Everyone, whether or not he is a Christian, must expect a certain amount of sickness and discomfort to enter his life. Physical pain is universal; no one escapes it. Therefore, how much we suffer from illness, or how intensely, does not matter so much as how we understand these infirmities. The understanding is all.
Physician-assisted suicide, aside from being a violation of both Christian law and Christian simplicity, should be absolutely avoided in order not to deprive the terminally ill of the full human and spiritual experience of dying, an experience which, within the context of a traditional Christian way of thinking, living, and acting is far from intolerable or negative; rather, it is exceedingly enriching and valuable, offering another way of knowledge—that of experience informed by theology—a way of knowing of which modern man, in his race to avoid all that is uncomfortable or unpleasant, has almost no understanding.
"It is very easy to be deceived in our fallen state and we often deceive ourselves by trying to understand what’s going on. Thus it’s very important to have a spiritual father. The basic cause of deception is despair and a lack of repentance. Proper repentance leads to joy because by it we get in touch with our true self as a creature of God our Creator."
The seeds of holiness are planted within us at Baptism and Chrismation, but we must nourish these seeds by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving in imitation of Christ and His saints. The spiritual equivalent of the sun is the Holy Spirit—He acts upon us in the Sacraments, especially in Chrismation. In this way, the Church is the seedbed of holiness. We must water the seeds and pull out the weeds and thereby discover that the spiritual path is a tremendous adventure all about going home to God!
"The holy Fathers give us the antidote for going from vice to virtue. The spiritual life is a science, not an art form. Most of us aren’t so spiritually talented so we need laws and cause and effect in order to learn the spiritual life. St. John Climacus says that the antidote for pride is prayer. Identify where the pride is in your life and ask for strength against it. Human effort can do very little. We must realize that everything depends on God. In prayer we make use of God’s grace, and then we can do almost anything—we can move mountains!"
"One of the things happening within us is the movement of the imagination, which is one of the main obstacles to prayer and roots us in our fallenness. Spirituality must be based in actual contact with the living God, not with mere images which lead us to communion with our own ability to create religious scenarios. Even Satan can appear as an angel of light and enter into the realm of our imagination and passions."
"St. Theophan the Recluse teaches that a highly active imagination can bring psychological abnormalities, but the spiritually alert have almost no imagination because they are experiencing the reality of God. Thus the saints appear emotionless in icons. They can look at us directly because they can look at sin without judging."
Fr. Alexey was a spiritual child of Fr. Seraphim Rose, and, as these videos attest, acquired his talent for synthesizing the Patristic Tradition and communicating deep subjects in easy-to-understand language. As the videos are in a format that cannot be posted we will be posting articles, with Fr. Ambrose’s blessing, based on notes on the videos, beginning with lesson one on the holiness acquired by the saints in their earthly life, appropriate for the feast of All Saints.
One of the most inspiring righteous figures to come to our attention in recent years is Papa-Nicholas Planas. The revelation of this saintly Greek Orthodox priest to English language readers is truly providential, for his life contains virtually all the elements of the spiritual conflicts that beset 20th century Orthodoxy, and in his personality is to be found the antidote to the stifling complexities of our modern times.
"I think he was probably the closest we will ever get to seeing or knowing someone like St. John or St. John of Kronstadt who was also a whole person. I think there are just so few of us in the Church, much less outside of the Church. We’re just very broken and wounded in this culture and in this society. And so it was wonderful to see someone who was healed because he just accepted everything, believed it and did it."
On this day, the Church celebrates the icon of the Savior "Made Without Hands"—the prototype of which is believed to be an image of Jesus Christ's holy face, left on a cloth used to cover His face at burial after the crucifixion. An exhaustively researched and highly interesting article by Fr. Alexy Young, Nun Michaila, and Mary Mansur was published a number of years ago in the periodical, "Orthodox America" on the Shroud of Turin and the Holy Napkin. We present it today in the spirit of the present feast.
The key to St. Tikhon's greatness lies in his personality, his character. Prof. Zaichenko recalls: "By nature Bishop Tikhon was kind, responsive and unusually sensitive. In his character he was quiet, merciful, good-natured and always tried to preserve in himself serenity, a serenity which he transmitted to the souls of all those around him."
"Holding to the Orthodox Faith as to something holy, longing it with all their hearts and prizing it above all, Orthodox people ought ... to endeavor to spread it among people of other creeds. Christ the Saviour has said that neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house (Matt. 5:15) The light of Orthodoxy was not lit to shine only on a small number of men. The Orthodox Church is universal; it remembers the words of its Founder: Go ye unto all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) ..We ought to share our spiritual wealth, our truth, light, and joy with others who are deprived of these blessings, but often are seeking them and thirsting for them...