7 lessons for pure prayer from Saint Silouan the Athonite

Silouan the Athonite (Russian: Силуан Афонский) also sometimes referred to as Silouan of Athos, Saint Silvanus the Athonite or Staretz Silouan (January 17, 1866 – September 24, 1938) was an Eastern Orthodox monk of Russian origin, born Simeon Ivanovich Antonov who was a poet and monk of the St. Panteleimon Monastery.

Wikipedia

Christ is risen, 2020!

Orthodox Easter in 2020 is on Sunday, April 19. In Orthodoxy, this day is called Pascha.

While Pascha and the western Easter are both calculated using the same formula, the end dates often differ because they have different starting points. Orthodox Churches still use the Julian calendar as the starting point for the Pascha calculation.

While the majority of Orthodox Churches adopted the modern Gregorian calendar, some retained the Julian. To maintain unity within the entire church, all Orthodox celebrate the feast of feasts on the same day throughout the world.

The old Julian solar calendar is 13 days behind the Gregorian’s at the moment and its lunar calendar is four to five days behind, causing the date for Pascha to often fall on a different date to that of Easter.

While Pascha normally falls either one or five weeks later than Easter, on occasion they can be four weeks apart and on some years the dates of Pascha and Easter coincide. The dates coincided most recently in 2017 and the next coincidence will be in 2025.

Pascha is the most joyous celebration of the entire year, as the community gathers together to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Except that, this year, in many Orthodox countries, due to the Coronavirus pandemic, people are prohibited from attending the liturgies and from gathering together in large numbers in any public places. Nevertheless, we can gather together in spirit and be united in prayer from our homes.

Happy Easter! Blessed Pascha! Christ in risen!

https://www.thegoodshepherd.org.au/date-orthodox-easter-2020
https://akroasis.org/2020/04/12/pascha-2020/
https://www.oca.org/reflections/misc-authors/the-pascha-no-one-wants

Orthodox Pascha, 2020

Kallistos Ware on the theories of atonement (Salvation in Christ)

In Christianity, there are various theories of atonement. In this series of videos, the late Eastern Orthodox bishop and theologian Kallistos Ware explains some of the theories regarding Salvation. I have found them very interesting and I wanted to share them in this article. Please watch them and let me know what your opinions on the matter are.

The Feast of Ascension of The Lord 2019

This year, the Eastern Orthodox celebrate the Holy Ascension today, on the 6th of June: http://www.cicts.org/default.asp?id=819

From Wikipedia: “In the Eastern Church, The Feast of Ascension, known in Greek as Analepsis, the “taking up”, and also as the Episozomene, the “salvation from on high”, denoting that by ascending into his glory Christ completed the work of our redemption. Ascension is one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox liturgical year.

The feast is always observed with an All-night vigil. The day before is the Apodosis (leave-taking) of Easter (i.e., the last day of the Feast of Easter). Before the Vigil, the Paschal hours are said for the last time and the Paschal greeting is exchanged.

The Paroemia (Old Testament readings) at Vespers on the eve of the Feast are Isaiah 2:2–3Isaiah 62:10–63:363:7–9; and Zechariah 14:1–414:8–11. A Lity is celebrated.

Christ is ascended!

The Orthodox view of salvation

In this video, Fr. Steve Robinson presents a comparison of the mainstream juridical-substitutionary atonement views and an Orthodox view of salvation illustrated with a couple of chairs.

I found it pretty interesting. Watch the video and let me know, in the comments section below, what you think about it.

Christ is Risen! Happy Orthodox Easter!

Happy Easter (Pascha / Paşte or Resurrection Sunday) to all the Orthodox people in the world! Let’s celebrate Christ’s resurrection by rejoicing, praying and striving to be better!

In Romania and other European countries, one of the traditions is to boil and die eggs in red (and other colors, although they should generally be red because the color symbolizes Christ’s blood) and to crack them by tapping the end of one egg against the end of another. One person holds one egg and another person holds another. The first person says “Christ is risen!” and the second person replies: “Truly He is risen!”.

You can read more about the tradition by clicking the links below:

https://www.thespruceeats.com/greek-easter-egg-game-1705738

https://greece.greekreporter.com/2016/04/30/the-symbolism-of-cracking-red-eggs-on-easter/

This is how you say “Christ is risen!” and “Truly He is risen!” in Romanian:

Hristos a înviat! Adevărat a înviat!

And this is how you say it in various other languages:

https://orthodoxwiki.org/Paschal_greeting

An Orthodox prayer for Good Friday

Lord Jesus Christ, sweet Savior of my soul, on this day of Your crucifixion, when You suffered on the cross and accepted death for our sins, I confess before You that I myself have crucified You with my many sins. But I beseech Your indescribable goodness: Grant me Your grace, O Lord, so that I may endure suffering for the sake of the faith, hope and love that I have for You, just as You, in Your long-suffering, endured the passion in order to save me. Strengthen me, O Lord, that from this day forth I may bear Your cross with joy and repentance, and that I may thus hate my wicked thoughts and desires.  

Instill sadness in my heart at Your death, allowing me to grieve just as Your beloved Mother, Your disciples and the myrrh-bearing women did as they stood near Your cross. Illumine the senses of my soul so that they may awaken and comprehend Your death, just as you brought comprehension to the lifeless creation at the time of Your crucifixion, and it trembled; just as the faithful thief understood, repented, and confessed You, and with that confession, You led him into paradise. May Your grace, which You then granted to him, now forgive my sins, for the sake of You holy passion; and as I truly turn and repent, may that same grace place me together with the thief in paradise, for You are my God and Creator.

I bow down before Your cross, O Christ, and because of Your love for us, I cry out to it:  Rejoice, honored cross of Christ, upon which He was lifted and affixed with nails for the salvation of the world; Rejoice, blessed tree, for you held the Fruit of life Who has saved us from the death of sin; Rejoice strong bar which has shattered the gates of hell; Rejoice, royal key, which has opened the door of paradise.

O, my crucified Christ, how You suffered for us! How many wounds, spitting, mockery and insults You endured because of our sins, giving us an example of true patience in times of suffering and troubles which we must endure in this life?! Since God sends these to us because of our sins, that we may correct ourselves and draw near to Him, He thus chastises us for our own good during this life. Therefore, I pray to You, O Master: during times of troubles, temptations and pain that come upon me, grant that I may increase in patience, strength and gratitude. For I confess that I am helpless if You do not strengthen me; blind, if You do not illumine me; bound if You do not set me free; fearful, if You do not make me brave; lost, if You do not seek me; a slave, if You do not redeem me with Your abundant and divine power and with the grace of Your holy cross, which I venerated and glorify, now and ever and unto ages of ages. Amen.

Source: http://otftd.blogspot.com/2014/11/a-prayer-for-friday.html

Fr. Ilie Cleopa

Blessed Fr. Ilie Cleopa – Constantin Ilie by his layman name – was born in the Suliţa township, in the Botoşani county, on the 10th of April 1912. His parents, Alexandru and Ana Ilie, were role models for what it meant to live a Christian life, having loved God, the Church and their children. The Cleopa family was blessed by God with ten children, out of which two died during early infancy, and eight (four boys and four girls) survived.

His parents always attended the Holy Liturgies, engaged in charity work, prayed often together with their children, and lived a clean life that was pleasing to Christ. As Fr. Cleopa recounted, their house was like a church: “We had an entire room that had icons almost everywhere. A sort of oratory. We used to pray there. And at midnight, we woke up, read from The Psalms and did hundreds of prostrations. Then we went back to sleep.

“Is this a feast?”. Cause I used to live at the Cozancea skete, and living the individual lifestyle was the norm there: each person ate alone, lived alone. “Brother,” he said, “this is not a feast! Here we live a cenobitic life. This is the way the monks gather around the table to eat, always together!” The elderly man read to them from the Holy Word. He would conduct the Liturgy and he would would only eat The Holy Eucharist, for about twenty years. Only on Saturday and Sundays he would nibble a little on some food from the bowls. I know, for I used to be a cook there. May God rest his soul, the poor thing! He was so God-fearing and had such faith! He got me to enter the convent in 1937, during the Fast of Saint Mary.

There were no fights or any foul language or any other things that are unpleasant to God in their household. Rather, their daily life ran smoothly like the freshwater flowing from a spring, as that was the custom of old, and such was the Christian tradition of the land.

It was not a coincidence that, by God’s Sovereign Will, many great people were born in said region, out of which quite a few were monks, priests, holy and pious hierarchs, such as Saint John The New from Neamţ (1913 – 1960). Among these, we would not be wrong to count our worthful spiritual father, the Archimandrite Cleopa Ilie, as well as his holiness’ spiritual confessor, eremite hieromonk Paisie Olaru.

Fr. Cleopa Ilie was chosen from birth by God to offer spiritual advice and consolation to monks, priests, as well as to laypeople who were believers. His holiness was the confessor and spiritual adviser of everyone who asked for his prayers and wanted to follow Christ. He was a blessing from God for our entire country.

The house where Archimandrite was born was like a living church, but it did not replace the village’s church, where the well-known priest Fr. Gheorghe Chiriac had been serving at the time, since 1877. As Fr. Cleopa himself recounted, the villagers form Suliţa listened to their priest as if he has been Christ Himself, and they didn’t do anything without asking for his advice and his blessing. That is why everyday life was peaceful, the church was full of parishioners, and the children, who were numerous, were the village’s adornment.

Fr. Cleopa was the fifth child out of the ten children that Alexandru Ilie’s family had. He attended elementary and middle school (for seven years) in his home village. He had a remarkable memory, that he has inherited from his mother. For three years he and his brothers were a spiritual apprentices to the hieromonk Paisie Olaru, a hermit from the Cozancea skit.

In the beginning of December 1929, he joined the community from the Sihăstria skit, together with his elder brother Vasile Ilie. After having been tempted for three days in front of the skit, they were received into the Sihăstrie community, on the 12th of December, which was the feast day of of Saint Hierarch Nicolae. This is why Fr. Cleopa held great devotion for Saint Hierarch Nicolae and for Saint Hierarch Spiridon.

Until 1935, Constantin – Cleopa herd the sheep at the Sihăstria skit, alongside other brothers. Then he is drafted in the army in the city of Botoşani. He returns to the skit in the autumn of 1936 and he receives his monastic tonsure on the 2nd of August 1937, receiving the name “Cleopa”. Afterwards, he tends to the skit’s sheep until the summer of 1942, alongside the priests Galaction Ilie and Antonie Olaru.

In June 1942, he was brought into the skit and appointed as a temporary abbot (hegumen) because the Father Superior Ioanichie Moroi fell very sick. On the 27th of December 1944, the monk Cleopa is ordained hierodeacon, and on the 23rd of January 1944, he is ordained hieromonk by the bishop Galaction Cordun, who was a Reverend Father at the Neamţ monastery. Starting with this date, he is officially appointed as a hegumen (abbot) of the Sihăstria skit.

In 1947 the Sihăstria skit, having over 60 people living in it, was upgraded in rank and became a monastery, and Protosyncellus Cleopa Ilie is named Archimandrite with Patriarch’s Nicodim’s approval. In 1948, because of the political context of the time, he retreats in the woods that surround the Sihăstria monastery for six months.

On the 30th of August 1949, according to Patriarch Justinian’s decision, Archimandrite Cleopa Ilie is ordained Abbot of the Slatina monastery from Suceava county and moves there together with 30 other monks from the Sihăstria monastery’s community. His replacement as Abbot at the Sihăstria monastery was Protosyncellus Ioil Gheorghiu.

At the Slatina monastery, the priest gathered a community that reached over 80 people. Between 1952 and 1954, having been followed by the Communist secret police, he takes refuge in the Stânişoara Mountains, together with the hieromonk Arsenie Papacioc. After over two years of living as hermits, they were brought back to the Slatina monastery at the order of Patriarch Justinian.

In 1956 Fr. Cleopa returns to the Slatina monastery, and in the spring of 1959 he retreats for a third time, in the Neamţ Mountains, where he lives in austerity as a hermit for over five years. In the autumn of 1964 he returns to the Sihăstria monastery as spiritual adviser for the entire community, continuously advising both monks and laymen, for 34 years, until the 2nd of December 1998, when he surrenders his soul in Christ’s arms.

Fr. Cleopa’s final words – addressed to the community from the Sihăstria monastery, at the refectory, at the 1st of March 1998.

In the Name of The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.

Most pious Reverend Father, most pious Fathers and brothers, the same way I see you here, my dearest ones, may I be blessed to see you in Heaven, in the immeasurable joys of Heaven, for you all are serving Our Savior and The Mother Of God, and each of you, poor things, is obedient in his place, wherever he is assigned.

I feel a lot of joy when I hear you! But I don’t know some of you. I rarely come here. I have so many people to attend to there and I’m ill. But I do know some of them, who come to confession and have been around longer. My wish is that each and every single one of you to enter the eternal joy and not even one, God forbid, to the works (hell).

My dearest Fathers and brothers, I want you to know that The Church is our spiritual mother. She gave birth to us during the baptism through water and through the Spirit. You have heard what the St. Apostle Paul says: “You have taken the gift of adoption to sonship in the baptism of the second birth and the renewal of The Holy Spirit. Since we have been baptized in the Name of The Most-Holy Trinity we have been children of God.

That is why I ask you to love The Church, my dears. To keep The Church dear to your hearts and attend the Holy Liturgies, day and night, to the best of your abilities. Let those who are older and can’t do this stay for shorter periods of time, the poor things. The young ones can stay longer because attending Church improves people’s memory and the gifts of The Most-Holy Spirit dwells upon those who listen with piety to the Holy liturgies of the Church.

My dearest ones, I, the sinner and the wretch, am an old man. I’m 86 years old, my right arm is broken, I had it in a cast for 32 days. Soon you will be singing “Memory Eternal” for me. What could I be waiting for? Psalm 89 says it clearly: they will live for 70 years and if they are stark, for 80. And in the eleventh line it says: what is beyond these is just toil and pain! I have entered the years of pain. I have gotten old. I will be 86 years old this April.

My dearest (spiritual) parents, I ask you with all my heart, those of you who have love and can do so, don’t forget me in your prayers. Mention me! I experience love when I see all of you serving Our Savior and The Mother Of God.

Our monastery has a canonical practices: meat eating is prohibited, we have timely confession, the liturgies follow the rules of Saint Sava. When I arrived here, there were 14 holy fathers, wearing opanci (traditional peasant shoes worn in Southeastern Europe), having beards down to their waistlines, with wooden beads in their hands. My brother Vasile brought me. When I get here I was only 15 and a half years old, I didn’t know much…

And when I saw all the monks sitting around the table and the old Reverend Father reading from the Scriptures at the top of the table, I asked the brother:

There used to be a priest, Nicolae Grădinara, he had a long beard, maybe some of you had met him. He said when he took me in front of the altar: “Most pious Father, let us call him Cleopa, for we don’t have any other monks named Cleopa here!” And the old man reached for the scissors and called me Cleopa. So it has been written!

May God rest their souls! I have the diptych at home, with the names of everyone who had died here; there are bishops and patriarchs included in it, however many they might be. While I still have some life left in me, I mention them every day! But I plead with you, my dears, don’t forget to mention me in your holy prayers. And just the way I see you here, may I be blessed to see you in Heaven, in the eternal, unending joy!

May the blessings of The Most-Holy Trinity and the protection of the prayers of The Most-Holy Mother and of all the saints be with you all, my dears, and may they take all of you to Heaven. Amen.

Translated from https://www.crestinortodox.ro/parinti/parintele-ilie-cleopa-69766.html by Lucian Hodoboc.

Father Stephen Freeman – On Orthodox blogging

I recently came across an interview with Father Stephen Freeman, an Orthodox Archpriest, author and blogger. In the interview, Fr. Freeman discusses how he began blogging, and makes recommendations for Orthodox interested in blogging.

While I don’t agree 100% with his views about what it means to be an Orthodox blogger and about whether Orthodox laymen should venture to write about religious topics that are usually a matter of canonical interpretation, I do think that he makes some very good points. I was also taken aback by his extremely humble demeanor.

Let me know your opinions about the interview and about Father Stephen Freeman in the comments section below. Also, check out his blog, Glory To God For All Things, and subscribe to the Protecting Veil YouTube channel.

The Great (Orthodox) Lent

While I have written about Lent in general in a previous article, because I am an Orthodox, I thought I would also write an article mentioning that today is the first day of the Great Lent, the Eastern-Orthodox Lent for 2019.

One of the most important Orthodox holidays (alongside Christmas), and probably the most sacred one, Easter is celebrated by Eastern Orthodox believers by means of several movable feasts that commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, from the dead following His crucifixion and burial.

The Orthodox Easter in 2019 falls on Sunday, April 28. Eastern Orthodox churches follow the practice of early Jewish Christians and have first observed Easter on the fourteenth day of Nisan, or the first day of Passover. According to the Gospels, it was during this time of the year (the Passover season) that Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead. Through the connection between Easter and Passover, the origin of another ancient name for Easter can be explained: Pascha. This Greek term is derived from the Hebrew name for the festival. In Romanian Easter is called “Paşte”.

Because it is a movable feast, the date of Orthodox Easter changes every year. To this day, Eastern Orthodox Churches use a different system than Western Churches to calculate the day of the observance, which means Eastern Orthodox churches often celebrate Easter on a different day than Western churches.

In Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the Easter season starts with Great Lent, the period of 40 days of self-examination and fasting (the 40 days include Sundays). Great Lent starts on Clean Monday (today) and ends on Lazarus Saturday.

Falling seven weeks before Easter Sunday, “Clean Monday” signifies the cleansing from sinful attitudes that will take place in the hearts of believers heart throughout the Lenten fast. Lazarus Saturday, which falls eight days before Easter Sunday, signals the end of Great Lent.

Palm Sunday follows after Lazarus Saturday, exactly one week before Easter, and it commemorates the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. Palm Sunday ushers in Holy Week, which ends on Easter Sunday, or Pascha.

It is customary for Easter celebrants to partake in a fast throughout Holy Week. Many Orthodox churches observe a Paschal Vigil, which ends on the evening before Easter. To be more specific, the Paschal Virgil ends just before midnight on Holy Saturday (also called Great Saturday), the last day of Holy Week. Commemorating the placing of Jesus Christ’s body in the tomb, Holy Saturday also has a Vigil, which typically begins with a candlelight procession outside the church. As worshipers enter the church in procession, there is a pealing of bells that marks the beginning of the Easter morning prayers.

Easter services begin with Paschal Matins, Paschal Hours, and the Paschal Divine Liturgy, immediately after the Vigil. Paschal Matins may consist of either an early morning prayer service or an all-night prayer vigil. Paschal Hours is a brief, chanted prayer service reflecting the joy of Easter, and Paschal Divine Liturgy is a communion or Eucharist service. These solemn celebrations of Jesus Christ’s resurrection are considered the most holy and significant services of the ecclesiastical year in Orthodox Christianity.

After the Eucharist service, the fast ends, and the feasting of Easter begins.

Eastern Orthodox believers greet one another on Easter (usually starting at midnight, after Holy Saturday ends) with these words: “Christ is risen!” (“Christos Anesti!” / “Cristos a înviat!”). The traditional response is, “He is risen indeed!” (“Alithos Anesti!” / “Adevărat a înviat!”). This greeting echoes the words of the angel to the women who found the tomb of Jesus Christ empty on the first Easter morning, according to Matthew 28:5–7.

I wish you all a peaceful Great Lent season. May God bless you!

Article based on information from: https://www.thoughtco.com/orthodox-easter-dates-700615.