24). Through Baptism men are reconciled to God, cleansed from the impurities of sinful acts by the Divine Spirit, and become fellow citizens with the saints, and members of the household of God (Eph. 2:19), and children of God (John 1:12).

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The Elder Joseph the Hesychast (+1959) Strugles, Experiences, Teachings (6)

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5. The Time of Bitter Struggles

Continued from (5)

Such were the patterns of their outward movements, but the deeper meaning of all this was the pursuit of grace and the struggle which combatants have to take on to this end. With his moral background and his upbringing in accordance with the Christian principles of the time, the Elder had grown up in true chastity in the unaffectedly traditional environment of his native island. Up to the time when he left to seek the monastic life, he had made no concession to anything that could be called carnal. When he read in the Lives of the Saints about warfare and temptations of this kind, it seemed strange to him, how it was possible for these things to operate and to torment the spiritual warriors in the absence of anything to cause them.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXV)

Fresco from the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopedi (Mount Athos)

Fresco from the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopedi (Mount Athos)

Continued from (Part XXIV)

Concerning the Son of God — the Savior of the World.

The teaching of faith in the Son of God — the Savior of the World — is to be found in the third to seventh articles of the Creed.

For the salvation of mankind was accomplished the great mystery of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16), the mystery of His [God’s] will (Eph. 1:9). The Only-begotten Son (John 1:18) of God, descended from Heaven, was made incarnate, was born of the Virgin Mary in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4), and was made flesh (John 1:14). He took a human body without its sin, and a human soul, and became true Man without ceasing to be True God (Rom. 9:5).

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXIV)

pantocrator

Continued from (Part XXIII)

6. Orthodox Dogmas and Doctrines.

Holy Tradition.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the Holy Orthodox Church is its changelessness, its loyalty to the past, its sense of living continuity with the ancient Church. This idea of living continuity may be summed up in one word: Tradition. As St. John of Damascus says, “We do not change the everlasting boundaries which our fathers have set, but we keep the Tradition, just as we received it” [On the Holy Icons, II, 12]. To an Orthodox Christian, Tradition means the Holy Bible; it means the Creed; it means the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers; it means the Canons, the Service Books, the Holy Icons, etc. In essence, it means the whole system of doctrine, ecclesiastical government, worship and art which Orthodoxy has arti-culated over the ages [Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church, p.204].

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXIII)

Megaloschema

Continued from (Part XXII)

The Monastic Tonsure.

The Monastic Grades.

When one desiring the monastic life enters a monastery, he normally passes through three steps or stages: 1) Probationer (Novice — including Riasaphor), 2) Monk of the Lesser Schema (Cross-bearer or Stavrophore), and 3) Monk of the Great Schema (Russian — Skhimnik). The Probationer who enters a monastery desires to do so in order to acquit himself worthily in the angelic state, so called because Monks renounce all wordly things, do not marry, do not acquire and hold property, and live as do the Angels in Heaven, glorifying God night and day and striving to do His Will in all things.

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“These Truths We Hold” (Part XXII)

The Torment of Saint Anthony. painting of Michelangelo c. 1487-­88

The Torment of Saint Anthony. painting of Michelangelo c. 1487-­88

Continued from (Part XXI)

5. Orthodox Monasticism.

It is generally accepted that monasticism began in Egypt towards the end of the Third Century, though its origins may have been older. Indeed, some form of monasticism may have existed almost from the birth of the Church. As the word monastic implies (in Greek monos — alone), the Monk was one who went into the desert to live alone with God. (Such were also called hermits (or anchorites), which means solitaries.) The first recorded hermitic Orthodox Christian literature was St. Paul of Thebes († 341) who lived over sixty years in a cave in the Egyptian desert. But the greatest of these hermits, often called the Father of Monasticism, was St. Anthony the Great († 356). Yet, even in the life of this father of monasticism, the desert solitude was gradually modified by the appearance of disciples. These men wished to pursue the monastic life under the guidance of one who was already experienced. A soldier marching into battle would much rather be commanded by an experienced officer than an inexperienced one, no matter how educated the latter may be. Nor, if he himself is inexperienced, would he wish to enter the battle alone.

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ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN MONASTICISM

vatopaidi monk

With the development of monasticism in the Church there appeared a peculiar way of life, which however did not proclaim a new morality. The Church does not have one set of moral rules for the laity and another for monks, nor does it divide the faithful into classes according to their obligations towards God. The Christian life is the same for everyone. All Christians have in common that «their being and name is from Christ»[1]. This means that the true Christian must ground his life and conduct in Christ, something which is hard to achieve in the world.

What is difficult in the world is approached with dedication in the monastic life. In his spiritual life the monk simply tries to do what every Christian should try to do: to live according to God’s commandments. The fundamental principles of monasticism are not different from those of the lives of all the faithful. This is especially apparent in the history of the early Church, before monasticism appeared. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

SPIRITUAL CONVERSATIONS VIA SKYPE (3)

KnjgaOtac

Continued from (2)

Virtual family

I will tell you again about one of my personal experiences. At some point of time Father told me: ‘Connect to Skype.” I did not know whether he was speaking metaphorically, “skaj” as heavens in English, so that I would pay more attention to heavenly things and spiritual way of living, or he was talking about the Skype program. So I asked him and got the answer to connect to Skype program. Then I notice that, for example, my phone bill is much lower. I can see that Father gives me some advices to make my life easier. That is how I got familiar with the Skype, which did not interest me previously; I was more interested in a writing program, and the things that I work on. This is only a small example of how Father helps people by making their spiritual and practical sides of life easier.

Question: In this book Father Gabriel often mentions the virtual family, which connects all people who communicate to him into one, no matter where they are. Therefore, now we could talk about the two aspects that this book reveals. One aspect is the assembly, the collectiveness since many people met thanks to the web-site of the Monastery Lepavina and thanks to the effort of Father Gabriel. Many people virtually met this way, and now many collaborate, comfort each other, and communicate to each other. The second aspect, which we can talk about, would represent the positive characteristics and the mission, if we can call it so, of computers in spiritual life. Father Gabriel once said that young people, who are frightened by computers, do not want to work on computers and are afraid in some way, contact him. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

SPIRITUAL CONVERSATIONS VIA SKYPE (2)

KnjgaOtacAbout Christian deed

Question: the Lord’s ways are truly miraculous. It is miraculous how Father Gabriel got a computer, without knowing how to use it, then how he learned to use it flawlessly because sometimes it seems like he knows more then those who learn about computers in schools. After he mastered the technology, Father started the missionary work which branched out, and this way he induced happiness in many people who now could, from anywhere in the world, communicate with the Father. I think that communication via internet, love for the God, love for fellow beings, and spreading of the Word of God represent the exact and essential value of this book. How would you present this book to the people who did not have an opportunity to communicate with Father Gabriel via internet?

Answer: As far as I understand, as a spiritual child and as someone who met Father Gabriel, his spiritual work has always been very meaningful; it has been polyvalent, and one can always look at his work from many different angles. His work has always been founded in Christian deed and strictness in his personal life. So, in his life he testifies the strictness of norms, and now suddenly from that strictness, from that one source and an internal focus, comes out his effort which reflects itself in his work via internet.

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A simple biomedical presentation of the first miracle of Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi (Mount Athos), who smiled 45 minutes after his death.

Part 1. The contemporary situation.

The present contribution describes a miracle that, as far as we know, is almost unheard of in the entire history of Christianity. A dead person (Elder Joseph of Vatopaidi) smiled. Impressive is the fact, that this smile occurred 45 minutes after his death. This is photographically documented. There have been reported a lot of miracles with dead persons (prophets, saints, e.t.c.). But almost never before did occur a miracle like the one that happened on July 1, 2009 in the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi (Mount Athos, Greece)

Since many months, the spiritual family of Elder Joseph (namely the Brotherhood of the Holy Great Monastery of Vatopaidi and especially Abbot Ephraim) suffers a unique, for our days, persecution. The latter consists of all kinds of lies and slander. Every father is sad, when his children are acused. But he is much more sad, when the acusations are faulty. Elder Joseph, being the spiritual father of this family, suffered from this persecution as well. But where sin abounded (in this case the unjust and systematic persecution of the Vatopaidi Brotherhood and of Abbot Ephraim by the pathetic watchdogs of the New World Order), grace did much more aboud (in this case the smile from eternity) (Apostle Paul, Letter to Romans, chapter 5, vers 20). Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

MENTAL IMAGERY IN EASTERN ORTHODOX PRIVATE DEVOTION (Part 3)

Continued from (2)

In the context of forbidding attitude of the Eastern Fathers toward mental images, it seems necessary to briefly mention elaborate and very imaginative Orthodox iconography.[5] Icons in the Orthodox Tradition are used for prayer, meditation, and contemplation. Yet, even during prayer before icons, which obviously present visual imagery, the use of mental imagery, according to the Orthodox Tradition, is to be avoided. St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov) writes:

The holy icons are accepted by the Holy Church for the purpose of arousing pious memories and feelings, but not at all for arousing imagination. Standing before an icon of the Savior, stand as if before the Lord Jesus Christ himself, Who is invisibly everywhere present and by His icon is in that place, where the icon is; standing before an icon of the Mother of God, stand as if before the Most-Holy Virgin Herself; but keep your mind without images: there is a great difference between being in the presence of the Lord or standing before the Lord and imagining the Lord. (Works 2004, 1:76) Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

MENTAL IMAGERY IN EASTERN ORTHODOX PRIVATE DEVOTION (Part 2)

Continued from (1)

In other words, according to St. Ignatii (Bryanchaninov), purposefully creating images in one’s mind, and even accepting those appearing spontaneously, is not only dangerous spiritually, but can also lead to the damage of the soul, or psychological problems, “which,” he says, “has happened to many.” Undoubtedly, here St. Ignatii refers to the spirituality of some Western saints: “Do not play with your salvation, do not. Take up the reading of the New Testament and the Holy Fathers of the Orthodox Church, but not of Teresa and other Western crazies…” (25) But cases of mental disorders facilitated by improper prayer or state of mind are also mentioned in various Orthodox literature, especially paterikons.

Saint Simeon the New Theologian (949-1022), writing in the late tenth to early eleventh centuries, warns against the method of prayer later used by St. Ignatius of Loyola and other Western saints as potentially leading to mental problems:

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MENTAL IMAGERY IN EASTERN ORTHODOX PRIVATE DEVOTION (Part 1)

a devoted monk in prayer

Just as there can be a properly trained voice, there can be a properly trained soul.[1]

—Fr. Alexander Yelchaninov

Fr. Sergei Sveshnikov

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.

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THE HOLY MARTYR EMILIAN AND THE VENERABLE PAMBO (JULY 18)

Saints Valentina, Pambo and Emilian (July 18).

Saints Valentina, Pambo and Emilian (July 18).

THE HOLY MARTYR EMILIAN

During the reign of Julian the Apostate, in the Thracian town of Dorostolon, lived a young man, Emilian, a servant of the mayor of the town. When the apostate emperor began to destroy Christianity throughout the realm of the Roman Empire by fire and sword and, when the emperor’s representative came to Dorostolon to kill the Christians, he did not find a single one. Rejoicing at this, he sponsored a great banquet for the citizens of Dorostolon and ordered sacrifices to be offered to the idols and rejoicing ensued throughout the entire town, day and night. That night, St. Emilian entered the pagan temples, markets and the streets of the town and smashed all of the idols with a sledgehammer. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

Becoming «All things to all people in order to save them.» (Elder Porphyrios)

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The holy elder Porphyrios.

Elder Porphyrios throughout his whole life received all those who came to him; becoming, like St. Paul, «All things to all people in order to save them.»

All kinds passed by his humble cell; both holy ascetics and sinful thieves, Orthodox Christians and people of other denominations and religions, insignificant people and famous personalities, rich and poor, illiterate and literate, lay people and clergy of all ranks. To each one he offered the love of Christ for their salvation.

This does not mean that all those who went to the Elder or who knew him, for however long, adopted his message or acquired his virtue, and thus were as worthy of our complete trust as he was. A great deal of care, vigilance and good sense is required, because as the Elder becomes well known, the temptation will come to some people to claim some type of attachment or connection with him. They will want to boast or to create the false impression that they are speaking for him. Apart from pure devotion and true love, apart from humble approach and honest learning, there is also conceit and personal gain. Naivety exists, but so does guile. Ignorance exists but so does error and deception. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

On the Presuppositions of our Personal Salvation, Elder Cleopa of Romania

Fresco detail from Vatopedi Monastery (Ascending to Heaven)

Fresco detail from Vatopedi Monastery (Ascending to Heaven)

Ch. 13. from The Truth of Our Faith:: A Discourse from Holy Scripture on the Teachings of True Christianity

Inquirer: Father, earlier you spoke about our “personal salvation.” Can you tell me more about this?

Elder Cleopa: Some religious confessions teach that personal salvation presupposes the action of Divine Grace alone, according to Calvin, or the grace of faith, i.e. of trust in God, according to Luther, by which the “merits” or virtues of our Lord Jesus Christ are conferred upon man. Therefore, to give a general outline, there are Protestant Christians who believe that salvation stems only from faith and that on the part of man himself there is placed no condition or requirement for his salvation. MORE… Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

NE SUDITE (Σέρβικα, Serbian)

 
IN ENGLISH

Dragi moji, neka ove reči Gospoda našega Isusa Hrista budu zakon u našem životu… » Ne sudite!» izgleda laka zapovest. Laka, jer kada bismo je analizirali sa pažnjom, moguće je zakljuciti da je lako izbeći osude. Lako je zaštiti dušu našu i naša usta od nje. Osuda nije u nama začeta od rođenja i nije deo naše duše. To je nešto spoljašnje, posebno kada se ne začinje iz mržnje i netrpeljivosti, nego iz naše uobičajene navike da uvek pričamo o nekom drugome.

U stvarnosti, osuda je težak greh. Na žalost, lako se širi. Osudu susrećemo svuda. To je kao zagađeni vazduh koji mi svakodnevno udišemo. To je toliko uobičajena pojava da se može reći da je postala normalna za čoveka. «Ništa ne pričinjava čoveku veće zadovoljstvo, nego da osuđuje druge», kaže Sveti Gregorije Bogoslov. Upravo zbog lakog širenja osude, teško je boriti se protiv nje. Teško je boriti se protiv ovog greha, a još je teže ispunjavati Božju zapovest koja glasi: «Ne sudite!»

Niko ne može osporiti ovo tužno stanje u nama, ali ni jedna osoba zdravih razmišlja ne može tvrditi da je osuda opravdavajića. Teško nama ako, kao etičko merilo za vodjenje ipravnog zivota, mi uzimamo za primer neuredan život drugih. Naša savest, bez obzira koliko zaslepljena zbunjujućim i neurednim stanjem društva, pobuniće se i osudiće osudu. Zavapiće naša savest da našim životima ne treba da vladaju glas i navike sveta, već ona-savest, koja u konačnoj analizi jeste glas Božiji. Zbog toga svaki čovek, bez obzira koliko daleko otišao u osudu, smatra «Ne sudite!» važnom i ispravnom Božijom zapovešcu. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

SVAKODNEVNA DUHOVNOST: Zahvalnost u srcu (Σέρβικα,Serbian)

IN ENGLISH

Sveti Apostol Pavle u Prvoj Poslanici Korićanima kaže: «Blagodarim neprestano Bogu mojemu za vas, na blagodati Božijoj koja vam je data u Hristu Isusu» (Kor.1:4). Beleška u našem pravoslavnom priručniku, koja objašnjava ovaj Biblijski citat kaže: «Ništa nije toliko drago Bogu kao naša zahvalnost za Njegovu milost prema nama i bližnjem našem.»

Ova kratka napomena veoma je važna, jer nam objašnjava da zahvalnost srca rađa ljubav i pokazuje nam put ka Gospodu. Kada počnemo da osećamo Božiju ljubav,upećemo da osetimo i prepoznamo pozitivne promene u nama. Bog koji je stvorio svemir( tj. nešto iz ničega) dao je život svemu, pa i nama. Mi postojimo po promislu Njegovom. Kao naš Stvoritelj, Bog nam daje sve neophodno za životnu radost i zadovoljstvo. Međutim, On nas ninašta ne prisiljava.Mi imamo potpunu slobodu da govorimo, radimo, samostalno mislimo…On hoće da mi imamo tu slobodu i On nam je ne uskraćuje čak i ako se odlučimo da ga se odrekenemo.

Bog hoće da ga mi ljubimo,ali da ljubimo i bližnjega svog. Bog zna da ljubav prema Njemu i bližnjem našem jeste ključ unutrašnjeg mira. Ta ljubav je temelj za život ispunjen radošću; život bez briga i strahova. Da bismo to ostvarili, Gospod od nas traži samo jednu žrtvu, a to je da uzmemo krst naš i da ga sledimo. «Ako hoće ko zamnom ići, neka se odrekne sebe i uzme krst svoj i zamnom neka ide. Jer ko hoće život svoj da sačuva, izgubiće ga, a ako ko izgubi život svoj mene radi, naći će ga»(Mat.16:24-25). Ova zapovest znači da pratimo Gospoda i da se neprestano borimo protiv naših grešnih sklonosti, kako bismo živeli u radosti i miru. Uprkos činjenici da je On naš Stvoritelj, Gospod je sebe prineo kao žrtvu, da bi otkupio grehe koje smo mi počinili onda kada smo ga se odrekli. Gospod je pretrpeo raspeće i smrt na Krstu da bi nas izbavio, da bismo pobedili greh i da bismo naše živote ponovo usmerili ka Njemu. Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

STARAC JOSIF ISIHAST : O strpljenju i izdržljivosti (Σέρβικα, Serbian)

In English

dthumb

Četrdeseto pismo

Bog uvek pomaže. On uvek dolazi na vreme, ali je potrebno strpljenje. Dođite moja dobra i ljubljena sestro. Dođite i ja ću odagnati Vašu tugu ponovo. Dođite i mi ćemo hvaliti Boga slatkim glasom našeg srca, pesmom ispevanom usnama našim, rečima koje odzvanjaju duboko u nama:»Blagosiljaj Gospoda, o dušo moja, i neka sve što je u meni hvali Njegovo sveto ime.» Διαβάστε τη συνέχεια του άρθρου »

O Virgin Pure / Agni Parthene (Lyrics and mp3)