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Spiritual nectar: reflections on specific patristic sayings


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#1 Nina

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Posted 01 August 2008 - 08:54 PM

Abba Paphnutius said: When I was walking along the road, I happened to lose my way and found myself near a village and I saw some people who were talking about evil things. So I stood still, praying for my sins. Then, behold, an angel came, holding a sword and he said to me, "Paphnutius, all those who judge their brothers perish by this sword, but because you have not judged, but have humbled yourself before God, saying that you have sinned, your name is written in the book of the living!"


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#2 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 03:55 AM

This is a hard lesson to learn, Nina.

Criticizing others in our minds (it is not necessary to speak aloud) automatically raises us in our own estimation because it is really a case of comparing ourselves with others.

And half of the time we do not even know we are doing it.

This is one of the most important lessons we need to learn as Christians.

A practical little trick that I employ is this : when I become aware that I am criticizing or judging others in my mind, I think of something that I have done that I am not proud of. This automatically makes me aware of how inappropriate it is of me to think badly of others when I am as bad or worse. This method only works if you are sincere. Doing this though will gradually make you more and more aware of the way your mind works and you will start to change and accept people with Christ's love.

Effie

#3 Nina

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 11:37 AM

Once, there was a monk from the Monastery of St. Paul who had gone to the Church of St. Gerasimos on the island of Cephallonia. During the Divine Liturgy, he stood in the Altar area and was praying with his komboskini (prayer rope) the Prayer of the Heart – “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner” – while the others were chanting. They had also brought a possessed person into the church to be cured by St. Gerasimos. While the monk was saying the prayer in the Altar, the demon was being seated outside and was shouting, “Stop working that string, will you, monk; it is burning me!”
The priest heard it too, and said to the monk, “Pray with your komboskini as much as you can, my brother, so that God’s creature can be freed of the demon.”
The demon then shouted in great anger, “You, rotten priest, you. What are you telling him to pull that string for? It is burning me!”
The monk then prayed with his komboskini with even greater effort and the possessed man was delivered from the demon.


from Elder Paisios of Mt. Athos, Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters

#4 Kyrill Bolton

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Posted 02 August 2008 - 05:20 PM

Thank you for posting the opening quote. It was very timely as this is a present struggle I am having.

May God bless you.

#5 Nina

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Posted 03 August 2008 - 09:47 PM

Abba John, who had been exiled by the Emperor Maurice (450-457), said, “We went to Syria one day to see Abba Poemen and we wanted to ask him about purity of heart. But the old man did not know Greek and no interpreter could be found. So, seeing our embarrassment, the old man began to speak Greek, saying, “The nature of water is soft, that of stone is hard; but if a bottle is hung directly above the stone, allowing the water to fall drop by drop, it wears away the stone. So it is with the word of God; it is soft and our heart is hard, but the man who hears the word of God often, opens his heart to the fear of God.”


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#6 Nina

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 12:20 PM

Going to town one day to sell some small articles, Abba Agathon met a cripple on the roadside, paralyzed in his legs, who asked him where he was going. Abba Agathon replied, “To town, to sell some things.” The other said to him, “Do me the favor of carrying me there.” So he carried him to town. The cripple said to him, “Put me down where you sell your wares.” He did so. When he had sold an article, the cripple asked, “What did you sell it for?” and he told him the price. The other said, “Buy me a cake,” and he bought it. When Abba Agathon sold a second article, the sick man asked, “How much did you sell it for?” And he told him the price of it. Then the other said, “Buy me this,” and he bought it. When Agathon, having sold all his wares, wanted to go, he said to him, “Are you going back?” and he replied, “Yes.” Then he said,” Do me the favor of carrying me back to the place where you found me.” Once more picking him up, he carried him back to that place. Then the cripple said, “Agathon, you are filled with divine blessings, in heaven and on earth.” Raising his eyes, Agathon did not see a man; it was an angel of the Lord, that had come to test him.

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#7 Alice

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Posted 04 August 2008 - 05:18 PM

This is a hard lesson to learn, Nina.

Criticizing others in our minds (it is not necessary to speak aloud) automatically raises us in our own estimation because it is really a case of comparing ourselves with others.

And half of the time we do not even know we are doing it.

This is one of the most important lessons we need to learn as Christians.

A practical little trick that I employ is this : when I become aware that I am criticizing or judging others in my mind, I think of something that I have done that I am not proud of. This automatically makes me aware of how inappropriate it is of me to think badly of others when I am as bad or worse. This method only works if you are sincere. Doing this though will gradually make you more and more aware of the way your mind works and you will start to change and accept people with Christ's love.

Effie


Dear Effie,

Sometimes our 'logismoi' are our biggest spiritual battle...especially if the mind is overactive. I often wonder what it would be like to be saintly and not have a mind that thinks, critiques, etc. when it sees persons. The only thing I do is simply try to catch myself and say the Jesus Prayer.

In Christ,
Alice

#8 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 05:22 AM

Dear Effie,

Sometimes our 'logismoi' are our biggest spiritual battle...especially if the mind is overactive. I often wonder what it would be like to be saintly and not have a mind that thinks, critiques, etc. when it sees persons. The only thing I do is simply try to catch myself and say the Jesus Prayer.

In Christ,
Alice


Our minds are indeed "overactive". I read somewhere that people today learn a lot of things but what they lack is knowledge. No-one takes the time to sit down and actually think for themselves. We have a plethora of information at our fingertips, but are forgetting to use the brains God gave us to reach our own conclusions. In the past people thought a lot.

God is in silence. That is where we find Him.

Perhaps saints are so spiritually advanced that they allow their senses - which are controlled by God - to guide them.

I don't know. I will never be a saint because I am too selfish. This is the one thing I know.

The Jesus Prayer is our panacea. It has rescued me time and time again.

Effie

#9 Nina

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Posted 05 August 2008 - 01:51 PM

Abba Cyril, the disciple of Abba Julian the Stylite, told this story: I and my father and brother, hearing what was said about Abba Julian, came to him from our own country. I had an incurable disease which no doctor was able to heal. The elder healed me with prayer as soon as I arrived. So the three of us stayed with him and renounced the world. The elder appointed my father to be in charge of the grain.

One day my father came to Abba Julian and said, "We have no grain." The elder replied, "Go, gather together whatever you can find and grind it up. God will take care of tomorrow for us." My father was troubled by this command for he knew that there was nothing left in the granary. He withdrew to his cell. When need became pressing, the elder indicated that he was to come to him, and as soon as he entered, he said to him, "Brother Conon, go and prepare whatever you find for the brethren." Almost in anger, he took the keys of the granary and went off, intending to bring back some earth. Having released the lock, he wanted to open the doors, but he could not do so because the granary was completely filled with grain. When he saw this, he humbly prostrated himself before the elder, glorifying God.



John Moschus, Leimonarion (The Spiritual Meadow) 28



#10 Nina

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 02:12 AM

A story from the Life of St. John the Almsgiver, Patriarch of Alexandria, 610-619

One day this blessed Patriarch went to visit the poor in the quarter called Caesareum - for there he had had some very long vaulted buildings erected; the floor was covered with wooden boards and mats and rough rugs were provided. Here the poor could sleep during the winter months. Accompanying the Patriarch was a certain bishop, a lover of money and of a most unsympathetic disposition. To him the blessed Patriarch said: 'Give Christ's brethren a little present, brother Troilus,' for that was his name, for somebody had whispered to the Patriarch that the bishop's attendant was carrying thirty pounds of gold at that moment in order to buy a set of engraved silver for the bishop's table. The bishop, reverencing the Patriarch's word and more probably momentarily quickened in soul thereby, ordered the man carrying the thirty pounds of gold to give a nomisma (coin) to each of the brethren sitting there. In this way the large quantity of gold was quickly spent.

After the Patriarch and the bishop Troilus had both returned to their own residences, the latter, who had performed this act of charity, so to speak, against his will, was seized by unreasoning and soul-destroying anxiety over the money which had been distributed, and as an outcome of his miserliness and pitilessness and change of mind a fit of shivers came over him accompanied by an unnatural feverishness. In consequence of this unexpected illness he straightway took to his bed. When the servant came from the most holy Patriarch inviting him to lunch, he excused himself saying that from some cause or other he had an attack of ague. On receipt of this message the Patriarch at once recognized that it was owing to his having given away those thirty pounds that the involuntary giver was ill, for we have already said Troilus was extremely avaricious and unsympathetic.
John could not bear that he himself should be waited on at table while the other lay in torments in his bed, so in his utter want of arrogance he quickly went to him and with a smile on his face said to him: 'You must forgive me, brother Troilus, for you imagine that I was serious when I asked you to give that large amount to our poor brethren, but let me tell you, I only said it in jest. For I wanted to give each of them a nomisma for the holy feast and as my purse-bearer had not a sufficient sum with him, I borrowed it from you, and now see, here are your thirty pounds!'

Hardly had the bishop seen the money in the venerable hand of this true physician and shepherd before the fever suddenly disappeared and the shivering ceased, and his ordinary strength and colour returned so that there was no concealing the fact that the money was the cause of his sudden indisposition.

When he had accepted the gold from the Patriarch's venerable hands without making the slightest objection, the Patriarch asked him to acknowledge in writing that he abandoned any claim for interest on the thirty pounds of gold which had been distributed. This Troilus did with joy, and wrote as follows with his own hand: 'Oh God, pray give John the most blessed Patriarch of the city of Alexandria, the interest on the thirty pounds of gold which have been distributed in Thy name, as I have received my own back.' The Patriarch, having received this acknowledgment, took the bishop back to lunch with him, for as we have already said, the latter had suddenly recovered.
However God, the Rewarder, wishing to chasten him and also to arouse him to pity and sympathy for his fellow creatures, showed him in a dream that same day, when he was taking a nap after lunching with the Patriarch, how great a reward he had lost. 'I saw,' said he, 'a house whose beauty and size no human art could imitate, with a gateway all of gold and above the gateway an inscription painted on wood which ran thus: "The eternal home and resting-place of bishop Troilus."

'When I read this, I was overjoyed,' he continued, 'for I knew that the king had granted me the enjoyment of this house. But I had scarcely finished reading this inscription when behold, an imperial chamberlain appeared with others of the divine retinue, and as he drew near to the gateway of the radiant house he said to his servants: "Take down that inscription," and when they had taken it down he said again: "Change it and put up the one the King of the World has sent." So they took away the one and fixed up another while I was looking on, and on it was written: "The eternal home and resting-place of John, the Archbishop of Alexandria, bought for thirty pounds." 'When I saw that,' he said, 'I awoke and went and related to the great arch-shepherd what I had seen in my sleep.' And Troilus was benefited by the instruction, for from that time he became compassionate.



#11 Father David Moser

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Posted 15 August 2008 - 05:03 AM

A story from the Life of St. John the Almsgiver, Patriarch of Alexandria, 610-619

One day this blessed Patriarch went to visit the poor in the quarter called Caesareum - for there he had had some very long vaulted buildings erected; the floor was covered with wooden boards and mats and rough rugs were provided. Here the poor could sleep during the winter months....


This was enough for me! After a very difficult day (well, I thought it was difficult) this account made me realize just how much God had blessed me and how my perceived difficulties are nothing but minor inconveniences and trials. Lord have mercy on me a sinner!

Fr David Moser

#12 Nina

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 04:41 AM

There was a monk named Pachon, in his sixties I should judge, who lived at Scetis. It so happened that I (Palladius) was troubled by concupiscence, both in my thoughts by day and in my dreams at night. My passions were such that I was on the point of leaving the desert, as I had not disclosed this matter to my neighboring monks or to my teacher Evagrius. Without their knowledge I made a trip into the Great Desert and spent fifteen days among the desert fathers at Scetis.

There I also came across Pachon. As I found him more unworldly and more advanced in the practice of asceticism than the others, I dared to disclose to him my mental condition. And he told me: "Do not be puzzled at this. In your case, you are not suffering because you are easygoing - the place that you are in is of itself witness that you lack necessities and there is no chance of meeting with women - but because of your zealousness. The fight against impurity is threefold: At times concupiscence of the flesh attacks us, and at times the passions work through our thoughts; sometimes the demon himself attacks us in his witchery. I found this out myself by experience."

"As you see, I am an old man now. I have been concerned with my salvation for a period of forty years in this very cell - and throughout this time I have been subjected to temptations." And he confirmed this on oath. "For twelve years after my fiftieth year of age the demon relentlessly kept up his attacks, leaving me neither by day nor by night. I suspected that God had abandoned me, and I felt so oppressed that I made up my mind to die in an irrational way rather than give in to bodily passion. I went out then, and while going into the desert, I came across a hyena's cave. Here I placed myself naked one day in hopes that the wild beasts would devour me."

"Evening came, and as Sacred Scripture says: `Thou hast appointed darkness, and it is night, in it shall all the beasts of the forest go forth.' The beasts, male and female, came out. They smelled me and licked me all over from head to foot. Just when I was expecting to be eaten, they left me. I lay there all night, but they did not devour me.

Thinking that God had spared me, I went back to my cell. The demon waited for an opportunity for a few days and then again assailed me even more earnestly than before, so that I was on the verge of blasphemy." "The demon took on the form of an Ethiopian maiden whom I had once seen in my youth gathering papyrus, and she sat on my knees. Filled with anger, I gave her a box on the ear and she disappeared. Then for two years I could not bear the evil smell of my hand! Faint of heart and in despair, I went away into the Great Desert. I found a small asp, picked it up and pressed it to myself, so that I might be bitten in this fashion and die. Then I ground the head of the reptile into myself as being responsible for my temptation; but I was not bitten."

"Then I heard a voice saying in my thoughts: `Depart, Pachon! Keep up the fight! It was for this reason that I let you be depressed, so that you might not become haughty as a strong person, but rather might know your own weakness, and that you might not trust too much in your own way of life, but rather come running to God for help.'"

"I returned then fully satisfied, and I settled down confidently, worrying no more about the struggle, but dwelling in peace the rest of my days. The demon who knew my contempt for him no longer came near."


Palladius, Historia Lausiaca, 23

#13 Angela V.

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 10:21 AM

Nina,

Were do you get all these spiritual stories? Is their a website?

+Angela

#14 Nina

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 10:50 AM

Nina,

Were do you get all these spiritual stories? Is their a website?

+Angela


These are from my email, emailed to me by a friend, dear Angela. If you would like you can PM me and I can give you his email address.

#15 Ken McRae

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Posted 16 August 2008 - 01:44 PM

Were do you get all these spiritual stories? Is their a website?


Palladius, Historia Lausiaca, 23


The Lausiac History of Palladius: LINK ONE and LINK TWO

#16 Nina

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Posted 17 August 2008 - 10:23 AM

A brother went to find Abba Serapion. According to his custom, the old man invited him to say a prayer. But the other, calling himself a sinner and unworthy of the monastic habit, did not obey. Next, Abba Serapion wanted to wash his feet, but using the same words again, the visitor presented him. Then Abba Serapion made him eat and he began to eat with him. Then Abba Serapion admonished him saying, “My son, if you want to make progress, stay in your cell and pay attention to yourself and your manual work; going out is not so profitable for you as remaining at home.”

When he heard these words the visitor was offended and his expression changed so much that the old man could not but notice it. So he said to him, “Up to now you have called yourself a sinner and accused yourself of being unworthy to live, but when I admonished you lovingly, you were extremely put out. If you want to be humble, learn to bear generously what others unfairly inflict upon you, and do not harbor empty words in your heart.” Hearing this, the brother asked the old man’s forgiveness and went away greatly edified.

#17 Paul Cowan

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 03:31 AM

This is a hard lesson to learn Nina,

I ask forgiveness for what has been in my heart the last few days; not towards you but others on the forum. (unless I also have offended you and then I also ask your forgiveness.)

humbly
Paul

#18 Nina

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 03:49 AM

This is a hard lesson to learn Nina,

I ask forgiveness for what has been in my heart the last few days; not towards you but others on the forum. (unless I also have offended you and then I also ask your forgiveness.)

humbly
Paul


No, my dear brother in Christ, Paul. You have done nothing to offend me. No one has offended me here. I ask forgiveness if I have offended any of you by posting these teachings. I do not post them for others. I post them for myself. I post them for myself because I loose track of them in my email, however I can always find them here and be reminded of them when I forget them. I do not post these for others. It's purely a selfish reason. However if someone else is in need and can profit that is a delight.

#19 Nina

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Posted 18 August 2008 - 03:24 PM

For Holy Communion, the confession of our sins to a father confessor is needed; whereas for our communication with God, the confession of our weaknesses before Him is necessary.

When we pray with pain for our fellow men, then our kind God abundantly gives us His grace.

When someone celebrates his name day, wish him thus: May you live many years which will be pleasing to God.

Selected from Elder Paisios of the Holy Mountain from the Letters and Homilies of Elder Paisios
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#20 Nina

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Posted 19 August 2008 - 02:30 AM

There was a presbyter from Kellis who was discerning. While coming into the church to complete the synaxis, he saw a number of demons outside the cell of one of the brothers. Some had taken the form of women who were speaking indecently, and others of blasphemous youths; others were dancing while still others were trying on different outfits.

The old man sighed and said, "The brother persists in negligence in every way, and because of it the wicked spirits surround his cell in this disorderly manner." Therefore, when he had completed the synaxis, he returned and entered the cell of the brother, and said to him, "I am suffering, brother. I have faith in you, and if you pray for me, God will completely relieve my heart from suffering." The disciple was ashamed, and said, "Father, I am not worthy to pray for you." The old man persisted, pleading and saying, "I will not leave unless you promise me that you will say one prayer for me every night." The brother obeyed the old man's command. The old man did this because he wanted a new way to ensure that the brother would pray at night.

Therefore, when the brother rose in the night, he said the prayer for the old man. After finishing the prayer, he was struck with contrition, and said to himself, "Wretched soul, you pray for the old man, but you do not pray for yourself." Therefore he offered one prayer for himself. He did this for a week, offering two prayers each night, one for the old man and one for himself.

On Sunday, while the old man was going to the church, he saw the demons once again standing outside the brother's cell, looking glum, and the old man knew that the demons were grieved because the brother prayed. He was filled with joy and went to the brother, saying, "Have charity and offer another prayer for me each night." After saying the two prayers for the old man, he was struck again with contrition, and said to himself. "O miserable one, offer another prayer for yourself."
He did this for a whole week, offering four prayers each night. When the old man came again, he saw the demons glum and silent, and gave thanks to God, and went in again to the brother and urged him to offer another prayer for him. The brother also offered one for himself, and said six prayers at night. When the old man came again to the brother, the demons were angry with the old man, furious about the salvation of the brother. The old man gave glory to God and after entering his cell and exhorting him not to be negligent but the pray unceasingly, let him alone. The demons, seeing the brother's perseverance in the prayers and in soberness, by the grace of God left him.


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