Overcoming Depression, by St. Porphyrios.

Nowadays people often feel sadness, despair, lethargy, laziness, apathy, and all things satanic. They are downcast, discontent and melancholy. They disregard their families, spend vast sums on psychoanalysts and take anti-depressants. People explain this as ‘insecurity.’ Our religion believes that these states derive from satanic temptation.
Pain is a psychological power which God implanted in us with a view to doing us good and leading us to love, joy, and prayer. Instead of this, the devil succeeds in taking this power from the battery of our soul and using it for evil. He transforms it into depression and brings the soul into a state of lethargy and apathy. He torments us, takes us captive and makes us psychologically ill.
There is a secret. Turn the satanic energy into good energy. This is difficult and requires some preparation. The requisite preparation is humility. With humility you attract the grace of God. You surrender yourself to the love of God, to worship and to prayer. But even if you do all in the world, you achieve nothing if you haven’t acquired humility. All the evil feelings, insecurity, despair and disenchantment, which come to take control of the soul, disappear with humility. The person who lacks humility, the egotist, doesn’t want you to get in the way of his desires, to make any criticism of him or tell him what to do. He gets upset, irritated and reacts violently and is overcome by depression.
This state is cured by grace. The soul must turn to God’s love. The cure will come when we start to love God passionately. Many of our saints transformed depression into joy with their love for Christ. That is, they took this power of the soul which the devil wished to crush and gave it to God and they transformed it into joy and exultation. Prayer and worship gradually transform depression and turn it into joy, because the grace of God takes effect. Here you need to have the strength to attract the grace of God which will help you to be united with Him. Art is required. When you give yourself to God and become one with him, you will forget the evil spirit which drags at you from behind, and this spirit, when it is disdained, will leave. And the more you devote yourself to the Spirit of God, the less you will look behind to see the spirit that is dragging at you. When grace attracts you, you will be united with God. And when you unite yourself to God and abandon yourself to Him, everything else disappears and is forgotten and you are saved. The great art, the great secret, in order to rid yourself of depression and all that is negative is to give yourself over to the love of God.
Something which can help a person who is depressed is work, interest in life. The garden, plants, flowers, trees, the countryside, a walk in the open air — all these things tear a person away from a state of inactivity and awake other interests. They act like medicines. To occupy oneself with the arts, with music and so on, is very beneficial. The thing that I place top of the list, however, is interest in the Church, in reading Holy Scripture and attending services. As you study the words of God you are cured without being aware of it.
Let me tell you about a girl who came to me. She was suffering from dreadful depression. Drugs had no effect. She had given up everything — her work, her home, her interests. I told her about the love of Christ which takes the soul captive because the grace of God fills the soul and changes it. I explained to her that the force which takes over the soul and transforms the power of the soul into depression is demonic. It throws the soul to the ground, torments it and renders it useless. I advised her to devote herself to things like music which she had formerly enjoyed. I emphasized, however, most of all her need to turn to Christ with love. I told her, moreover, that in our Church a cure is to be found through love for God and prayer, provided this is done with all the heart.

Saint Porphyrios

 

Advertisements

Sunday of the Samaritan Woman, by Hieroschemamonk Ambrose, Pravmir.com

CHRIST is RISEN!

Not only did our Lord Jesus Christ teach large crowds—for example, at the Sermon on the Mount—but he also spent time with individuals, in one-on-one situations. The Gospel for this Sunday, the account of the Woman at the Well, the Samaritan Woman, is one example of this, and a very interesting one it is.
The Lord and His followers had come to the city of Sychar in Samaria, near Mount Gerizim, which is about forty miles north of Jerusalem. They stopped at Jacob’s Well, a site venerated by Jews and Christians to this day because the spring here was contained in a cistern created by the Old Testament Patriarch Jacob.

This well was in the news back in the early 80’s, when Jewish zealots broke into the Orthodox chapel over the site and savagely murdered the monk guardian there, who is now regarded as a genuine martyr for the faith—St. Philemon of Jacob’s Well. (When we were in Jerusalem we venerated his incorrupt body at the chapel of the seminary of the Patriarchate of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.)

It was evening and the Savior, in His human nature, was tired, hungry, and thirsty and sat down at the well. His followers went into the town to see what they could find for a communal meal with the Lord, and at this moment a woman arrived to draw water and the Lord asked her for a drink. There are two important points to make here: first, she was a Samaritan, and the Samaritans were a sect, regarded as heretics by the Jews. In fact there was a saying among the Jews: “May I never set eyes on a Samaritan!” Observant Jews would actually close their eyes when a Samaritan approached.

Secondly, a pious Jewish man would not enter into conversation with a woman in public, not even if she was related to Him. Further, as most of us have heard, an observant Jewish man, even in our time, begins the day with a prayer thanking God for not making him a woman.

So, here we see Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God, immediately breaking two of the laws that were binding on the Jews. This woman—whose name, by the way, was Photini—was taken aback and challenged Christ in a tone of voice that said, “Who do you think you are, you, a Jew, speaking to me?” And He responded: “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, Give me to drink; you would have asked of Him, and he would have given you living water.”

Now, “living water” is an interesting term. The Savior meant a“water” that gives life. There is a considerable amount of important information packed into this. First, the Lord speaks of a free gift, something you can’t earn. Then, He makes it clear that He is the only one who can give this gift. And the gift itself life—that is, eternal life and union with God for those who are otherwise dead in sin, as this woman was.

The effect of these words had an immediate effect and she quickly changed tone in which she was talking to Him. Suddenly He was a “somebody” to her. So she initiated a theological conversation with Him, asking if, since He claimed to give “living water,” He is greater than the Patriarch Jacob, at whose well they are conversing. The Lord saw that she did not yet understand and explained to her that anyone who drinks of the water He can give, will never by thirsty again. At this, the woman immediately asked for this “water.”

We all remember—and we heard again in the reading this morning—that Jesus now moved to gently expose her sins to her—and these sins were many and serious. Needless to say, this was even more startling to the woman. Their conversation continued, but we don’t have time to touch on all of the other important elements of this encounter today, except to recall that the Woman at the Well finally said that she knew the Messiah is coming, and when He comes,” she says, “He will teach us everything.”

 

We must pause here for a moment to note that the Samaritan woman clearly believes that a Messiah is coming but has not yet arrived; that this Messiah was not an abstract idea but a real person and a teacher, not a military conqueror.

One writer has observed that she seemed to have a clearer understanding of Christ than even some of His weak-kneed and weak-minded disciples did!
Not long ago a bright Protestant theologian made this observation: “If the Samaritans could discern the coming of the Messiah and subsequently identify Christ as the fulfillment [of the Old Testament prophecies], what does that say about the Jews [then and today]”?

And then the Lord Jesus Christ quietly said to the woman, who has just acknowledged that the Messiah will come, “I,” He proclaims, “I, the very one speaking to you, am He.”

Now this is only one of several times in the Gospels when Christ speaks in this very distinct and recognizable way—recognizable to the Jews, who knew their Scripture. When the Lord says to her, “I am He”, He uses the Greek from the Book of Exodus (3:14) where the Lord God reveals His personal name, “I AM.”

Jesus used this expression in order to show that He and the Father are One; He and the Father are God.

As I said, this Gospel account is so rich that it cannot be fully and exhaustively explored in just one sermon. As an Orthodox priest once said, “we could speak for days and not exhaust the story of the conversion of Saint Photini, Equal to the Apostles, the Samaritan Woman.”

The Holy Fathers of the Church tell us that, safely tucked away in this remarkable encounter, like a nugget, is a story about how we may obtain the Holy Spirit—for, the Fathers explain, this woman of Samaria did indeed receive the Holy Spirit.

In both Scripture and the Fathers, the Holy Spirit is referred to as both water and, sometimes, fire. As water—for example in Holy Baptism—the Holy Spirit washes the sinner clean. When the Spirit is described as fire, it reminds us that fire burns sin away and also warms a person. In the conversation at Jacob’s Well, the Lord chose to use the image of the Holy Spirit as Living Water.

Jesus Christ put Himself on the path this woman at the Well, just as He often confronts us, too. He did this because He wanted to forgive her sins and also because He wanted to give her Living Water, that is, the Holy Spirit–salvation.

And how does this apply to us?

In order for us to have the Holy Spirit fully and completely living in us, in our hearts and souls, we must change. We must not shrink away or hide when Christ puts Himself on our path, directly in front of us, which happens more often than we think or will admit. Instead, we must be like the Samaritan Woman, and eagerly ask for and receive the Holy Spirit, this Living Water.

To “change” means to become something other than what we are right now, at the present moment. It means admitting that we can’t go on like this. But this can only happen if we choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in this saving work, for, as we are now, we have changed very little or not at all from what we perhaps were, say, a year ago, and this lack of ongoing change could well keep us out of the Kingdom of Heaven unless we wake up and pay attention.

Remember, Christ will not always continue to confront us, placing Himself on our path, in front of us. There will come a time when, if we continue to disdain Him, He will stop trying to make “contact” by revealing Himself. And then there will be no change, and the Living Water of the Holy Spirit will not fill us up, and we will be lost. This is Orthodox Christianity, as anyone knows who has read St. Seraphim of Sarov’s famous conversation with Motovilov about the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. (And even if we have read it, I suggest reading it again, as preparation for the coming Feast of Pentecost and the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Church.)

For us Orthodox Christians, this is our way of life.

This is what it’s all about. But if this is our way of life, why is it that we do, and say, and think so many things that are clearly NOT part of this saving way of life? This is the question that I want to ask.

We all of us received Baptism and Chrismation, and in these Holy Mysteries, we received the potential for all the gifts of the Holy Spirit and the washing away of sins. For some, we were but wee babes when this mystical event occurred. Others of us were already full-grown, but we received the same potential as those who came on to the saving Ark of Orthodoxy as infants. At some point in our lives, however, whether we are cradle Orthodox or converts, we had an experience with meeting Christ. Perhaps it was very subtle and fleeting, perhaps it was much more than that. But it happened, and it was real. But when we encountered the Lord, did we change? Again, that is the question with which I want to leave us all this morning.

Fr. Seraphim of Platina is famous for telling all of his spiritual children, “It’s later than you think!” And he was right. But I say to all of you this morning here at this humble Skete, gathered for the Divine Liturgy, “It’s still not TOO late for us!” But only if we begin now, today, and do not postpone it one single day longer.

The Lord is here, in the Mystery of the Eucharist. He is here as surely as when He walked upon the earth 2 thousand years ago. And through the power and authority of the priesthood, He will shortly descend and enter into the Holy Gifts, the Bread and the Wine. This is done when the priest calls upon the Holy Spirit to complete this mystical action. Therefore, whether you thought about it or not, whether you like it or not, the Lord is right here on your path, right before each and every one of us, once again, through the agency of the Holy Spirit.

Brothers and sisters, may we eagerly listen to Him, like the Samaritan Woman at the Well, and ask the Holy Spirit for the strength to change!

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is Risen!

 

Sunday of Paralytic, by Father George Ajalat.

THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
There he found a man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose..” 

On this Fourth Sunday of Pascha, we hear in both the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of the healing of a paralytic.  In the Gospel, of course, it is the Lord who heals a man sick for 38 years. But in the Acts of the Apostles, it is Peter who heals the paralytic Aeneas, who was paralyzed and bed-ridden for 8 years.  Our Lord gave this power to heal to His Apostles and to their successors.  This power to heal both soul and body still resides in the Church to this day. We must realize that true healing must involve the healing of the soul. Physical illness is only a superficial sign of the deeper corruption that has afflicted man.    What good does it do to heal the body only, which will again fall ill and eventually perish?  We see this in the 10 Lepers who were healed- but only one came back to give the Lord thanks. He was the only one who was truly healed.  And for us beloved, let us give thanks always and in everything, for the Lord heals us every day of our lives.  He protects us and heals us in ways which we cannot even fathom. He heals us of our sins and therefore we must reject sin in every aspect of our lives. It is sin and self-centeredness which causes us to be paralyzed.  It is sin and self-centeredness that imprisons us.  When we accept God’s gift by turning from ourselves towards Him, by trusting Him, and by seeking to please Him with every fiber of our being-  this is how we are healed.  We can begin to move, and to walk, and to feel.  We can begin to truly love again for Love Himself has come to dwell in us.  This is what it means to “rise” and “make our beds”-that is,  to put our lives in proper order- to Love God and hence to love our neighbor.  All other healing is only temporary and superficial.  Amen.

Abba Dorotheus of Gaza, shared by Father David Hovik

One of the great old men was at recreation with his disciples in a place where they’re were Cypress trees of different shapes and sizes, some large, some small. And he said to one of his disciples: Pull up that Cypress over there. It was a very small one and immediately the disciple pulled it up with one hand. Then the old man showed him another one, larger than the first, and he said pull up that one. Working it backwards and forwards with both hands he pulled it up. The old man showed him yet a larger one, and with much more trouble he pulled that up too. Then he showed him and even larger one and with much more labor, straining backwards and forwards and sweating profusely, he finally lifted that one too. Then the old man showed him still a larger one, but for all his energy and sweating he could not pull it up. And when the old man saw that he could not pull it up, he turned to another brother and told him to get up and help him, but even the two of them together could not pull it up. Then the old man said to all the brothers: So it is with our evil desires: insofar is they are small to start with, we can, if we want to, cut them off with ease. If we neglect them as mere trifles they harden, and the more they harden, the more labor is needed to get rid of them. But if they grow to any degree of maturity inside us, we shall no longer be able to remove them from ourselves no matter how hard we labor unless we have the help of the Saints interceding for us with God.

Paschal Homily by St John Chrysostom, Christ is Risen!

If any man be devout and love God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast.
If any man be a wise servant, let him enter rejoicing into the joy of his Lord.
If any have labored long in fasting, let him now receive his recompense.
If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward.
If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast.
If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings, because he shall in no wise be deprived.
If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing.
If any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him also be not alarmed at his tardiness;
for the Lord, who is jealous of his honor, will accept the last even as the first;
he gives rest unto him who comes at the eleventh hour,
even as unto him who has worked from the first hour.

And He shows mercy upon the last, and cares for the first;
and to the one he gives, and upon the other he bestows gifts.
And he both accepts the deeds, and welcomes the intention,
and honors the acts and praises the offering.
Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord, and receive your reward,
both the first and likewise the second.

You rich and poor together, hold high festival.
You sober and you heedless, honor the day.
Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast.

The table is fully laden; feast sumptuously.
The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away.
Enjoy the feast of faith; receive all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal kingdom has been revealed.
Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shone forth from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free:
he that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.
By descending into hell, he made hell captive.

He embittered it when it tasted of his flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, cried:
“Hell was embittered when it encountered thee in the lower regions.”
It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked.
It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown.
It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face.
It took earth, and encountered heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.
O Death, where is your sting?
O Hell, where is your victory?

Christ is risen, and you are overthrown.
Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen.
Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice.
Christ is risen, and life reigns.
Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.
For Christ, being risen from the dead,
is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages. Amen.